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The Importance of Trust in Workplace Culture

Over the last 12-18 months at Excelsior we have been developing and delivering our People Strategy with the aim of becoming an employer of choice. A place where people want to come and where they want to stay.  

One of the key strands of this is the development of culture. We are committed to our belief that the culture of our organisation from bottom to top is the biggest driver of our success. If we can design and develop a strong culture of high expectation, support and challenge where staff fully buy into what we are trying to achieve, then we will be very successful.  

The MAT central team and each school has used the Culture Design Canvas to help them design the culture they want. They have involved staff in this design and are currently focusing on one aspect each half term to ensure the design transfers from words on paper to actions, policies, procedures and behaviours. Our focus this half term is psychological safety, something we feel is crucial and central to an excellent culture.  

What is Psychological Safety? 

We believe that we need to create an environment where staff can share ideas, offer suggestions, question decisions and become actively involved in the development of the school or MAT without fear of being put down or punished. This for us creates an environment where staff feel safe and feel that they are contributing to school. Overall, I believe that our schools do provide this, but we certainly aren’t there yet and there is still work to do. I am working with the Heads to look at how we can actively promote psychological safety, this does not come through luck or chance it has to be worked upon and much time and effort has to be given to it to develop it. We also know that it doesn’t come overnight and we have to create an environment of trust for people.  

Why is trust so important? 

I am currently reading a fantastic book about trust, how important it is and how we can really get to grips with what trust means in an organisation and how leaders and staff at all levels can demonstrate behaviours that develop trust. Trust is not fixed and can be won but can can also be lost and we feel,  that for our schools to be successful, our leaders at all levels need to be looking at how they can build trust.  

The Trusted Leader by David Horsager identifies the 8 pillars of trust and is a result of his life’s work and research into this area. The book provides a great business parable and then follows this up with tools and techniques that can be applied tomorrow. I particularly love the way it gives us a framework to understand, with much greater clarity, what trust is and how we give and receive trust. He contented that pretty much every business problem is a trust problem and that for organisations to get the best outcomes, they need people to trust each other and the leadership. Without it the outcomes will not be as good as they could be.  

Horsager identifies the 8 C’s of trust. They are: 

The 8 Pillars of Trust- Defined 

  • Clarity: People trust the clear and mistrust or distrust the ambiguous. Be clear about your mission, purpose, expectations, and daily activities. When we are clear about priorities on a daily basis, we become productive and effective. 
  • Compassion: People put faith in those who care beyond themselves.  People are often skeptical about whether someone really has their best interests in mind. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not just an old saying. It is a bottom-line truth. Follow it, and you will build trust. 
  • Character: People notice those who do what is right ahead of what is easy. Leaders who have built this pillar consistently do what needs to be done when it needs to be done, whether they feel like doing it or not. It is the work of life to do what is right rather than what is easy. 
  • Competency: People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant, and capable. The humble and teachable person keeps learning new ways of doing things and stays current on ideas and trends. Make a habit of reading, learning, and listening to fresh information. 
  • Commitment: People believe in those who stand through adversity. People trusted General Patton, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Gandhi, Jesus, and George Washington because they saw commitment and sacrifice for the greater good. Commitment builds trust. 
  • Connection: People want to follow, buy from, and be around friendsand having friends is all about building connections. Trust is all about relationships, and relationships are best built by establishing genuine connection. Develop the trait of gratitude, and you will be a magnet. 
  • Contribution: Few things build trust quicker than actual results. At the end of the day, people need to see outcomes. You can have compassion and character, but without the results you promised, people won’t trust you. Be a contributor who delivers real results. 
  • Consistency: It’s the little things—done consistently—that make the biggest difference. If I am overweight, it is because I have eaten too many calories over time, not because I ate too much yesterday. It is the same in business. The little things done consistently make for a higher level of trust and better results. 

This really hit home for me. As a leader I have always felt that most staff trusted me and bought into what I was doing, but I never really understood why or what it was that I did or do that allows people to trust me. As someone who loves to continually learn I believe that these 8 pillars and learning how to develop them, will make me a better leader. I am confident that if we can introduce these fully into Excelsior,  we as an organisation and each part of it will be extremely successful. I will be using these to assess myself but also to ask others to assess me against them. I can then work on both strengths and development areas which can only be good for the children at Excelsior.  

Author: Jonathan Smart

CEO Excelsior MAT

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