When a team has a high level of trust in each other and in the system that they are following their efficiency, productivity, morale and commitment to the team all increase. On the flip side, when there is low trust in a team their efficiency, productivity, morale and commitment to the team all decrease.

Trust among teaching staff and school leaders has a direct impact on the school environment, school culture, team well-being, team morale and ultimately student outcomes.

Graph showing relationship between trust and team engagement

How can you build a high level of trust in your team to enable communication and relationships to thrive?

1)    Lead by example

Your actions will speak louder than your words, if you want your team to build trusting relationships it needs to start with you.

Leaders who influence their teams to develop trust in them and trust in each other are very self-aware, they bring the elements of themselves that will best suit each situation.

“Seek first to understand then to be understood” – ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ Stephen Covey

Encourage the 4 C’s

Collaborate, Cooperate, Consider, Contribute

  • Collaborating with your team on as many decisions as possible helps to build trust. While there are some decisions that need to be made by the leader many of the decisions regarding the direction of the school can be made collaboratively.
  • Cooperation between the team can be achieved by discouraging cliques, avoiding placing blame, deterring gossip and giving all team members a chance to speak up, have their say and contribute in a meaningful way.
  • Consider what needs to be said, what will the impact of certain statements and actions have on the team? Is there a way that things could be said or done that would be more effective at achieving the desired outcome? What will assist the team to feel more supported, enable them to feel heard and validated and ultimately promote trust?
  • Contribute a consistent message that is meaningful to your team. Contribute in a way that encourages feedback and open conversation. Contribute to your team in a way the encourages and supports them to step up and embrace their potential.

2)    Know each other personally

The team that plays together stays together!

Creating opportunities for your team to spend time together away from work is one way for your team to build relationships with eachother and build trust in eachother. More than that, it’s also a way to see eachother as people, away from work and for friendships to form amongst team members who otherwise might not have spent much time together.

Some ways you could organize for you team to spend time together outside of work are:

  • Staff sport teams anything from basketball, netball, volleyball, AFL, soccer. This is a wonderful way to get fit, have fun, build team spirit and get to know each other.
  • Before or after school exercise groups, this could be as elaborate or as simple as you like depending what your team are prepared to put together, their interests, the equipment that you have. Examples: circuit, walking/ running around the oval, yoga, pilates, dancing…
  • Interest groups; depending on the size of your team they could have their own group or perhaps join with another school or anther pre-existing group. Some interest groups are: art paining/ sculpture, music, acting, photography, drama, chess, bowling…
  • Social club, once per week or per fortnight team members who are interested could get together at a local café for a coffee, if they’re feeling a little more adventurous, they could try cooking classes, wine tastings, themed dinner parties or even murder mystery nights.

3)    Be consistent and provide a consistent message

When there is a vague or inconsistent message about what’s expected of the team or where the school is headed there can be confusion, lack of certainty and lack of trust. A consistent message develops clarity in expectations, vision, mission, goals, certainty and trust in the school leadership, in the system and in the team.

4)    Communicate strong vision, values and mission

When your team is clear on the school’s values, vision and mission or the big picture of where the school is heading it’s easier for them to get on board to work towards and support the school’s goals:

  • Ideally involve your team in the creation of your school’s vision, mission and values, get their buy-in. If you’re schools vision, mission and values are already in place you can still get your team to buy-in to them by discussing them at meetings, clarifying what that means for each team member.
  • Make sure that programs that are running in the school fit with the school’s values, vision and mission. Avoid programs being done in isolation.

5)    Communicate Openly

Open communication between school leaders and their team is essential for building trust and confidence in each other. Open communication means being emotionally available to the person you’re communicating with, not stuck in your head thinking about how best to argue your point or thinking about something else.

Being open with your communication means being honest and transparent and if you realise that you’ve made an error openly acknowledging it. Open communication means not judging, rather listening with a focus on the speaker with the sole intent to understand and be more informed. Then responding in a way that encourages further conversation as well as deeper communication.

6)    Ongoing team exercises

There is always so much to get done in the day and even more it seems to cover in staff meetings. Time is always at a premium. What if each staff meeting started with a 5 min icebreaker/ team building activity?

I know, adding more could mean taking something out and can be wildly unpopular, consider this though… How important is it that your team works well together? How important is it that they are able to communicate effectively together, that there are high levels of trust and respect? How much more efficient will the rest of the meeting be if your team are working well together? Put in that light isn’t 5 minutes at the start of the meeting a wise investment of time?

Ideas for short and fun team building activities check out this blog: