Tag Archives: Relational Trust

Trust and Vulnerability

6 Jun

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Trust is essential in fostering effective and authentic relationships both inside and outside of an organization. You cannot have a strong relationship without trust.

In organizations where teamwork is crucial, trust must be alive and well. Patrick Lencioni in his book The Five Dysfunctions of Team lists absence of trust as the first dysfunction. This was a great read from last year and I recommend it to anyone involved in leadership.

If there is an absence of trust, then fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results prevails. From effective relationships to organizational change, trust is the key ingredient. For a leadership team to improve it must first determine what’s getting in its way and then identify commitments to address any gaps. By default, once these commitments have been pronounced, team members have made themselves accountable to each other; and feedback is required to reinforce the accountability. This all sounds logical and most leadership teams start out with great intentions, but they often struggle to hold each other accountable.

All of us have our ‘blind spots’ and principals are no different. Unfortunately, these blind spots often hold us back from being our best as a team – we think we are behaving one way while others see us showing up in a different way. On the leadership teams we work with are often shocked when we get feedback:

  • “he does not listen listen”
  • “She talks over me”
  • “….waffles when making decisions; not decisive.”

Having trust to seek out this feedback is very important. Old style leadership would categorize this trait as a major weakness. Vulnerability however, doesn’t naturally imply weakness rather it means not losing your compassionate heart. Being vulnerable as a leader requires great confidence in oneself and a willingness to put yourself out there. It is more about strength of character than authority of position. Trust and vulnerability work hand in hand and in any successful organization, great leaders demonstrate both.

Useful resource:

Stephen M. R. Covey, author of The Speed of Trust, articulates 13 behaviors of high trust in this short video

 

Be connected

18 Apr

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Allowing students to feel as though they’re not just guests in the school but active participants in how these spaces operate is a powerful step in connecting them to academic content. As students take on certain operational aspects of the school and classroom, they develop relationships with one another around making the school or classroom work. Call this student voice if you like.

Good relationships between teachers and students are more likely to arise in schools in which teachers and students share a similar culture. The pedagogical approach that results simply reflects what works for both parties. In schools in which teachers and students don’t share similar cultures, those relationships may arise less frequently because this pedagogical approach is often culturally incongruous with students’ core identities. For teachers who may be unfamiliar with the everyday realities of youth who don’t look, talk, dress, or act like the teacher, a natural relationship to students is hampered by the teachers’ unfamiliarity with their culture. In schools like these, students may often be only superficially engaged in the content or may get good grades, but they may not function on an academic level that maximizes their potential.  I argue that the absence of a relationship that is rooted in shared culture impedes many students from reaching higher levels of academic rigor.

Whatever the environment, school leaders play an important role in developing the kinds of relationships that foster academic rigor. One model that I developed—reality pedagogy—supports this work. It recognizes that academically rigorous learning and teaching are deeply personal; it begins with the understanding that a school’s approach to pedagogy unlikely to meet student needs unless students’ cultures, backgrounds, and experiences are reflected in the curriculum. When students see themselves in the curriculum, they develop stronger relationships with both their teachers and peers—and with the content as well.

Developing a Skill Set: Listening

24 Jun

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What is Appreciative Listening?

It is listening with the sole purpose of identifying qualities, strengths and values of the speaker that you respect. Your commitment to do this only needs to be 3 to 5 minutes of focused time. The payoff is high in terms of increased understanding, improved rapport and in building a more positive work relationship.

Appreciative listening is something I am working on this year. It plays an important part in the role of coach. Everyone who experiences being listened to and people feel that it feels good to feel so deeply heard, seen and respected.

Why don’t we do more of it?

There are a lot of reasons. For most school leaders, talking is what characterizes their days. Answering questions. Setting direction. Speaking with people about what needs to be done.   It’s not unusual for a leader to want to find the “speed up” button when people are speaking or to be multi-tasking.   Consequently, it’s not uncommon for schoool leaders to feel impatient with speakers and to view listening only as too passive a form of influence in their busy schedule.

Appreciative Listening Opens Doors to Changed Relationships

  1. It increases the common ground in all your work relationships– even the ones which feel least susceptible to any positive change.
  2. It changes YOU, the listener. Training yourself to focus on the strengths, the values, the capabilities, the qualities of the person in front of you.

I am noticing:

  • “what works” about a person and “working with” rather than “fixing” staff.
  • when someone is talking about a difficult situation or a problem they’re experiencing.
  • the speaker is someone you typically find it difficult to listen to, or that you don’t hold in high regard.
  • the situation is one where there is little action that can be taken at this time.
  • someone is complaining or is seen to be a chronic complainer. Sometime that staff member may need to just vent,
  • a work relationship or partnership is being built on a great foundation. Deeper discussion are occurring that is built on relational trust.

 

Creating a Team

2 Dec

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Relational trust is so important in a team. Simply this does not occur straight away. People need time to find their role. This means that when there’s the inevitable conflict, it’s managed. People know each other. They listen to each other. There are agreements about how they treat each other and engage with each other, and member monitor these agreements. There’s also someone such as a facilitator who ensures that this is a safe space. Furthermore, in order for there to be trust, within a strong team there is equitable participation among members and shared decision-making.

While there is trust in a good team, there’s healthy conflict. This is inevitable and essential if groups are learning together and embark on some kind of project together. The team needs to disagree about ideas, there’s constructive dialogue and dissent, courageous conversations and thinking is pushed.

A good team creates a space for learning. In schools there are many reasons why those of us working in schools might gather in a team — but I believe that all of those reasons should contain opportunities for learning with and from each other. We talk about our students being lifelong learners and being collaborative. We ask our students to expose the key competencies. Do we in teams? So in an effective team, learning happens within a safe context. We can make mistakes, take risks, and ask every single question we want just like our students.

Trust

2 Sep

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Bryk and Schneider (2002) described trust as the basis for developing social capital, and identify three types:

Organic Trust is based on the moral character and designated authority of leadership and is given unconditionally. This kind of trust has often been seen in faith-based environments, clergy and lay-leaders, had almost unquestioned trust. Yet, this basis has been somewhat eroded today, as we frequently see tragic cases of abuse of such trust.

Contractual Trust is transactional. Basic actions and outcomes are agreed upon, in accordance with stated terms. In this era of high-stakes testing and parent expectations and government agendas, it is a fear that education could be translated to these terms.

Relational Trust, John Dewey observed that a good school is more like a [functional]  family than a factory (Bryk and Schneider, 2002). Relational trust forms the basis of the ‘family’ interactions. Despite personality differences and clashes, there is a bedrock of connection that enables relationships to be maintained.

Relational trust is the foundation of the effective professional learning community, and essential for effective and lasting change.

Authentic Leadership

23 Nov

 

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There is no doubt SLT who develop lasting, trusting relationships with their staff build on a foundation created by doing their job and doing it well. We need a foundation of credibility before he can earn the relational capital that creates trust. Establishing your ethos on campus comes in a variety of ways (and happens differently in each unique situation). I’ll be the first to say that each path toward trust is unique, but it’s never bad to start by managing the referrals that come your way fairly and efficiently, committing to being a learner in your leadership role, and moving toward each new year looking for ways to serve students and teachers in new ways.

It is about being mindful. Being mindful used to simply mean being consciously aware of something, but it has come to represent a state of mental being that is achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment with calmness and a sense of serene acceptance. I do believe there is a larger need for all of us to be more mindful, but in the traditional sense of breathing more and taking the time to reside in the moment. I am personally less inclined towards loving-kindness meditation as I feel mindfulness as a movement is a concession to the belief that we can’t change the pace of our lives. I support the mindful revolution in schools, but not at the cost of tackling the issues that require it. To be truly mindful in schools, I think we need to find our element and be “in the zone” as Ken Robinson suggests. By finding time for our passion, Robinson contends, we will be more present, more centred, more in the here and now. This is how we should construct our schools. It’s another choice.

Trust is important also.  Trust must be earned, your work as a SLT is far from over when you reach that point. Having the respect of the teachers is not the same as having a relationship with them. Cultivating those trusting relationships is vital if you are interested in creating change (and who is not interested in creating positive change):

All leaders know the power of buy in, but it is not always the quickest road to a solution. However, getting buy in on the front end of change can make a profound difference on the success of any attempt at change in a large organization like a school.

We provide this for teachers routinely, but we rarely ask for it in return. Hearing critical feedback makes us better at providing the same for teachers, and knowing the concerns of those we serve allows us to keep a close watch on that which affects those activities.

Asking question is important. Asking these questions is not magic, but it is a great start for developing relationships through conversations with staff.

As a leader, you have to walk the walk. Credibility has a short shelf life. Even though faculty meetings and PD days are important arenas in which we must excel, we cannot only show up then.

Leaders and Listening

24 Sep

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One of the most important tips on leadership I have received was from my Mum. She has not lead a school and she left school at a very young age but she knows a thing of two about leadership. I only have to look at my siblings as evidence of that. Her tip was always LISTEN.

I have been really moved this week through my coaching sessions. Once again, I have been reminded of the tip from my Mum regarding listening. I have been reminded that when individuals are listened to deeply, they are given a space which quite simply allows them to be. In this space they learn to take off the armour, to be vulnerable, to show true emotion, fear and courage and through doing so re-connect with what matters to them most. This is when relational trust really occurs.

The simple act of being listened to, become the means through which people begin to unwind and take a step back from the stresses of their roles. Active and emphatic listening is so important. It is the ability to listen to another in such a way that they know that their own self-worth is not dependent on anything that they either say or do. Emphatic listening is powerful because when listened to in this way, individuals feel a great sense of liberation. The act of being listened to so deeply helps them to listen to and understand themselves with a greater degree of accuracy. Thoughts, feelings and emotions that may have been weighing them down are released. As a result individuals are able to experience a lighter emotional and mental state.

Through emphatic listening, fear and internal emotional blockages are cleared. Individuals become more in tune with their own emotions. They learn not to run away from them, but learn to listen and understand them; so that they are able to exhibit greater control over their behaviours, particularly in stressful situations. When individuals master the art of self-control and self-management they show up as a more balanced and in control version of themselves.

As a school leader it is important to find someone to listen to you, to be that critical friend yourself. I know the team I have is invaluable. Shout out to them this week. You know who you are.

 

Restorative

10 Sep

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Restorative justice, by its nature, is a responsive practice, but I suggest that schools cannot simply implement a practice of restorative justice without considering the disparate impact that implicit bias will continue to have in the application or selective application of community-building principles on their students. We must welcome and establish critically reflective practices amongst our staff and students as we develop restorative justice in our schools, beginning with the terminology we use with which to describe the players.

Being Relational and Empathy

16 Jul

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Empathy is so important and it something we all need to work on. Empathy is now considered one of the most important skills in the 21st Century. Teaching empathy. Learning empathy. It is something I reflect on often in my role. When interview students and staff I think about these things. I found at a recent workshop on the Law and Education that being good at these things solved so many problems.

When interviewing I practice the following:

  • Ask why. Even when you think you know the answer, ask people why they do or say things. The answers will sometimes surprise you. A conversation started from one question should go on as long as it needs.
  • Never say “usually” when asking a question. Instead, ask about a specific instance or occurrence, such as “tell me about the last time you ______.”
  • Encourage stories. Whether or not the stories people tell are true, they reveal how they think about the world. Ask questions that get people telling stories.
  • Look for inconsistencies. Sometimes what people say and what they do are different. These inconsistencies often hide interesting insights.
  • Pay attention to nonverbal cues. Be aware of body language and emotions. Have tissues handy.
  • Don’t be afraid of silence. Interviewers often feel the need to ask another question when there is a pause. If you allow for silence, a person can reflect on what they’ve just said and may reveal something deeper.
  • Don’t suggest answers to your questions. This can unintentionally get people to say things that agree with your expectations.
  • Ask questions neutrally. “What do you think about buying gifts for your spouse?” is a better question than “Don’t you think shopping is great?” because the first question doesn’t imply that there is a right answer.
  • Don’t ask binary questions. Binary questions can be answered in a word; you want to host a conversation built upon stories.

Restorative Reflection

29 May

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In my work this week I have been trying to get my head around restorative and relational practices. I have been thinking what makes effective practice and how we can apply this in my own environment. The question I am posing then on mountain2surf is just what does creating a Restorative Culture within a school or other community look like?

Positive relationships form the basis for any healthy community. For a Restorative Culture to develop, it is essential that community- and relationship-building be intentional. Relationships of authentic trust between adults and youth, and within both staff and student cohorts, are the foundation of the connections that will be restored through the use of RJ practices. We must first form these relationships, then, in times of trouble, there is something to restore. So building good relationships is key.

Reflection is something I believe we do not do enough of. It is essential to a restorative culture. Prayer in Catholic school provides an ideal opportunity for this. When students “act out”, do we examine our own contribution to the situation? What feelings and beliefs do we bring to the circumstances? In our busy and challenging position as educators, have we really done all we can to meet an individual student’s needs or is there something else we could try? Out of our best intentions, have we given some students so much slack that, without realizing it, we have set the bar too low and inadvertently sent them a message that they are not capable? This type of deep self-reflection and willingness to examine one’s own feelings, biases, pre-conceived notions, and actions is not easy, but it is one of the essential keys to establishing a Restorative Culture in schools.

But where should this self reflection take place. Now for self-reflection to take place and to build positive relationships, a safe space must be provided. Safe space encompasses not just physical well-being but also emotional and intellectual safety. Are behavioral and academic expectations clear? Are standards upheld consistently? Is the aftermath of making a mistake free from shame? If I take personal responsibility for my actions will I be met with compassion and a willingness to listen, rather than a quickness to blame and punish? Does the community embrace and validate different experiences, beliefs, and perspectives and allow for them to be expressed?

 

Just some initial thoughts.

 

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