Building trust through visible moments

Regardless of the number of years in a position or previous roles held, it is necessary that leaders invest time in building trust among the team and community. I’ve heard all too often “trust takes time” as an excuse for not taking intentional actions to create trust. Just letting time pass isn’t enough to build trust. We can also make the excuse that trust is built around major, pivotal moments or decisions. But leaders need to shift the mindset of building trust by making purposeful, incremental actions.  

Leaders need to build trust through “visible moments”

Trust is earned in the smallest of moments. It is earned not through heroic deeds, or even highly visible actions, but through paying attention, listening, and gestures of genuine care and connection.”
Brene Brown

Visible moments are purposeful actions leaders take to build trust. Since we realize, and possibly have experienced, how trust can be extinguished in seconds, it’s important for leaders to prioritize building trust in all relationships. Having trust doesn’t mean that leaders have to say “yes” to everyone and everything. Instead, leaders need to promote actions that promote transparency, clarity, consistency, and follow-through. Here are three ways leaders can create visible moments:

Visible moments 1: Promote clear, ongoing communication. There’s a tendency for leaders to pull back on communication resting on previous years in a role. Yet, leaders need to create and maintain trust through ongoing communication. The trick is to remember that communication is two-way; therefore, just showing up to impart information isn’t enough. The key to building trust is also in creating formal and informal opportunities to listen, gather feedback, dialogue, and discuss. Look back at agendas you’ve created: Are they just filled with you sharing information or also seeking feedback in open dialogue? Furthermore, when you ask questions, do people feel comfortable providing feedback? 

Visible moments #2: Engage with the community in different ways.  Regardless of whether you are an introvert or extrovert, engaging with others must be conducted in multiple formats. It’s important to be visible at formal events and also look for informal means of being visible. When able, critical trust-accelerating moments happen in the informal dialogue before or after formal events. Just showing up and leaving a formal event doesn’t create trust. And it doesn’t count to just spend the time prior or after talking with the people you normally interact with. Leaders can create engagement by leading various community group meetings to share information, listen to concerns, and gather feedback.  

In addition, leaders need to engage visibly through blogs, updates, and social media. I believe in the importance of promoting the positivity of our students, staff, and community through social media as a way to show I care and that I see them.

Visible moments #3: Be “everywhere.” While I know that leaders can’t realistically be everywhere, it’s important for leaders to be strategic in where they are visible. For school leaders, it may be reasonable to be at large community events such as football games, but it’s equally important for leaders to also cheer on students and connect with parents at other school events and community happenings.


Disclaimer: I realize that in writing this kind of blog, readers may use this “against me” when I fail to live up to expectations. But I feel strongly about sharing this and hope we all realize that leadership is a journey. I don’t profess to be perfect in the things that I write about, but I use these blogs to communicate my hopes and what’s in my heart as I learn and share with others.  

I am reminded of the power of visibility as not only a motivator factor in building trust but also affirming my why as a leader. There are times when I am tired and sometimes afraid to be visible. But I also understand the power of showing up to cheer on our students, recognize our staff for their hard work, and actively engage with the community to build a better future.