I have recently read a number of professional articles on the importance of trust in organisations and in appealing to customers.
One of the key messages I found was encapsulated in this quote:
“If you hope to enjoy a career of great influence and impact, start by cultivating a trustworthy reputation. Remember, somewhere in your organization, a colleague is sharing a story about their experience of you at their dinner table. What story do you hope they’re telling?”
Our product is education and the future.
We “sell” opportunity, inspiration and potential.
Unlike a piece of expensive clothing, you cannot touch it or try it on.
Unlike a car, you cannot really take it for a test drive.
Every enrollment is an act of incredible trust by a family.
“Secondary School at St Columba is a rich, varied and exciting place. Our aim is to open up a new world of opportunities for our students where they are encouraged to aim high and every student can strive for his or her personal best. At St Columba, we foster and encourage independent thinking, a commitment to the community, and excitement for knowledge and learning, in a supportive and enriching environment.” St Columba website.
Do we get it right?
A comment from visiting professional musician Michael Dolce:
“What an absolute pleasure. Incredibly talented and respectful students. St Columba has an amazing school captain. His display of encouragement and care towards the younger students in the class was nothing less than brilliant. Not to mention his amazing talents which inspired me. Look forward to visiting again in the near future. Thank you so much for having me” .
As an independent school, trust is something we know we can ill-afford to lose. To ensure we maintain the faith and trust of our students and their families we have to be aware that we must:
- Be who we say we are → Our actions and words must match.
- Be true to our values → Be clear what we stand for (and what we won’t stand for)
- Acknowledge when we fail to live up to our promises → We are never going to be perfect. When we fall short we have to admit our failings and apologise to those who we fail.
- Treat others with dignity → Everybody deserves respect.
- Balance transparency with discretion → Privacy and the right to know are a constant balancing act. We have to get this right in each circumstance.
- Build bridges that unify → Work for the common good.
“There is no currency in organizational life more valuable than trustworthiness. We can no longer presume we have it just because we believe we haven’t done anything to breach it. In times of unprecedented uncertainty, it’s critical to earn and keep the trust of others every day.”
In a world where people are ever less trusting of politics and politicians (“It is better to take refuge in the Lord, Than to trust in princes”. Psalm 118:9), where faith in organised religion has been degraded by the acts of those who betrayed their vocation and where loose promises are everywhere, we want our school to be a place where parents can not only trust us to deliver what we promise but do it in a manner that makes those who work with us proud to have been part of a St Columba education.
That means we have to constantly invest effort in building and maintaining:
- School-Community Trust: Establishing a relationship of trust between parents and the school that supports the development of common goals and expectations for student performance.
- Teacher-Leaders Trust: Developing a culture of trust makes relationship-building a priority. Demonstrating personal integrity, commitment and honesty. Creating a safe environment where staff can initiate and trial new ideas and practices without fear of criticism or retribution.
- Teacher-Teacher Trust: By providing the time and conditions for teachers to engage in collaborative relationships, we can create a safe space for teachers to exchange ideas, share knowledge and work together to improve professional practice that enhances student achievement.
- Student-Teacher Trust: Research indicates that trusting relationships between students and teachers can support students’ engagement, wellbeing, and identification with their school.
“Trust does not stand alone as a discrete capacity. It permeates every structure and process in a school that involves the leader. A culture of trust can enhance school performance. Unless we establish trust in our relationships, our students will be less inclined to improve their performance by exploring new ideas and moving out of their comfort zone.” Ways Trust Enhances Performance in Schools.
We acknowledge that if we are to become the most outstanding school in NSW, that achievement will be based on the trust our community has in us. Without trust we cannot succeed.