The Critical Leadership Element You Must Have

May

20

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Peter Drucker said, “Leadership is an achievement of trust.” Strong leadership is a key component of any successful business. Dr. Toby Travis is with us today. He has a framework for developing trusted leadership that he will share and break down for us.

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The Critical Leadership Element You Must Have



Tim Fitzpatrick
Peter Drucker said that leadership is an achievement of trust. Strong leadership is a key component of any successful business. And our special guest today has a framework for developing trusted leadership that he's going to share with us and break down with us. Hi, I am Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing, where we believe marketing shouldn't be difficult. All you need is the right plan. I want to thank you so much for taking the time to tune in, and I am super excited to have with me today Dr. Toby Travis. He is the author of the book TrustEd. Toby, welcome, and thanks so much for being here.

Dr. Toby A. Travis
Thank you, Tim. My pleasure.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I'm excited to dig into this. Leadership is gosh, it's a pretty broad subject, but it is an incredibly important one if you're going to run a successful business. Before we do that, though, I want to just ask you some rapid fire questions to help us get to know you a little bit. You ready to rock?

Dr. Toby A. Travis
Ready.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Okay, good. When you're not working how do you like to spend your time?

Dr. Toby A. Travis
Literally walking the dog or reading.

Tim Fitzpatrick
And what's your hidden talent?

Dr. Toby A. Travis
For many years, I worked in show business as a magician.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Okay. Love it. What was your favorite trick?

Dr. Toby A. Travis
That's a hard one. That's a really hard one. Well, probably when we were touring the stage show, we did a version of what's called the Metamorphosis, where the performer transitions in a locked box with the assistant. But we used a version of it that Doug Henning had developed a few years earlier and where the performer would actually appear in the back of the auditorium or in the audience rather than in the box, and a third person would appear. But that was probably one of the favorite elements of the show.

Tim Fitzpatrick
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

Dr. Toby A. Travis
Make decisions slowly.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I like that one. What's one thing about you that surprises people other than being a magician?

Dr. Toby A. Travis
Well, and I'm a retired magician. I actually haven't performed in many, many years. Something that surprises people. I'm a country kid, although I've been around the world, but in 27 countries now, my roots are I'm a country boy.

Tim Fitzpatrick
What does success mean to you?

Dr. Toby A. Travis
Mission fulfillment and wellbeing.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Where's your happy place?

Dr. Toby A. Travis
Home.

Tim Fitzpatrick
And what qualities do you value in the people that you spend time with?

Dr. Toby A. Travis
Transparency and yet authentic caring.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So tell us a little bit more about, I know you've got your book TrustEd. You've got a varied background. Tell us a little bit more about you, what you're doing, the types of people that you're working with at this point.

Dr. Toby A. Travis
Yeah. And I really kind of came into the whole academic world and consulting world as a second career in some ways, the third career. But the last about 15 years now been involved in school consulting. I've been a teacher, I've been an administrator, currently serve as a Superintendent and an adjunct professor, but also in years past have launched businesses and start businesses. Currently, I find myself mentoring and coaching other leaders of schools and organizations and nonprofits. And most of these are small to mid sized organizations. So I'm not meeting with Amazon or Goodyear. I'm talking with folks who may have anywhere from 20 to 200 employees, kind of a kind of a situation. And it really came out of an experience. When I first came into teaching, and I was a bit naive and a bit surprised of how toxic the work environment was. And then I transitioned from being in the teacher role to the administrator role and had an opportunity to kind of address it within the same school. And that was all happening at the same time where I was also pursuing my doctoral program. And so this just became a passion of mine to think, okay, how do we make this better? And yes, there's been lots of work and research on trust and the importance of trust in leadership. My area of expertise really became what does this look like specifically in a school setting, really again, most of my work today is helping school leaders. But what we've discovered is these principles are universal. This is why it seems to be getting the attention in the business sector as well. And they're reaching out to me saying, hey, what does that look like for me? Because the truths are universal. We've discovered six major components of trust that must be in place. And I use the illustration in the book of a suspension bridge. And there are these major components of a bridge, and if they're not there, you're not going to trust the bridge. It's not going to get you to your destination across the body of water or the chasm or whatever the illustration may be there. But the point being that's how trust works is we may have, for example, great competency, but if we don't have solid values and beliefs about what we're doing, trust erodes away. And so we take a look at how to assess that, how to use the data from the assessment to intentionally improve trust levels in individual leaders and leadership teams. And the results have been really just amazing. No pun intended here because of my earlier career. But it's like magic. It's like if you get these pieces right, all kinds of great things start to happening. We've seen some business studies on this where once they came out, there was highly trusted organizations of 180% greater profit. We see retention rates of employees go up. The bottom line gets stronger, retention gets stronger, community support gets stronger. That's really important for nonprofits and education sector. That when there are high levels of trust, there's more and greater volunteers. There's been some major studies on the use of what was the phrase? It was basically how people use their free time and their free energy. Well, that increases tremendously in direct correlation to trust. So to answer your question, my work has become looking at how do we assess the trust level of the leadership and the organization, then out of that data, how do we then kind of drill in and specifically develop skill sets, competencies, practices, and protocols that support high levels of trust within the organization and then see what the benefits are from there.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Well, I'm excited to dig into this. It's interesting from a marketing standpoint, we focus on the fundamentals. And so I love how you talked about, look, these trust principles, they're the same. It's no different in marketing. It's the same for every business. What you want to call them, the fundamentals of the principles in any discipline, they do not change and they're universal. So I'm excited to dig into this. So the first thing I want to ask you is why do 70% of business improvement initiatives fail?

Dr. Toby A. Travis
What's really interesting, if I may, too, Tim, before I answer the question, is that stat holds true regardless of the sector. So I became aware again years ago, and the numbers have held right up to the present. 70% of school improvement initiatives fail. 70% of new business ventures fail. 70% of business improvements fail. And it's like that 70% numbers. So right when you dive in to figure out what's the why behind that, what you see mostly reported in the literature is it's all about execution. So these initiatives, these improvements, these new businesses, there's some failure in the execution. Well, you've got to dive in deeper than to see, okay, what is it about the execution that failed? And it always comes down to this leadership. It's the John Maxwell quote, right? Everything rises and falls. And it's true. It all comes down to leadership. My research revealed the number one indicator of successful schools, and it didn't seem, no matter how you measured or defined success was trusted leadership. Well, it's the same thing here. Flip the question, why do 30% of business improvement initiatives succeed? They have trusted leaders who own the change, who own the improvement. They are deeply involved in it. I'm sure you're familiar with the work of Jim Collins. He talks about his level five leader. They are mission driven and yet humble. They're team players, but they're in the thick of it. They're not distant leaders. And again, high levels of trust will create high levels of success. And we see in organizations where they do not take the time to clearly understand that principle and how much work and intentional work has to be done first to make sure you have that foundation in place, because without it, you're just going to be constantly trying to reinvent yourself and it just doesn't work.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So trust in leadership is key. So why should business owners assess, monitor, and intentionally develop that level of trust in their leadership?

Dr. Toby A. Travis
Because it makes them more money. When it comes down to what the dollars are, I've seen a number of return on investment studies done on this. So those organizations, companies that actually spend money, spend resources on assessing their trust level, assessing the trust of their work environment, monitoring trust levels, and if you will, the wellbeing of their employees and their relationship with their supervisors. Actually, and I don't have it right here in front of me. It's probably in the book, but it goes from $1.65 to $6.85 cent return per dollar spent on this type of activity. So biggest Fortune 100 companies are doing it all the time, Tim. I've got a friend of mine, David Horsagger wrote a book called The Trust Edge and those are his clients. He is in those boardrooms. His book went number one on the Wall Street Journal list a few years ago. But I've had the privilege of sitting in some of his training sessions with VPs from these big companies. They don't hesitate to spend some serious investment to ensure that their leaders trust levels are being assessed. They are being continually trained. There's professional development modules going on constantly. And it is one of their metrics for success because they know it's critical to everything else. So why should they do it? Because it is key to success. And without it, you're really missing a critical element of an effective and successful business plan or operation.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Can we touch on so you mentioned that in your book, you talk about the six major components of trust, can we touch on those?

Dr. Toby A. Travis
Yeah, very quickly, again, I use a bridge as just a way to visualize it. And others have done other types of models, but this one really reflected what came out of their research over the years and even just looking at all the literature that's out there. So very quickly, a bridge has a foundation. What's it sitting on? Well, in leadership, we're talking about the foundation of beliefs and values. What do we hold true and do we really believe it and have we articulated it? Have we documented it? Do we make it visual? Do we frequently reference it? But what do we believe about who we are as an organization and how we should operate? What are our core values? Foundation. A bridge is a sub structure and the role of the substructure of bridges to connect everything of the bridge to the foundation. And this is what we see in trusted leaders. Trusted leaders are consistent in ensuring that everything is supporting connected to who they say they are and what they believe. In fact, Tim, this is where we often see trust falls apart. You have an employer who makes the belief statement, hey, my employees are my number one priority, but then they make budget decisions or procedural decisions that are not in alignment with that belief statement. We're not going to trust them. So that substructure is ensuring that everything that we do as an organization is in alignment with and connected to our foundation, our beliefs, and our values.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So do you actually call that substructure in the book or what you do? Okay.

Dr. Toby A. Travis
We have a 360 assessment, and I can even provide you a link if you want to share. There's a free version of self assessment tool. It's more of a reflection exercise, but it'll give your listeners an idea of what the 360 looks like. It'll actually give a leader a score on these six components and what that looks like. But we use that nomenclature just to make it easier to talk about. So you get the foundation, you got the substructure, especially a suspension bridge has bearings. Now, this is like bearings in a car. The bearings are actually these movable elements of the bridge. And the idea here is that trusted leaders are flexible. But what we've learned through the research is that flexibility is only possible to the extent in which the leader is actually involved in the actual nuts and bolts of the organization. So we find trusted leaders are not distant. They're flexible. The only way they can be flexible is if they're involved. They're acting like the bearings of the bridge. The next component is the girders. These are the beams that run underneath a bridge. On the function of those girders is that they look very different based on the bridge. How wide is the bridge? Is the bridge built on a corner? And here what we're talking about is leaders ability to support through contextualization, adapting to the unique situation of their employees, their community. One of the struggles that large organizations have is they try to impose best practice in all settings, and it doesn't work. We always have to contextualize to the local outlet or the local setting because we have unique employees, we have unique customers. The school setting, this is folks that are working in the larger districts really struggle with this. They're trying to be equitable, make great decisions and policy for everyone. The problem is literally every school campus is unique. And trusted leaders have the ability of taking a best practice and contextualizing it, adapting it to the unique situation that they find themselves in, the girders. Superstructure of the bridge is culture relationship. It's the most visible element of our bridge. It's what you see from the greatest distance away. But what's the most visible element of trusted leadership? Culture. And you know the old marketing phrase, if you don't tell your story, someone else will. Trusted leaders, they know how to tell their story. They know how to drive the narrative. They know how to intentionally build culture. And one of the encouraging things that we found through the research, Tim, is it takes very few individuals at the leadership level to make a difference in organizational culture, but they have to be trusted. Right? And they have to be consistent in that. And then the last component is the deck of the bridge. We often would think of the bridge as maybe the simplest element is the part that we drive across. But if you study bridge architecture, what you find is this is a very complex. There's multiple layers to it. It's going to have the right pericity to deal with the elements. And all of this. Well, what we find with trusted leaders is they take the complex and make it simple. This is where we're going. This is our lane. Here are markings. They know that we are in the right lane and going the right way. And it's very clear where we're going and how we're getting there. Order, clarity. This is the deck of trusted leadership. And then finally kind of tying all those components together, what I call the suspension cables of trusted leadership. And here we get into the nitty gritty of specific skill sets and competencies that trusted leaders have. And that looks different based on the business or the organization. Again, in the world that I work in predominantly, there are very specific skill sets and competencies that school leaders must have in order to support these various components of trust. And that's, again, part of the work that we're involved in is we'll go in and do an assessment of a leader leadership team. And what skill sets, what competencies are they lacking to support a component of trust? And it's also a great way to help HR. When you're looking at who do we need to add to the team? Well, we do a three city assessment of the team, and we're able to see these components are strong. We need somebody who can really help us with the Girders or somebody who's really good at articulating the foundational elements of who we are. But those pieces all need to work together for the bridge to be trustworthy as you go across and for others to trust our organizations to invest in us, to buy our product, to attend our schools, those elements all have to be in place.

Tim Fitzpatrick
When you work with organizations on this, when you initially start, are you first doing a deep dive to establish what of these six elements they have in place, if any?

Dr. Toby A. Travis
Yes. Right. So actually, the very first place we'll start is just, again, a self assessment exercise where we just get, OK, what do we think we are? And then you do a 360 where you're basically surveying all employees about their supervisors. Here, when it comes to trust, perception is reality. Right. So what my employees think of me is what they think of me. Right. And so this is the data we're pulling is okay, what do they think I'm good at and what I'm not good at or what our team is? In most settings, you're really assessing a team because no one individual has all the skill sets. To be successful in all six components, you need a team. So it's identifying what are my strengths, what are my areas for improvement and those within the team. But yes, you dive in. I'm a data geek, so you've got to have the data. Otherwise you're just guessing. Tim, it's all about speed, right? We all want to know, how do we get this organization in a better place faster? What we have found is let the data drive the professional development. Let the data drive the improvement. There are so many things that any organization can be working on, and there's so many pop ideas, too. And there could be good work done. But we find those if we drill down to the data, let the data drive and inform us as far as what our professional development is going to look like, greater speed. You just get there a lot faster.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Got it. What's the number one factor in establishing a work environment supports the well being of employees?

Dr. Toby A. Travis
That's a tough one, other than what we've already said, trusted leadership. But I think very specifically, there's transparency. So employees want to know that they can trust their leader. They want to know and believe, okay. There's no hidden agenda here, and they want to know the good, the bad and the ugly. I would say certainly if it's not me, number one, it's one of the top factors in establishing a positive work environment. Well, let me give you a very specific thing, something your listeners, if their business owners can do. Okay. One of the activities that I will do with a client organization is I'll say, send me anything you've got in writing as far as your employee manual, operational procedure manual, founding documents, that sort of thing, school settings. Send me your school, your handbook for parents and students. And what I do is I scan through and anybody can do this. This doesn't take rocket science to do. And you scan through those policy documents, looking to see, have we established any policy that's based on the assumption of distrust? Right. You follow me? And what we're looking at is just doing a self analysis. Are we feeding a culture of distrust? And usually what has happened is some employee at some time blew it. They did something they should not have done. And what we did to respond to that is we created a policy that punishes everybody. And so when I challenged business owners and leaders and organizational leaders to look at, is there some way to get this done without punishing everybody? How do we turn this into an organization where we're going to assume trust, and when trust is broken, we deal with it individually? That's what I mean by also transparency is, are we intentionally creating a culture and environment of trusted activity? And what we found, again, through the research is that it's less expensive to operate an organization where there's high levels of trust, where we don't have to have all kinds of systems of monitoring and in place. And if we have to have high level systems of monitoring in place to ensure our workers are doing what they're supposed to be doing. Well, what we hire them for in the first place anyway. You got the wrong people on the bus, Collins would say. Right? So that's a practical way to start with. Okay. How do I get reflective about this in what we're doing? Am I creating an environment that's based on distrust? And what we'll find and what we do find, rather, is when we intentionally are building protocols, practices, policies that are based on the assumption of trust, things get a lot better. And now that doesn't mean it's perfect. Something goes wrong and we're human beings, we make mistakes, we blow it. But if you use that opportunity as a way for let's help the individual grow or sometimes help them get off the bus, maybe they are in the wrong spot. That's what that opportunity is there for.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Are you finding a lot of talk about the great resignation and people leaving and for whatever reason, are you finding more interest in this topic of trusted leadership as a result of that?

Dr. Toby A. Travis
Well, before we went on air here, I've been surprised more than anybody. I mean, Forbes has featured my book three times in the last few months, and that was one of the articles that they were addressing was this idea of people are not readily going back to work because they don't trust employers to treat them as they should. I have a friend that is working or had been working in the healthcare industry, but she hadn't gone back to work yet. And I'm like, well, why not? She goes, do you know what kind of crazy hours they're expecting of everybody? Right. So here she is. She kind of wants to go back to work. Fortunately, she doesn't have to, but she hasn't to had do it because she doesn't believe that when she goes back to work that her employer is going to protect her time and her sanity and her health. Therefore, she's like, no, I don't want to get back into that. And so it perpetuates that problem.

Tim Fitzpatrick
It was interesting, too, to see how some companies are responding to going back to work. It seems like the ones that are just kind of stuck in their ways. Right. It's like before the Pandemic, everybody went into the office, and that's the way we're going back. And employees are responding going, well, we've been working this way for two years. Why the hell do we need to go back? Like, if you can't give me a valid reason why we should be doing this, I don't feel good about doing it. So it's interesting, some people are embracing this, and I think the ones that are embracing it are the ones that are going to really benefit from it, and the people that are refusing to adapt are the ones that are really going to struggle. But it seems to me like it's not just a trust in leadership, it's trust that they have in their team. If people don't need to be in the office, why the hell do you want them to be there? Because you don't trust that they're going to get the work done right.

Dr. Toby A. Travis
Well, and of course, there are different sectors that looks different. And in some places, they really do need that face to face involvement. I was listening to a program the other day. I was looking at how major organizations are becoming more cognizant to the understanding that when they put the employee first, they actually see again a higher return. And think about it, it just makes sense. It's like if people are happy, well supported, they're going to be more engaged. We see it in the academic world all the time. So the more well supported teachers are in the classrooms and in the school environment, the more innovation we see, the greater levels of engagement. And when teachers are more highly engaged, we also see a direct correlation to student achievement levels. Same thing is true in business, the happier employees are. And I'm not saying you're creating a laser fair atmosphere for you. That clear. This is the objective. This is what we need to get done. And basically give them the target. But don't tell them how. It's like this is where we need to be. Go do it. Go. Let me know when you need help. You're not advocating leadership. You're empowering, you're truly delegating and then supporting well, but let them go. If they meet the targets, great. And you will get higher levels of engagement. Higher levels of innovation come within those types of working relationships.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I love it. This has been a great conversation, Toby. Any last minute thoughts you want to leave us with today?

Dr. Toby A. Travis
Well, maybe back to when you asked me what's some of the best advice I've had. And that is the idea of when we're making improvement decisions, when we're making even hiring decisions whenever possible, don't let yourself be rushed. Take the time and get the data and make careful decisions. Often many of the blunders of especially new businesses. And even there's classic stories of larger corporations that have made a decision too rapidly and it really burnt them in the end. And it's also a way to build trust. I make a practice. For example, as a school administrator, I never make a decision with another individual in the room in the sense that if I have an employee who's coming to me with a problem or a parent who's coming to me with a problem, I hear their problem, I hear their concern. I thank them for sharing it with me. And then I say, okay, I'm going to get back to you. But I don't instantly give them an answer. And that has saved my bacon so many times because then when you go and you get more information, you'll learn more about the context of the situation, you make a better decision.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, we see that in marketing all the time. It's like people aren't getting enough data or they're not getting the right data and they make poor decisions from that. So where can people learn more about you? Obviously you've got the book TrustEd. Spelled TrustEd. Amazon?

Dr. Toby A. Travis
Yeah, books on Amazon. All right. Anywhere as easy as just pick up your phone, the book is there and then you can reach me through trustedconsulting.org or you can find me on LinkedIn.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Okay, cool. And on LinkedIn you're under Dr. Toby Travis.

Dr. Toby A. Travis
Toby Travis.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes, Dr. Toby Travis. Awesome. Those of you watching listening please connect with Toby. He obviously knows what the heck he's talking about and if you want to get to where you want to be you got to have strong leadership. So if you're struggling there reach out and I'm sure Toby would be happy to help. So thank you again for watching listening. I appreciate you. Again, I am Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing. Guys, if you're struggling with your marketing plan you got to have a plan if you want to get to where you want to be. There is no perfect plan but we use a 90 day marketing plan that keeps things simple and on point so that you know where your priorities are and you have clarity of what you need to do. If you want to take advantage of that head on over to growthmarketingplan.com that's growthmarketingplan.com. Instructional video all the tools, templates, examples are right there so you can create your marketing plan and start getting results today. Thanks so much. Until next time, take care.


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