How long does it take to be trusted or to trust?
I recently read an interesting article titled "It Takes 90 Hours to Make a New Friend." This article summarized a new study that suggested you need to spend at least 90 hours with someone before they consider you a friend. It takes 50 hours of time together to go from acquaintance to "casual friend" and over 200 hours to form a BFF-type bond. The definition for spending time together included doing things together as long as you're both choosing to spend time together.
This article interested me because of a leadership tenet I believe in. I think for a leader to effect change in an organization the leader has to be trusted. Trust is similar to friendship as defined in the above-referenced article. It takes many hours to be trusted. You cannot just be in the same room with someone and call that trust. You must spend time with the person because you both choose to spend time together.
As a new (or veteran) superintendent you need to gain the trust of your board members. I have advocated that superintendents need to spend independent time with each board member. When I was a superintendent I attempted to meet with each board member at least once every seven weeks. This resulted in my goal to meet with one board member each week. The particulars of the meeting will depend on your location and the location and responsibilities of the individual board members. In my last district I was able to meet each board member for lunch at least once every seven weeks. This resulted in one lunch per week for me.
This lunch conversations were often about topics other than school business. They would include conversations about family, sports, church, the board member's job and/or responsibilities, etc. We got to know each other on a personal as well as professional level. We developed trust between ourselves.
This same analogy with friend/trust should be used with others you interact with in your school district: your administrative team, the teacher leadership team members, support staff members and so on. Trust developed over time will result in a stable and productive work environment.
Is your honeymoon period over?
Most new superintendents starting their tenure in their new school districts have a period when they are treated with respect and deference regarding both formal and informal recommendations they may make. Not all new superintendents end this first school year with the same admiration.
We hope your first year is ending on a positive note and you have not used up all the good will you entered the district with. Now is the time to reflect on where you stand with your school board, your administrative team, your staff and your new community. I would recommend that you consider some type of survey to gauge your first year's leadership. If nothing else, ask selected individuals in each of the above referenced categories how you are doing as a leader. I am sure there is feedback you could use for growth.
Tip of the Week
Houston and Eadie wrote about important work between superintendents and school board members. Important work centers on vision, mission and beliefs. "The old-time passive-reactive school board that merely responds to finished staff work cannot provide the leadership that the times demand: in making truly strategic decisions, in selecting key district innovation targets, in monitoring district educational and administrative performance, and in building district ties to the wider community." (Houston and Eadie, 2005)
"A school board that consistently produces what we call high-impact governance produces a close, positive, and productive board-superintendent working partnership. A school board that takes deep satisfaction in and feels strong ownership of its governing work is a more productive and happy board." (Houston and Eadie, 2005)