Relationships and social norms

The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.

– Babe Ruth

Interested in how your school is doing with creating trusting, transparent relationships and social norms for strong collaboration? Use one of the self-assessments in the linked document below.

What do we mean by relationships and social norms?

What relationships and social norms that support strong collaboration look like: When teachers and administrators disagree over the direction the school is moving, they address those differences respectfully with observable evidence and seek to understand the other. In schools with supportive norms and working relationships, going public with practice is expected and celebrated.

The previous four constructs are typically necessary for supporting the final three constructs. As schools attempt to develop collective leadership, they are best served by leveraging vision and strategy, supportive administration, capacity and resources, and enabling work structures in the service of supportive norms and working relationships, shared influence, and orientation toward improvement. 

Supportive norms and working relationships refer to how teachers interact with each other and with administrators. In schools where these norms and relationships are strong, teachers and administrators seek to communicate clearly and provide feedback to each other that is respectful and improvement-oriented and that emphasizes student outcomes. 

Strong collaboration does not guarantee everyone will always agree. In schools with supportive norms, teachers and administrators celebrate and support each other as they risk and learn, but they also challenge one another when they disagree or have divergent ideas about how to improve. 

The importance of relationships and social norms

Trust is the foundation on which relationships and social norms are built. Relationships and social norms are a necessity for the deep collaboration that collective leadership requires. As your school moves toward a more collective leadership model, educators will need to take risks — the types that come along with trying anything new. When educators trust each other enough to try new things together, relationships strengthen — making growth more likely. Without trusting relationships and social norms, friction can occur — making progress difficult (see table below).


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