Which is More Important? Trust? Or Content Excellence?

“The level of trust in business relationships… is a greater determinant of success than anything else, including content excellence.” – Charles H. Green

“85% of your financial success is due to your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. Shockingly, only 15% is due to technical knowledge.” – Carnegie Institute of Technology

What does this research mean for educators?

Although a school may pursue high levels of academic excellence, or excellence in their athletic program, or in their fine arts program – the value of trust between those they work with and those they serve is even greater, and of more importance than the quality of the services they provide. Yet, how much time, resources, and energy do schools invest in developing, initiating, and maintaining trust in those relationships?

School leaders expend countless hours and dollars supporting a wide variety of initiatives that are part and parcel of providing a quality educational program; but if they are not also considering how trust is established and maintained in those areas, then they are missing one of the key factors for establishing loyalty and commitment from their faculty and staff, their parents, their students, and the broader community.

For the faith-based school leader I see the above finding as very good news. Often in leading a faith-based school the school leader lacks the resources to compete with other schools in everything from compensation levels to attract highly-trained faculty and staff, to providing the best of educational resources for their sciences, arts, and technology programs. But that does not mean their schools cannot experience the same, if not greater, levels of success as other well-resourced schools. Why? Because trust possesses a greater value than “content excellence” every time!

If schools invest, develop, and engender a high level of trust in their leadership and in their faculty and staff, then even if their extra-curricular programs and academic disciplines are lacking in some areas, they will still see and experience a highly satisfied and supportive school community.  It is also true that schools with high levels of trust may in fact attract the highly-trained and qualified (without necessarily providing high levels of compensation). Schools with high levels of trust are often the recipients of generous donations by community businesses and others to provide the educational resources and technology which may be lacking through limited school budgets.

Also, the vast majority of parents who enroll their children into faith-based schools do so for the values, and the worldview and principles to which their children will be exposed. Thus, often parents will accept the reality of the school having a less-than-ideally equipped music or science program, because they are placing their trust in the school to provide something to which they place a higher level of importance (i.e. their desire for their children’s educational environment to be distinguished by eternal values).

This doesn’t mean, however, that faith-based school leaders should not be constantly and continually in pursuit of high levels of excellence within every discipline of the school. But the number one indicator of successful school programs, and the most effective school leaders, is not their level of content excellence – but rather their level of trust.

©2016 Toby A. Travis, Ed.D.


[1] http://trustedadvisor.com/cgreen.articles/38/Trust-in-Business-The-Core-Concepts.

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