Building Trust – Redux

I wrote about this same topic in July 2022, so why am I repeating it? Because it’s of vital important to leadership and reinforcing what we know helps us to deepen our understanding

To reiterate the opening of my original blog post, Trust is the foundation of relationships, and as you know, we are in the relationship business. Either we keep our relationships strong, or we will soon find ourselves out of business. Trust takes time to build. And it can be easily lost.

As a leader your integrity needs to be unquestioned. You must be careful not to let slip things spoken to you in confidence or things you’re aware of because your work crosses grade level boundaries. What one teacher shares with you, you cannot share with another. And if you make a mistake – own it and correct it as soon as possible.

Take time to ask: How trustworthy are you? Have you ever broken trust? How good are you at building trust? In addition to the ways I discussed in the July blog, John Millen presents these Five Ways to Communicate as a Trusted Leader:

  1. Share Yourself – In addition to learning the interests of those with whom you are cultivating a relationship, don’t forget to let them know who you are. It requires you to be vulnerable in some ways, but the result is increased connections and sometimes, new understanding. Relationships need to be a two-way street.
  2. Change Your Mindset from ‘I’ to ‘We’ Don’t separate yourself from the teachers even if your goals and missions seem different. Find the places where there is overlap. Although it’s become cliché, there is truth to the adage, “There is no ’I’ in ‘Team.’ It’s not a case of “I would like to …” but rather “Together we can….”
  3. Admit your failuresThis is a tough one. Leaders are supposed to be confident. Admitting failure seems counterintuitive. But when a project misses its mark, accept and admit it. Discuss how “we” (see #2) can do it differently next time or tweak it to make it work better. And there’s another benefit. Admitting your failure gives permission to others to admit theirs. It will grow your relationships. Just remember to keep what was shared confidential.
  4. Ask open-ended questions – You do that when you ask how a project might have worked better rather than was it a success. When a fuller response is needed, you increase the depth of your communications. The more authentic your communications are, the better your relationships are. You will be amazed by what you can learn. Asking for a deeper response shows you value the other person’s ideas. When you value others, they respond in kind. It’s a win-win.
  5. Listen more than you speak –You’ve asked an open-ended question – listen to the answer. You can’t learn about someone else if you are doing most of the talking. If you are an extrovert like me, you may have to continually work at this. This is an area where introvert leaders have strength. You are not really listening if you are waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can say what’s on your mind. If necessary, quickly write down your thought and get back to focusing on what is being said.

As Millen says early in his post and in his conclusion, “Trust is everything.” It is the foundation of relationships which we need for our program’s success. Building relationships is a core component of what we must do as leaders. With whom do you want to build a relationship? Look for the ways you can build trust and those relationships will flourish.


Building Trust

Earning and keeping the trust of others – students, teachers and administrators – is key to your success. More than trusting your expertise, they need to know you will be able to deliver on your promises and be there for them when needed. Trust takes time to build, but it can be quickly lost.

Building trust is rooted in integrity. Keeping your word, honoring confidentiality, and other elements of honesty are vital. But trust is an emotional state, which means other more subtle factor contribute to its growth. In The Leadership Trust Crisis, David Livermore discusses the fact that trust in leaders (political, corporate and others) is at an all-time low. This means that relationships are shaky. He identifies five factors that affect the development of trust. Applying these can help you deepen the connections with the people in your building.

  1. Likeability – You get to know people you like. In the process, trust is developed. But what makes someone likeable? It often begins with a smile that goes beyond the superficial. It continues when you show you are interested in who the other person is. Sharing who you are extends the connection. Give people a chance to know and like being with you. It takes time, but it pays off.
  2. Competency – Livermore poses three questions on this: Do you have the skills to lead us? Can you communicate effectively? Do you know what you are doing?  As a librarian, this is where you excel. When we are aware of trends, new learning opportunities and the most recent tech resource or even teaching approaches (think inquiry-based learning), teachers see us as leaders and feel confident in coming to us with questions or concerns.
  3. Intensions – Are you in it for your success or do you care about mine?  What is your overarching purpose in putting this project together? Your everyday behavior sends messages to other about your character and integrity. We (usually unconsciously) make judgements of others based on their actions. Teachers and administrators are doing the same about you. Make certain you are treating others right and demonstrate that you care about the collective success. For example, when a project is complete put the teacher and their students’ outcomes front and center. Give credit to them. The library’s role and yours will be obvious. Their trust in your intentions builds.
  4. Reliability – Do you follow through on what you promise?  Can others see your commitment to living your Mission for the library? This relates to your integrity but is also about delivering in a “timely and consistent manner.” What did you tell your principal were your goals for the year. How did you hit them? In building trust – and the relationships that go with it, they need to know you can be counted on to do what you said and get it done on time.
  5. Reputation – This is the sum of all the others. How are you seen and thought of?  The stronger your reputation, the more others will trust you. The more they trust you, the more willing they are to work with you – and hopefully seek you out. And each time they do you grow as a leader.

I once had a teacher tell me she wouldn’t schedule a class with my co-librarian because she felt my co-librarian didn’t like the kids. That doesn’t work. Students learn more when teachers and librarians work together. The collaboration is formed on relationships, and relationships are built on trust. Look for ways to promote other’s trust in you and you’ll find your relationships and program getting stronger.

Courage Sees You Through

The Wizard of Oz was on television over the Thanksgiving weekend, and every time I watch, I learn something new or am reminded of ideas that have gotten buried. This time I was struck by the triumvirate who were Dorothy’s companions and support on her journey. The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion represent three qualities necessary for leadership: brain, heart, and courage. You need Brains to plan. Your Heart guides you and brings you the relationships that strengthen you. And then there is Courage. Courage makes it possible for you to take the risks to change what is and go forward into unknown territory.

As the avatar for Courage, the Cowardly Lion is frightened most of the time. He often wants to retreat, but the Scarecrow and Tin Man haul him back. In the end, his true courage comes through because his commitment to Dorothy is so strong.  Like the Cowardly Lion, you need to be courageous in the face of fear and your commitment to your Mission will be what helps pull you forward into leadership, change and whatever risks may be necessary for both.

Summoning that courage is not always easy, even when you have the brains and heart to know you must leave your comfort zone. In her post, “Why Courage Is Essential If You Want Power Over Your Life,” LaRay Que notes we all fear the unknown.  Fear can paralyze us, keeping us huddled safely within the walls of our library. But in the long run, the walls won’t keep you safe. Staying hidden is the behavior of prey. While I am not suggesting you be a predator, you do need to soar.

How do you soar? How do you get past the grip of fear? Que says you begin doing it by acknowledging your emotions. Trying to pretend they are not there doesn’t work. Fear is a strong emotion that brings out our bodies response to threat. Our cerebral cortex, the logical processing part of the brain, cuts out. Our lower-level brain (commonly referred to as our lizard brain) takes over, and we go into flight/fight/freeze. Professionally, freeze means we stay quietly where we are.Que says, “Courage begins by examining your emotions.”  She recommends making a two-column list of pros and cons. As you see where the gains are and what might hold you back, you can begin to make a reasoned decision about what you should do. She recommends these three ways to make this work for you:

  1. Identify the call or challenge that is in front of you – What is the “why” for doing this? What will it give you as a result? How will you grow as a leader? As a person? What might you lose or miss out on if you don’t do it? One example might be stepping up for a leadership position in your state school library association. Or moving up to a national association for librarians. You could gain experience, connections, confidence – or miss out on all of this if you freeze.
  2. Pinpoint when emotional courage is needed – Where is fear rooted? What will you need to do that is creating your high-level anxiety? Consider where or to whom you can go to talk this out. Plan how you might handle it if and when it occurs. With a plan or support in place, your mind becomes calmer about the possible situations, and your fears diminish. They won’t go away entirely, but like the Cowardly Lion (and Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch), you will push through it.
  3. Claim power over your own life I love this idea. We do what we can to not to let others control us (professional and personal responsibilities we cannot avoid not withstanding). The same should be true of fear. Don’t let it decide for you. You can control your reactions and behaviors when fear comes up. There will always be something to fear. Don’t let that stop you from doing what you know you should do or from the results you are looking to have.

Part of the magic obvious to the viewer in The Wizard of Oz, is that all of Dorothy’s friends already have what it is they think they want – brains, heart and courage – and she needs all three to get what she needs. This is true for you as well. You’ve got big goals. Your head and your heart know the way forward. Embrace your courage – it’s definitely in there – and if necessary, give yourself a medal.

The Centrality of Trust

image from Wavetop via Canva

Trust is the foundation of relationships. And we are in the relationship business. It is through relationship we build the collaboration with teachers – and administrators – which engages students in meaningful learning. Building trust requires trusting yourself and the willingness to trust others.

We have had many successful experiences that began with us not knowing everything necessary to do a task. In those cases we either get the information through our research or from the knowledge of our colleagues either locally or in social media. We may not know the answer – but we can find it. This builds our trust in ourselves

Trusting others is somewhat more difficult, but relationships are a two-way street. Most people have had an occasion where someone violated their trust. To build a relationship, you have to give trust even before it is accepted. This is not about sharing your deepest, darkest secrets. It’s letting people know who you are as a person and following through on what you say, which makes it safe for them to share themselves with you.

In How Successful Leaders Build Trust with Their People Lolly Daskal discusses “trust-inducing behaviors” which build relationships.  You probably exhibit many if not most, of these, but it is helpful to be aware of what you are creating. Work on any you find challenging. Many of them weave together. Here is her list of eleven behaviors:

  1. Being accessible – Of course you are… except for when you are feeling rushed and harried. You can’t always just drop everything, but you can ask when you can get back to someone. Being honest about where you are, combined with being available when you say you will be, builds trust.
  2. Being confident – It’s not arrogance. It’s being efficacious. When you are confident, teachers and students know they can count on you to help them. People come to you for what you know or what you can do to support them. Be willing to show them they’re right to trust you for this.
  3. Being credible – We build credibility when we are willing to share both our mistakes and our successes. Acknowledging our goofs, large and small, along with our wins lets people see we are human. Admitting we are wrong doesn’t make us less in the eyes of others. It makes usmore worthy of trust.
  4. Being honest – There are times when we might want to skirt an unpleasant truth but telling hard truths builds trust. People know when you’re avoiding saying something. Instead, pause to choose your words and give honest feedback.
  5. Being supportive – Others make mistakes, too. If theirs has a direct effect on you, it might be hard not to jump on them for it. Go for “being honest,” and acknowledge it happens to us all (“being credible”). Look for the lesson you both get. If they are sharing something that doesn’t have to do with you, be prepared to listen (“being accessible”). If they ask, you can help them find a solution or fix. Your support will build trust.
  6. Being dependable – Keep your word. When you make a commitment, see it through. You build trust when you can be counted on to do what you say.
  7. Being consistent –We are known by our actions. Our actions must match our words. Students – and teachers – need to know how you will react. If you allow them to behave one way on a given day and then rebuke them for it on another, they will not trust you.
  8. Being open – Listen to others. Show by your actions that you see and care about them. Give them the space to give you honest feedback. When people know you listen, their trust will grow.
  9. Being empathetic – Everyone is dealing with something. We try to put it aside when we get to school, but it is there, and sometimes it is significant. Despite what they are showing on the surface, be attuned to the body language and behavior of others. It will help in your dealings with them, and when you’re “being open” and “being supportive”, they will share as needed, further building trust.
  10. Being appreciative – Acknowledge the success of others. In collaborative projects, give them the limelight. Emails or, even better, hand-written notes brighten someone’s day. They also realize you see them.
  11. Lead from within – Take trust very seriously. When you display the previous ten behaviors, people feel safe in having a relationship with you because you are trustworthy. This allows you to be an effective leader.

Good leadership begins with trust. Leadership is not something you take on when you want to get a project done. Leading is how you interact with people every day. By acting in the ways listed, people recognize you are a leader and someone they can trust.

ON LIBRARIES – Trust and Integrity

Of the many qualities of leadership, trust and integrity are within the grasp of all. And from these two you can build the rest. Best of all, you probably exhibit them most of the time. However, you may not recognize the ways they manifest and what effect they have on your leadership. In a way, trust is an exterior quality while integrity is an interior one. Trust is about your interactions with others. Integrity is about who you are as a person.

Although they are interlocked, let’s deal with them separately.  Trust is intrinsic to a relationship. You cannot have a connected relationship with anyone you don’t trust or who doesn’t trust you. To build a relationship you begin by showing interest in the other person, follow up with evidence of your interest, display empathy, and then ultimately trust becomes the glue that holds the relationship together.

Trust is needed when reaching out to collaborate with teachers.  I once had a co-librarian the teachers did not trust.  They sensed she didn’t like their students.  Invariably, they would schedule their projects with me. Had she been the sole librarian, there would have been little or no collaboration.

In addition, trust is needed in building relationships with students. To make the library a safe and welcoming space, students need you to be a trustworthy adult. Then they are more likely to confide in you about their hopes, fears, and needs.  Among other things, this means you never discuss their reading preferences with anyone. You do have to let them know where the line is, in advance if possible.  If they should tell you something that suggests they are at risk for self-harm or harm by others, you need to report it. Sometimes knowing about that line is the reason they confide in you, expecting you will report what they don’t have the courage to.

A Forbes article entitled You Can’t Be a Great Leader Without Trust – Here’s How You Build it, suggests eight “c’s” for doing building trust. Although they are all important, and I have discussed many of them, the last one – Consistency—is one I have not mentioned.  In order to trust, people need to count on how you will behave. If your reactions and behavior are based solely on your mood of the day, your colleagues and your students won’t be able to trust you.

One more caution about trust.  It’s a precious commodity.  It takes time to build and can be lost in an instant. Once it’s gone, it takes far longer to restore than it did to build it.

Integrity, by contrast, is your inner compass. Merriam Webster defines integrity as “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.”  For me, integrity is doing right when no one is watching.

In a post, The 3 I’s of effective leadership, Naphtali Hoff says integrity “helps us become the best versions of ourselves and communicates what we stand for.”  It shows with others when we make promises and commitments and keep them and when we are honest in our words.  Clearly, this builds trust, which is the link between the two qualities.

Hoff writes, “To be in integrity also means being honest and having strong moral principles, to think and act in a manner that is consistent with one’s values and intentions.”  A person who has integrity will present the same “face” no matter where you meet them because they have a unifying core that defines them. This gives a leader strength.

The philosophy of many school librarians comes from their integrity.  It is helpful if this integrity is connected to and consistent with the ALA Code of Ethics and the Library Bill of Rights. These two documents speak to the essence of what libraries are, but they come with challenges for librarians depending on our situations.

Two of the statements in the ALA Code of Ethics state:

II. We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.

III. We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.

These two from the Library Bill of Rights do the same:

You can order this poster from the ALA store

  1. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
  2. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

While we are working hard to bring more diversity to our collections, there are times when some of us pause, recognizing that purchasing a book may very well bring a “Request for Reconsideration.”  There are places in the United States and the world where presenting materials which include “all points of view” is not only difficult but can put your job at risk. It’s scary when this happens, when you are faced with these dilemmas.  So, what do you do?  It is a decision you may have to come to before choosing to purchase or not purchase certain material. No one will ever have to know what you decide and why. It will not be an easy decision and hopefully, when you do make it, you will be able to stay in integrity.

Making hard decisions.  Knowing what you stand for.  The trust others have in you. The consistency in your actions.  All these combine and make you a leader others recognize.