What Every Principal Should Know About Trust

I recently decided to write again on my blog. After five years of working on my doctorate degree, my desire to write was relatively low. May 10 marks the one-year anniversary of my earning my PhD.  My desire to write is on the rebound and so I offer this blog post to you.
I think all the time. My thoughts are often unconnected to my current realities and distracting to what I am to be focusing on at the time. Some now call that off topic, random rambling, and attention deficit disorder. I call it enlightenment. This morning I recalled a conversation I had with a colleague earlier in the week. We discussed the difficulty of gaining trust as a principal. I reflected on my experiences as a leader and knew I had to write. One of the biggest misconceptions about trust is that trust is given initially and is not lost until one has done something to lose it. I believe just the opposite. As a leader, you begin with little trust. Positional power certainly doesn’t give you an automatic trust credit, nor does it give you power. Trust begins on a very low level. As a leader, people assess your trust credibility all the time. In the beginning, members of the organization are making observations and gathering information to decide if you deserve any of their trust at all. In short, trust is earned with repeated actions of doing what you say you will do. Trust is earned over time and is lost within a second. It is important that as principals we operate with a high level of emotional intelligence in order to earn and maintain trust. That’s the other thing.  Trust has to be maintained. As principals, we must understand that our every action, mannerism, and emotion is under a microscope. Like it or not, people watch everything we do and say, and based on their observations they decide to trust us…. or not.  We must be consciously aware of emotional intelligence daily.  In a recent series of tweets, I shared my thoughts on trust. Here they are:
1. Trust is not automatic. 
2. People don’t trust you until you break it. They don’t trust you until you earn it. 
3. Trust increases over time.
4. It can take years to earn trust & seconds to break it. Leaders w/ emotional intelligence are highly instinctive about how to handle issues.
5. Great principals understand that facts should drive us & feelings affect us. We make decisions with emotional intelligence-not facts alone.
6. Great principals are reflective. Impulsive decision-making often lacks thoughtfulness and strategy needed for sustainability. 
7. Great leaders understand the importance of listening and patience. The greater the trust, the higher the morale and the more positive the climate.
8. Great principals understand that trust is earned over time by repeatedly doing what you say you will do. Broken trust leads to low morale.
9. Trust is the cornerstone of leadership. 
10. Trust is not easily obtained, but easily lost. 
Being thoughtful earns trust. Making quick decisions cultivates acting without thinking.  There is a great book on this titled, Trust Matters  by Megan Tschannen-Moran  I still have my autographed copy I received the very first year I became a principal.  Every principal and school leader should read it.  My challenge to all my fellow principals, reflect on this question: How are you earning trust?
Be Brave!

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