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School boards told to cultivate trust
Kentucky School Advocate
By Madelynn Coldiron
School board members and other attendees at KSBA’s annual conference Feb. 26-28 got a lesson in trust from the event’s plenary speaker.
David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge, explained why trust, which he defines as “a confident belief in a person, a product or an organization,” is important to school boards. In a monetary sense, a lack of trust is the biggest expense an individual or group can have, he said.
“If you don’t think trust does not affect your budget or does not affect your bottom line, ask Volkswagen. Ask Brian Williams. Think of Tiger Woods – he lost $110 million in two weeks in endorsements,” he said.
Conversely, research shows as trust increases, so do revenues, loyalty, productivity, innovation, retention and morale, he pointed out. “A board where people trust each other, innovation goes up because they’ll share ideas.”
How can school boards and others build trust? It takes more than honesty and integrity, Horsager said, and listed eight traits of trust that research has identified with the greatest leaders and organizations. “You’ve got to have all eight of these pillars,” he noted.
“People trust the clear and distrust or mistrust the ambiguous,” and the overly complex, he said. To push through to clarity in a project, keep asking “why,” he advised. Knowing the “why,” Horsager said, “unifies, inspires and motivates people.” Even more important is to repeatedly ask “how,” as in “How are you going to do that?”
“Don’t stop asking how! We stop board meetings too soon, we stop discussions too soon, we stop things too soon without pushing the ‘how.’ And nothing happens because there was no clarity,” he said.
People trust those who genuinely care beyond themselves, “that have a pure intent,” Horsager said, using the acronym LAW – listen, appreciate and wake up – as ways to demonstrate compassion. “You can change a culture with appreciation. You can change a company, you can change a bottom line, you can change a school, you can change a learning environment with a little different look at appreciation,” he said. “Nobody gets enough of it.”
A common quality of leaders is that “they did what needed to be done when it needed to be done, whether they felt like it or not,” he said, adding that character is doing what you said you would do even when no one’s watching.
It’s hard to build trust if a person is not competent, Horsager said: “How am I staying fresh, relevant and capable?”
“We trust those we believe will stick in the face of adversity. Commitment breeds commitment,” he said. If an individual or organization has lost trust, an apology is not going to rebuild it; the only way to re-establish trust “is to make and keep a commitment.”
Horsager defined this as the ability to connect and collaborate with others. Having an attitude of gratitude contributes to this, as opposed to being pessimistic and complaining, he said.
An organization or a person needs to demonstrate results. “You can have compassion and character, but if you don’t contribute results I expect or ask for, I cannot trust you,” he explained.
“The king of the pillars,” Horsager called it. “It’s the littlest things done consistently that make the biggest difference.” Consistency is sameness in a positive sense.
“You’ve been put in this great role to be a board member, to serve, to lead. Not everybody’s going to like it – it’s a tough job.” he concluded. “You’ve got to trust each other, build trust with each other. You’ve got to trust yourself. “
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