COLUMBUS, Ohio — Despite being an expert in child behavior, Dana Rosen struck a chord with NAPT attendees on Monday when she discussed trustworthiness and how it lends itself to driver retention.
While not advertised as a leadership session, Rosen, the assistant director of transportation for student safety and support at Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District in Texas, received feedback from attendees that it should be such, as they called the information invaluable.
Rosen explained that she transitioned into the transportation department as a behavior specialist and was hired to take on student management and behavior on school buses. However, she noted that above all the most important quality a leader can have earning trust.
She noted that employees are putting their livelihoods in employers’ hands, as they have the power to promote or terminate individuals. She explained the science behind trusting people, adding that our bodies emit an increased level of oxytocin when we trust people.
For example, a visible leader is more trusted by employees, not the one who never leaves their office. “You cannot change behavior if you cannot build trust,” she said, adding that if employers want change in the department, it won’t happen without employee trust.
Rosen used the acronym of TRUST to describe the aspects of it: Truthfulness, Reliability, Understanding, Sincerity, and Time. During her session on Oct. 30, she broke down each word and expanded upon how it helps to build trust.
For example, with Truthfulness she asked the attendees if they had ever lied to their employees, and an overwhelming “yes” was heard. Even if it’s something as simple as telling them, “It’s going to be OK,” she noted that employees respect and trust a leader who is more upfront and open. “You have to be willing to say, I don’t always have the answer,” she said, adding that employees want transparency.
With Reliability, she said it’s important that people know who their leader is as a person, and that doesn’t change based on who the individual is speaking with. They act the same with the superintendent and the bus driver.
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Understanding, she described, is learning to accept feedback and fostering social connection. She noted that people want good feedback, but it’s hard to hear what’s going wrong. When asking for feedback in terms of a survey, for example, Rosen said it’s important to make sure that the employees know you’ve received it and acknowledge it. She explained that employees are more likely to respond to surveys if they know it’s not falling on deaf ears.
For Sincerity, she noted first impressions often indicate who is genuine and who is not. When announcing a new plan or initiative to the team, for example, she said it is important to explain the why and purpose behind the idea, as that will create more buy-in.
Rosen noted that team-building exercises are also important and should be done each time a new team member joins or someone leaves the organization to address culture.
With Time, she reiterated that leaders should take time to answer the why. Create clear expectations and train toward them, she said. Employees need to know the why behind a task or project. She added that explaining the why could take time, but explaining can lead to widescale adoption rather than pushback.
In conclusion, she said trust is needed to make any change, but trust doesn’t naturally happen.