“A 10% increase in trust has the same effect as a 30% increase in pay,”  write Covey, Link, and Merrill in their book, “Smart Trust.” With the financial challenges facing school districts in every state across the country, investing in trust makes sound financial sense and more importantly is likely to increase teacher retention rate and be a competitive advantage for recruitment.  Teachers seek out districts and schools where faculty are trusted, respected, and appreciated. With the ever increasing demands for accountability, following a common core curriculum, local and state mandates, teacher autonomy is a rare commodity yet giving teachers autonomy and agency over instructional decisions is arguably the most effective way for administrators and board members to let teachers know they are trusted, respected, and appreciated.

Before we delve into the importance of trust in educational environments, it is necessary to understand how trust and credibility are defined. The four cores of credibility, according to Steven Covey, are the keys to building trust. What are those cores?


Integrity comes down to doing what you say you will do. This is to act in accordance with your personal values and belief systems in all times and all circumstances. Integrity is made up of four virtues: honesty, congruence, humility and courage.


Do you have a hidden agenda? Intent springs from our character and is part of our value system. It’s how we know we should act. Steven Covey breaks intent down to motive, agenda and behavior. Motive is why you do what you do. When your motive shows genuine concern for people, purposes and society as a whole, it inspires trust. Agenda is what you intend to achieve with that motive. Behavior is the manifestation of motive and agenda. It is what we do based upon what we intend to do. The behavior that best creates credibility and inspires trust is acting in the best interest of others.


Are you relevant? Covey uses the acronym TASKS to explain capabilities (talent, attitude, skills, knowledge, style). If you want to enhance your credibility by increasing your capabilities, run with your strengths, keep yourself relevant buy improving your skills and your knowledge and know where you’re going.


What is your track record? People trust other people who deliver results. Results are the deliverables. If the results are missing, so is the credibility and the trust. People will look at your past results, what you have proven you can do, and your current results, what you’re contributing now and lastly, your potential results, or what people anticipate you will accomplish in the future.

The first two, integrity and intent, are character cores. The second two, capabilities and results, are competencies cores.  It’s important to understand that you need all four cores to build trust and credibility. How do these relate to school district success?

School leaders must be trusting and trustworthy of their teachers.

In order for schools to succeed, school leaders must be both trusting and trustworthy of their teachers. Without this trust, leaders are cutting off huge opportunities for collaboration and growth with their very own teachers.

In their seminal 2002 study on the reform efforts of twelve Chicago public schools, authors Anthony Bryk and Barbara Schneider found that enabling positive social relationships between the adults (school leaders and teachers) was the key to successful school improvement. And what was at the heart of those relationships? Trust.

What does this trust look like? Often referred to as psychological safety, the trust between school leaders and their teachers  involves the ability to speak one’s mind and openly discuss practices and protocols that are or are not working. Leaders should be able to do this openly with their teachers, just as teachers should feel comfortable enough to do the same with school leaders. Once mutual trust is established, risks can be taken and collective decisions can be made. These are exactly the things necessary for deep organizational change and transformation. However, without trust between school leaders and their teachers, these critical conversations never even take place.

Stay tuned for part two of this blog where I discuss the importance of trust between school boards and their school leaders!