By Chuck Ainsworth
Note: Chuck Ainsworth will kick off the MAA retreat with a workshop in which we will learn and wrestle with neuroscience research and practical leadership insights on how to foster trust. Through experiential activities and peer group discussions we will together discover how to apply this learning to our role as a school administrator.
Mention the concept of trust and teamwork and memories of trust falls probably race to mind. While entertaining for some, I am personally glad we have moved beyond the trust fall and I hope you have too. It’s a bit of a PR nightmare for those of us seriously committed to building high trust teams.
So first the bad news. Roughly half of all managers don’t trust their leaders. A Golin-Harris survey of Americans was similarly bleak: 69% of respondents agreed with the statement “I just don’t know who to trust anymore” (Harvard Business Review, The Decision to Trust). Interestingly, ask the same people if they are trustworthy and nearly all answer affirmative. What about you? To what degree does your team trust you? How do you know?
Your success and influence is intricately connected to your ability to develop and leverage trust. As school administrators you must do this with a wide range of stakeholders including parents, staff, faculty, students, and maybe the PTA, a board, or superintendent and arguably the community at large. The expectations of each of these groups is likely different and some are competing. You may feel like you simply can’t meet them all. Give attention to one priority and another group feels slighted.
The cultural adage “building trust takes time and a single misstep can destroy trust” is familiar. But challenges with trust can arise even without committing one of the big no-nos. Trust, we find, sometimes erodes quietly and imperceptibly. Throw in a mix of generations, from boomers to millennials, who view trust differently and you have yourself a challenge fit for a superhero. The resulting groundswell of resistance when trust is shaky can be palpable. We’ve all been there. Perhaps you were the leader who just couldn’t breakthrough and gain the loyalty required to move your vision forward and translate it into results. Although clear in your mind, you found yourself unable to effectively translate an important decision in a way others could support. A dark cloud of doubt can be seeded among your team and in your organization by one key individual. To try to turn things around when trust is shaky can be exhausting, disheartening and frustrating.
For the last decade much of my work has been in helping leaders create healthy high performing teams marked by a high degree of trust, open and honest communication and mutual accountability. At its most fundamental level trust is about human connection and my contention is that you can expedite the building of trust. That’s what great leaders do. Regardless of industry, the best don’t passively hope and wait for trust to be developed over time. Trust is the #1 leadership competency.
Steven Covey in his book “The Speed of Trust” articulates that “trust is the #1 leadership competency”, “trust is learnable” and you can master it. In the last decade, neuroscientists studying the brain have been able to scientifically observe and document human behaviors that trigger negative feelings (a threat response in the brain) or positive feelings (a reward response in the brain). This research has significantly informed our understanding of the art and science of managing people and organizations. There are behaviors and practices you can hone that significantly increase the chance that people will extend trust to you. Likewise, there are identifiable behaviors that inhibit and erode trust often imperceptibly.
I hope you will join us as we explore these concepts, learn from one another and discuss the practical application of this topic at the upcoming Montessori Administrators Association Retreat in Breckenridge, Colorado July 21-24, 2016.
Chuck Ainsworth is a Sr. Faculty/Coaching Portfolio Leader at the Center for Creative Leadership. Fueled by a passion to help people and organizations move toward their full potential, Chuck has provided coaching, consulting and breakthrough leadership and learning solutions across a variety of industries and five continents over the last 15 years.