We hear it time and time again (not to say that it isn’t important): “You have to build trust with your staff.” What is interesting to me and Rebecca is that trust has so many intricate characteristics for trust to truly flourish in an organization. We believe that one of the features that govern trust is sincerity. Many people don’t write about sincerity because they forget about it or don't explicitly articulate the importance of sincerity. We believe that for trust to take true form, sincerity (genuine sincerity, for that matter) must be actively and sensitively applied to your desire as a leader to build trust within your school or organization. Here is what we feel are 5 tenets for creating a trusting relationship with staff members that is built on a foundation of sincerity:
Tenet #1: Sincere educators ask for help.
Check out this example as you envision yourself calling a parent: “Hi Mr. Stevens, I am calling you because Emily hasn’t been engaged and seems really distracted. I’m reaching out because I really want to make sure that she is successful and doesn’t fall behind and I’m hoping that you might be able to share some strategies that might work at home when Emily becomes distracted or challenged with a non-preferred activity. I remember hearing you talk about some challenges that you were able to overcome with Emily when she was in 4th grade last year and I thought that maybe you could share your routines or strategies that might help me to be more effective with her in the classroom. I really need your help and value your expertise. Can you help me?”
Here, a genuine request for help that is specific to a situation can help to build sincere trust.
Tenet #2: Sincere educators ask questions about their students’ lives, family, or hobbies.
Some teachers use interest inventories at the beginning of the school year (which is a great springboard for getting to know new students). Sincere teachers that are sincerely interested in unveiling student strengths and try to mine for talents and strengths constantly try to build trust. Consider this example when asking about student interests and likes/dislikes: “Hi Mrs. Jeffries, everything is okay; I just wanted to call you in order to get to know Tommy a little bit better. I am calling each family to try and get to know what really lights up my students’ worlds. I know Tommy really enjoys playing soccer outside of school and his favorite color is blue, but I want to know even more so that I can really connect with him. Would you be willing to share a time when you saw Tommy at his happiest or anything that he really loves that brings him joy?”
Here, a genuine request to learn more about a child can help to build sincere trust.
Tenet #3: Sincere educators carry out random acts of kindness.
Educators might call home to let parents know that they are starting a random act of kindness movement in their classroom. Sometimes, a simple secret note to a child can go a long way and parents can help with contriving the secret message that will make their child feel like a million bucks. This is not rocket science, but it is a form of sincerity that connects adults to children in amazing ways.
Here, a genuine secret, happy surprise can help to build sincere trust.
Tenet #4: Sincere educators share personal stories of defeat in addition to stories of victory.
Consider sharing a story that associates the same feeling that a child or parent may feel when addressing a specific life challenge. Here is an example: “Last year, I was running so late because my alarm didn’t go off and I wore two different colored shoes that day, left my lesson plans at home, and was in a panic just like you feel when you forget to bring your homework to school, Jonathan. I definitely know what it feels like to forget something or have to make it up later. Don't worry, buddy. We'll get everything done together.”
Here, a common connection of humanistic foibles can help to build sincere trust.
Tenet #5: Sincere educators do not look for favors or anything in return (and they explicitly say this to their parents).
This one is more of a mindset than an explicit action, but it applies to everyone from families to colleagues alike. Yet, the sincere act of not wanting anything in return for helping someone else out or doing something nice for them can be immediately followed by telling them that you are not looking for anything from them! When carrying out random acts of kindness, the second you tie a desired response to any kind of verbal or non-verbal expectation for reciprocity (even if you don't say it, but someone might get a vibe from you that you may want something in return), it no longer is a random act of kindness but rather an attention seeking ploy or plan to get a favor. Your intention must be legitimate in order to be received and perceived with sincerity.
Here, telling someone that you are doing something because you want to and expect nothing in return can help to build sincere trust.
As we continue to build trust and not just simply say that trust is important, it can be powerful to look towards various acts of genuine sincerity that can lead to the trust that is so vital to building and collaborating together in our schools when working with colleagues, parents, and students.