by Dr. Toby A. Travis, founder of TrustED and author of “TrustED: The Bridge to School Improvement“
An organization’s structure can either support growth, development, and success or stifle creativity, advancement, and innovation. A structure that supports high levels of trust focuses on supporting the mission and keeping it central to every decision made and every position held.
Every role should pursue the same goals and outcomes — from board member to custodian — working together to realize those goals. When this happens consistently among the entire community, a firm foundation is established, where trusted leadership is built or elevated.
Leaders must ensure that every member of their organization knows the top priorities concerning their organizational mission and goals, and individually calibrate all they do to reflect those priorities. In essence, every member of the staff must “keep the main thing the main thing.”
Research has shown that one of the fundamental indicators marking trusted leaders is the effective management of people, programs, and resources to meet foundational objectives through shared core values. Effective management exists in the leader’s ability to process all organizational and operational decisions while maintaining a continual focus on the mission, vision, values, and current priorities.
The mission statement serves as a measuring rod to ensure the organization remains focused on its top priorities, even when it may be more expedient to do otherwise. It’s easy for companies to embrace a wide variety of activities and programs. However, no matter how good these may be, if they don’t support the central mission and core values, they distract the organization’s pursuit of becoming great.
Ensuring a constant focus on the mission and top priorities and that decisions are processed through the organization’s values is a primary practice that instills and ensures trust — knowing that leaders are committed to keeping the main thing the main thing. A disciplined focus on the mission, values, and top priorities establishes a foundation for trust. In addition, it builds unity among the stakeholders that rally the troops, as it were, around a shared purpose.
Trusted leaders calibrate their organization to the unique mission of their group in the following ways:
First, trusted leaders process all decisions, policies, programs, and activities by focusing on fulfilling their organizational mission. The central and recurring question that’s continually asked is, “How does this action, policy, or activity propel us closer to mission fulfillment?”
Secondly, trusted leaders hire and promote others within their organizations through the filter of identifying how the ideals, beliefs, and values of the organization are supported. The central and recurring questions are “Does this individual’s beliefs about who we are and what we do align with our core values? And are they passionate about the pursuit of our shared mission?”
Third, trusted leaders ensure that improvements in the “nuts and bolts” of their organization’s operations are driven by the mission. Thus, the burning question is, “How do our policies, practices, protocols, and procedures support, reflect, and ensure ever greater mission fulfillment?”
Fourth, trusted leaders employ data assessments of all the operations of their organization by considering them from the perspective of their missional goals, beliefs, and values and the pursuit of currently established priorities. Here the question to be answered is, “What measurements are we using to evaluate where we are in relation to our mission, our stated values, and priorities?” And most importantly, trusted leaders commit as leaders to the same scrutiny and data-driven improvement expectations to guide their personal, professional development needs.
Dr. Toby A. Travis is the founder of TrustED®, a framework for school improvement focused on developing trusted leaders. The application of his research serves as the basis for the TrustED® School Leader 360 Assessment, which schools worldwide utilize to inform school improvement initiatives. His new book is “TrustED: The Bridge to School Improvement“. Learn more at www.trustedbook.info.