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The “Trust Edge” for International Schools

The “Trust Edge” for International Schools

By Toby A. Travis, Academic Director , Alliance Academy International, Quito, Ecuador

My submission of this article is long overdue as we had the extraordinary privilege of hosting on our campus nearly a year ago now David Horsager, the national best-selling author of “The Trust Edge”, and yet the enduring impact of his visit is still resonating on our campus – and shaping how we approach leadership development on the campus into the future.


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First, a little background on David Horsager: After directing an organization in Arkansas in his twenties, Dave moved back to his home state of Minnesota and started his first company. It went so well that within 4 months he and his wife were living in a musty basement apartment with $1.40 to their name! Since then, Dave has grown 2 successful companies and has taken the platform as a keynote speaker across the USA and on 4 continents. His work has been featured in prominent publications such as Fast Company, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal. His client list includes: Wells Fargo, The Better Business Bureau, The New York Yankees, American Express, Good Year, FedEx, and many more. He is a producer, professor, award-winning speaker, business strategist and National Best-Selling author of The Trust Edge.


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I have personally had the privilege of knowing Dave and his family for over twenty years. Early in the 2013-2014 school year, our Administrative Team at AAI met to discuss strategies on how to increase levels of trust between the faculty and the school leadership. In fact, and candidly, we were discussing how to repair some broken elements of trust. I was aware of Dave’s book going to the “National Best-Seller” status with The Wall Street Journal, and although he and I hadn’t connected for several years, I sent him a note to see if there were any chance he would be willing and able to conduct a Skype meeting with our team. Long story short… he agreed to travel to Quito and donate his services to the school for 3 days as a speaker, trainer, and consultant!

His time here with us at AAI began by leading a professional development session with our faculty, staff, and guest entitled, “The 8 Pillars of Trust: A Framework for Gaining an Edge in Life.” Throughout his presentation it was obvious that although he had developed these “pillars” in the business and corporate world – they are essential, bottom-line issues, for every international school. Without trust, we know that schools lose teams, reputations, relationships, and revenue. But with trust, school improvement moves faster, “margins” get bigger, and deeper and healthier relationships take off.

Through academic research and firsthand experience, Dave demonstrated what it takes to gain – and keep what he calls “The Trust Edge.” It was a captivating presentation in which he combined his humor and illustrations with deep insight and analysis. He showed how when little things are done consistently, they add up to huge results. Everyone came away from the presentation with concrete steps that many immediately put to use to improve both their work here at the AAI as well as their personal lives.

Here is a brief overview of Horsager’s “8 Pillars of Trust”:

  1. Clarity: People trust the clear and mistrust the ambiguous.

  2. Compassion: People put faith in those who care beyond themselves.

  3. Character: People notice those who do what is right over what is easy.

  4. Competency: People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant, & capable.

  5. Commitment: People believe in those who stand through adversity.

  6. Connection: People want to follow, buy from and be around friends.

  7. Contribution: People immediately respond to results.

  8. Consistency: People love to see the little things done consistently.

During the remaining time of Dave’s visit with us in Quito, he conducted several sessions with our administrative and academic leaders sharing specific and practical strategies to develop and expand our level of trust. Dave shared that…

“…Trust is not a soft skill. It is the single uniqueness of the greatest leaders and organizations of all time. Trust has the ability to accelerate or destroy any business, organization, school, or relationship. With greater trust comes greater innovation, stronger brands, increased retention of good people, higher morale, multiplied productivity, and better results. The trusted leader is followed. For the trusted brand people will pay more, come back, and tell others. In the Twenty-First Century, trust has become the world’s most precious resource.”

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Perhaps one of the reasons why his training was so impactful, and continues to have a lasting residual impact upon our school community, is that everything he shared with us was founded upon solid research. As is true of the majority of international schools, we are passionate about staying abreast of – and implementing research-based practices in education. Well, the same applies when it comes to this all-important asset of trust. For example, we learned the following:

  1. Mistrust doubles the cost of doing business. – John Whitney, Director of Quality Management, Columbia University.

  2. Costs were five times higher with the least trusted supplier than with the most trusted supplier. – Jeffrey Dyer and Wujin Chu, Dspace.

  3. Companies with high trust levels outperform companies with low trust levels by 186%! – Watson Wyatt, Work USA.

Since Dave’s visit with us several leadership groups of the school have started to take a careful look and consideration of the pillars of trust in their areas – including our Board of Directors and our Academic Management Team. Other groups on the campus have started simply doing a “book club” type exercise utilizing chapters of Dave’s book as a starter for deeper discussion and exploration on how to develop levels of trust in their areas of leadership.

Through a special invitation and scholarship provided by David Horsager, two of our AAI administrators (myself pictured here receiving certification from Dave Horsager) and our Early Childhood Coordinator, Mrs. Bethany Meekins-Coloma), attended and completed the Horsager Leadership’s “Trust Edge Summit: Training and Facilitator Certification” in early November of 2014.


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We are now poised to further embed the results of the research, the principles, and the strategies of trust development here in Quito, as well as to assist other schools in the region. If this training is of interest to your school, please do not hesitate to contact myself or Horsager Leadership directly. Their organization has established some greatly discounted fees for their training and material resources for international schools so that schools may benefit from the same training that is being received and implemented by Fortune 100 companies around the world.

Other resources from Horsager Leadership that we will be utilizing and implementing here at AAI in the coming year include: The Trust Edge 360 Assessment which provides a base-line on trust levels for those in leadership, as well as a 90-Day plan for immediate implementation of strategies to increase trust levels; and The Trust Edge University, which provides a flexible online learning experience which we will be using as part of our orientation of new administrators and department leaders.

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