School Leader Coaching to Build Trust and Collaborative Faculty and Staff Teams

The nature of relationships among adults in schools is one of the greatest determinants of student learning and school success. Unfortunately, adult relationships in schools are often characterized by mistrust. Teachers frequently don’t trust their colleagues, much less their leaders. Without high degrees of trust, it is impossible for teachers to work collaboratively in teams. Lack of trust is a major problem, as collaboration among teachers is essential for schools to deliver a high quality education that engages students in meaningful learning. In the absence of trust and collaboration, students do not get a good education. School leaders can create high degrees of trust and collaboration in their schools. When they do, teachers can work together across disciplines and grades, design projects that engage and motivate students to do their very best, and truly help students to excel academically and socially. It’s hard work to build trust. First and foremost, building trust requires competence and humility. Both are primarily in the eyes of the beholder. Yet few school leaders ask for their teachers’ views about their leadership in a way that is safe for teachers to give it. If teachers do not believe their leader is competent, even the most competent leader is actually not competent at all. The solution is to create a safe place for teachers to share their views about their leader and for the leader to work on addressing the issues raised. In so doing, leaders improve their competence and demonstrate their humility. The best approach is to provide regular opportunities for teachers to assess anonymously a wide range of issues, perhaps on a scale of one to five. Following are some examples:

  • I have complete trust in my school leaders.
  • I have complete trust in my teaching colleagues.
  • My school leaders are highly supportive of the faculty.
  • Teachers in my school believe professional development is of great value and importance.
  • Teachers in my school set the highest attainable academic and social standards for students and go the second mile to help them attain the standards.

Ask a few teachers to gather the surveys, tabulate the results and share the information at the next faculty meeting. Then engage in discussions about the issues and how to address them constructively. An Appreciative Inquiry approach is a powerful way to address issues in a constructive manner that can lead to extraordinary collaboration and teamwork, which ultimately leads to students excelling.