When I joined Goddard Systems, LLC, franchisor of The Goddard School®, in the fall of 2019, I never could
have imagined how much our world would change just a few months later. I found myself in the position of not
only needing to provide guidance and solutions to our franchisees, but also to instill hope and trust throughout
our Goddard family. It was not the role I expected to take as the new leader of Goddard Systems, but I took
on the responsibility. I painted a picture of how we would emerge stronger from this pandemic and worked to create
an environment in which our team members and franchisees felt empowered to drive extraordinary performance.
From day one, relationship-building, connectivity and trust have been core to that picture. It has not been easy, however, with the pandemic upending the typical ways we build and maintain connections. Today, every relationship, even those that have existed for years, requires significantly more attention and intentionality to nurture and maintain. Opportunities to build relationships and inspire others are met with increasing resistance due to the emotional and physical strains associated with the events unfolding around us.
As a leader, it is my responsibility to rise above the fray, be resilient and support my team and our work to make the world a better place through early childhood development. I continue to remind people that there is a critical and life-changing outcome that we are working towards – the education and success of our future generations. We must collectively be patient and work together to reach the result.
To that end, I strive to weave respect, commitment and trust into every relationship and conversation I have. This is true not just with my colleagues and Goddard School franchise owners, but also with parents of the students at our schools, fellow business and community leaders and certainly my friends and family. There is no “quick trick” to make someone trust you. It takes time and effort, even more so in our, so frequently, isolated worlds.
My grandfather, who was a minister and evangelist working in small communities around the southeast, taught me these values. He demonstrated what it means to respect people, support and care for them and show empathy and compassion. It was the way he operated and lived his life. I credit much of the person I am today to him.
Therefore, I wholeheartedly believe it is through the “soft skills” of empathy and compassion, as well as activities like engaged listening, that we work to build trust and relationships and embolden team members towards action.
In my experience, the hallmark of any successful organization is anticipating and meeting the needs and expectations of its stakeholders. Only by engaging with these parties on a regular basis, and actively listening, have I been able to uncover needs and values that I couldn’t otherwise anticipate. Over the past two years, we’ve accomplished this at Goddard via virtual, and when possible, in-person, listening tours at schools around the country, regular surveys of parents, as well as ongoing communications from executive leadership. And it’s a two-way street. Leaders use these regular touchpoints to share evolving business objectives, and leadership hears directly from our core stakeholders – franchisees, families and employees.
While building trust needs to be more deliberate than ever, each time I face a moment of resistance I remind myself and others that we are serving a greater purpose. We are preparing young minds to reach their fullest potential academically, socially and emotionally so they’re fully prepared when it’s time for them to take their place in society.
About the Author:
Dennis R. Maple is Chairman and CEO at Goddard Systems, LLC. He provides leadership to the franchisor’s executive team and guides the vision for The Goddard School system, one of the leading premier childcare providers in the U.S.