Most people value loyalty, but I think that I may have a more significant value placed on it than any trait, aside from honesty, but they go hand-in-hand. When I talk about loyalty, I don’t mean a blind system of letting people do anything regardless of the outcomes. What I mean is that we have an assumption of the best intentions, we have honest conversations, and we commit to working towards a common goal. If you could give me a school with 100% loyalty, then I could give you outstanding results 100% of the time. The trouble is that loyalty comes slow and with great difficulty.
Gaining loyalty from every single person on your team will probably never happen, but you can get it from almost all of them and it will sustain as their careers progress. The advice here is simple, ask them where they want to go and help them get there. While it is simply stated, the execution takes time and energy. I want to get to know every person that works for me. I want to know what struggles they face, and I want to know how I can help them face those challenges. In order to accomplish this, I meet with them at least twice a year to help them establish goals and serve as an accountability partner for them.
Through this process, I have been able to foster teachers to become better teachers, and I have had more of my staff placed in formal leadership positions within my district than any other principal. While it is a bittersweet situation when they move up and out, it has always paid dividends for my school. I have more insight into the plans being developed at our central office than any other principal, I have a network of advisers to help me solve problems as they arise, and I have more teachers wanting to work at my campus than any other in the district too.
While I can assure you that you will reap rewards for these actions, I cannot understate the importance of engaging in this with no expectation of return. If you are not acting out of a genuine interest for the other people, then you will never be successful in gaining their trust. They will never perform for you. This approach requires a significant risk, but it is worth it. There will be some people that disappoint you, and this is devastating. However, more often there will be people that rise up and out perform their expectations, and that is more rewarding than you could have imagined.