Whether you are an aspiring, newly hired, or veteran school principal, developing a strong entry plan helps you identify important next steps as you move into a new school.

A quick search will turn up many plans, but what if you could create an entry plan that paves the way to establish relational trust your school community?

What if you could communicate through your plan that as their new principal you are ready to connect in meaningful ways with stakeholders, look for opportunities that can level up your school, and tackle the challenges ahead together?

Let’s start building a world-class plan …

Not a polished one for a presentation, but a real one.

And if you’d like help getting started on your entry plan, click here. Devote deep work time to exploring the ideas in the template and writing out your plan.

Want help creating your principal entry plan + template?

Principals … Trust Is the Key to Your Success

Before you even begin, consider the foundational element of trust.

A powerful entry plan includes purposeful activities to build trust among stakeholders in the principal’s first year.

In their study of relational trust and academic performance in elementary schools, Bryk and Schneider (2003) referred to trust as “the connective tissue that binds individuals together to advance the education and welfare of students” (p. 44).

Based on their research, we learn that high relational trust leads to:

  • Greater teacher buy-in on reforms
  • Decreased aversion to change
  • Increased willingness to put in extra effort for students
  • Improved student learning outcomes (Bryk & Schneider, 2003).

Zak’s (2017) study on trust revealed that employees in high-trust workplaces report lower stress, more energy, higher productivity, fewer sick days, more engagement, more life satisfaction, and less burnout.

All schools could use a little more of that!

Just as “When YOU get better … Everyone wins,” when trust flourishes, our schools win.

Establishing trust with staff and other stakeholders is one of the primary goals of this entry plan and should be a primary goal for all principals.

Self-care plays a pivotal role here, too, because taking care of yourself enables you to show up in your school as a healthy, trustworthy leader–someone who is consistent and exercises good judgment (Zenger & Folkman, 2019).

Before School Starts: Set the Stage

In this phase, spend some time thinking about the school year ahead before you even begin your planning.

This work will help you frame your mindset as a trustworthy leader.


  • Define how will you show up as a leader and what gets in the way.
  • Develop your sticky core values.
  • Explore expectations your school has for you.
  • Rate yourself with the Ruckus Maker Mindset tool (free download here).
  • Brainstorm operational needs for your site that you already know about.
  • Set up a daily score card for your to-do list.

Want help creating your principal entry plan + template?

First Week of School: Relationships First

This phase is time to begin building meaningful connection. Make a plan for how you will intentionally connect with staff, students, and parents.

By planning purposeful opportunities to learn more about the people you serve and revealing glimpses of who you are as a person, you establish norms that say, “People are valued here.”


  • Set up accountability for living out the Ruckus Maker Mindset.
  • Create surveys to get to know your community.
  • Plan for how you’ll be visible.
  • Start celebrating what’s good and plan for other celebrations.

Month 1: Eyes & Ears

This phase of the plan is about learning everything you can about your school.

These conversations and observations are one of your most powerful resources. A school principal who observes and listens wholeheartedly conveys a genuine care for others.

Frei & Morris (2020) wrote, “If people think you care more about yourself than about others, they won’t trust you enough to lead them.”

How you carry yourself in this phase can build or break trust. For a trust-building bonus, Ruckus Maker principals will put away their phones and give others their full attention.

Some things you learn this month will stand out as obvious early wins that you can bring to your community right away.


  • Set up 1:1 interviews with staff, students, and community members to learn about the school.
  • Gather data the school already collects.
  • Visit classrooms and see what’s happening.
  • Establish a culture team.
  • Begin planning how you will delegate some operational tasks.

Month 2: Vision & Goals

In this phase, you review the data from interviews, classroom visits, school records, and surveys to extract meaning and discover opportunities for your school. Patterns and trends from the feedback and information will emerge.

Select the top 10 trending challenges and present your findings to staff and others in the school community.

Transparency and broad sharing of pertinent information within our schools sends a message that you trust your team and that you are trustworthy.

Take everything you have learned and work with your staff to set goals connected to the school’s shared vision and feedback received during the interviews and surveys.


  • Write your remarkable school vision.
  • Set goals collaboratively with your team.
  • Begin honoring a team member of the month who lives out your school values.

Month 3: Planning & Progress

In this final phase of your entry plan, you work with your school team to determine how you will measure your goals.

You will break down your big goals into specific plans that move your team in the right direction. Most importantly, all this you do with a view to empower your team to carry the goals you set together over the finish line.

Extend trust and provide your team with the tools they need to do the job with excellence.


  • Launch the vision and goals your team has set.
  • Plan specific celebrations for the 100th day.
  • Determine lag and lead indicators for your goals.

Want help creating your principal entry plan + template?


This entry plan is just the beginning, the first 90 days on your site.

Prioritize relationships, take care of yourself and your community, and show up with consistency and good judgment (Zenger & Folkman, 2019).

You will be on your way to a high-powered, high-trust school. Go Make a Ruckus!

Want Help Creating Your 90-day Principal Entry Plan?

My third book is available for pre-order and will help you craft a high-quality principal entry plan.

It’s short, practical, and focused on helping you get a great result.

Order your copy of the book here (includes a template and bonus materials).




Bryk, A. S., & Schneider, B. (2003). Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for School Reform. Educational Leadership, 60(6), 40.

Frei, X., & Morris, A. (2020, May/June). Begin with Trust. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/05/begin-with-trust

Zak, P.J. (2017, January/February). The Neuroscience of Trust. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2017/01/the-neuroscience-of-trust

Zenger, J. & Folkman, J. The 3 Elements of Trust. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2019/02/the-3-elements-of-trust

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