Setting the foundation for a culture of trust & trustworthiness as critical to building capacity for coherent multi-stakeholder strategic direction setting
The Sooke Principals and Vice Principals (PVP) association wanted to become more clear and focused in their direction within the school district while building a supportive climate and culture. They thought it could be as simple as crafting a Strategic Plan. At stake was not only setting strategic directions but to build capacity for navigating and negotiating the historic “prickly” inter-relationships between the various stakeholder groups – leadership, teachers, staff, parents and the local community – and all the attendant long-standing tensions. In short, re-building trust and trustworthiness as the way of doing business, especially in a distrustful union environment.
Each stakeholder group came to the table with its own unique issues and challenges. Thus, bridging divides and re-building relationships became “the work, to do the work”. At first, the leadership group merely wanted “a roadmap” to simply lay out the “steps” to get the Strategic Plan crafted – then, they would deal with building better relationships. However, like in so many organizations, when things are working – it’s because of the relationships; when things are not working – it’s because of the relationships. The first full-day session was an appreciatively-informed process. This approach is designed to elicit from the participant groups all of the data and details needed to reveal what is working and what isn’t AND what might be done differently. In short, the focused conversations re-engaged and re-invigorated the whole system around what matters, revitalizing their belief in each other and what that could make possible – and all of it was displayed on the wall, unfolding as their own “road map” (see photo above). They took back their future with heart and meaning, re-inspired by what they had accomplished.
As a group, the PVP became clear that the most important aspect of setting any direction is to first build coherence AND cohesion within your ranks. It took two full school year cycles of consistent modeling of trust-building practices – along with the occasional back-slipping — to lay the requisite foundation for engaging in a planning process. Their deep commitment re-affirmed a fundamental and shared intention to co-create a “healthy relationship culture” first – which became ‘the resiliency’ necessary for supporting further community-wide engagement.