What you will learn from TrustED: The bridge to school improvement by Toby Travis

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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 utilise to inform school improvement initiatives. In addition, he is an Executive Consultant with the Global School Consulting Group, an Adjunct Professor for the International Graduate Program of Educators for the State University of New York College at Buffalo, and an experienced teacher and administrator of PS-12 schools.


Dan: (00:00)
Hi everyone. And welcome to the effective teaching podcast. I’m your host, Dan. And today I am joined by Dr. Toby Travis, Toby, thank you so much for coming and joining me.

Toby: (00:12)
Oh, Dan. My pleasure. Thanks for having me

Dan: (00:14)
Tell me, you are the creator of trustedED, which is a framework for helping school improvement and developing trusted leaders. And you’re also the adjunct professor at the state university of New York college, and I think you’re involved in the international kind of process

Toby: (00:31)
Leadership program. Yes.

Dan: (00:33)
And you’re also currently are working as an administrator among schools and have been a school teacher for a long time. So I know you’re bringing here a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge and wisdom through your research. So I can’t wait to learn more about what is in this book that you’ve released the trustED, the bridge, the school improvement, a beautiful book. And we had to give away two copies of your book at the end of this week that the podcast comes out. So anyone who’s interested in getting a copy of that book, just head over to teacherspd.net/TrustED. So Trust ED and you’ll land on the page for all the show notes for this episode. And you can, uh, enter the competition there to grab your free copy or win, your free copy of one of these two books. Now, Toby, your book is all about school improvement. Uh, and it’s based on the idea of developing trusted leaders in order to do that. Why is it so important to develop trusted leaders in order to get quality school improvement?

Toby: (01:35)
Well, the why is really answered by literally decades of research findings. What we find is the number one indicator of successful schools is tied to trusted school leadership. And what’s really interesting, Dan is it doesn’t seem to matter how we define success. You know, if we equate school successes, high levels of student achievement, or we equate school success as a long retention of quality faculty and staff, or we equate success as a high levels of community support and involvement in volunteerism, all of those have a direct correlation to the level of the trust and leadership of the school. So when we get that right, there are all these benefits that come with it. And unfortunately, although one study showed that 90%, actually more than 90% of school leaders recognized this critical issue of trust. Very, very, very few are intentionally building school improvement initiatives around the development of trust in their leadership.

Dan: (02:44)
Yeah, it sounds like that’s kind of like a, a gap there in what they’re trying to do, because if it’s such an important thing, you would think that they would be very intentional around, around developing that for sure.

Toby: (02:54)
Well, I think part of that if I may is, is people, you know, they look at trust as a soft skill and then they kind of feel like, well, either you have it or don’t, and that really just isn’t true. And what we’ve discovered is no, there are ways to assess it. Uh, there are ways to, um, articulate intentional action steps to improve it. And again, deal with it in really concrete, actionable ways. But a lot of folks don’t realize that, you know, they just think, oh, either you’re trusted or you’re not well it’s, it’s it, it’s not that simple. Yeah.

Dan: (03:26)
Cause it’s partly about how you’re perceived to, I think within that, it’s like, if you, you could be trustworthy yourself, but if you’re not actually perceived as being trustworthy, that’s a different thing. And that’s, I think what’s really important for that trusted leaders actually have to be trusted, not just trustworthy.

Toby: (03:42)
Yes. Right, right, right. Well, and that’s what I’m sure we’ll talk about here a little bit. What we’ve discovered is there are actually multiple inter selecting components of trusted behaviors, trusted competencies and skill sets. And we’ve had that they all have to be in place of working together for high levels of trusted leadership to be there because someone might have, as I say, they might have great relational skills, for example, you know, they’re just a nice person and they’ve got that ability to build warmth rapport with the people they’re leading. But if they do not have the skillset in what they’re leading, you know, so in a school situation as a school leader, if I’m not competent when it comes to curriculum, instruction and assessment, well, no matter how nice of a guy I am, they’re not going to trust me if I don’t know what I’m talking about. So there’s also that element of competency in what you’re trying to lead.

Dan: (04:36)
Yeah. That tell me throughout this book that you’ve written and your whole framework, you’ve really used the analogy of a suspension bridge to describe all the different components that are required to do this whole school improvement and focusing on trusted leaders. Can you give us a brief walk through, I don’t want to the podcast to go for three hours because

Toby: (04:57)
go buy the book

Dan: (04:59)
That’s right, exactly. But if you could give us a brief outline of what the bridge is, what it symbolizes and the different components and what that means.

Toby: (05:07)
Well, I always like to give my, my wife credit, you know, I, I came through the doctoral dissertation program, you know, a process and it had all of this information. It’s like, oh, how do I, how do I communicate this? And she was the one who said, well, she had sweetheart, isn’t it really just like a bridge. And the more I thought about that, that was perfect analogy for us to tie this all together. So think about how a suspension bridge works. And it has these, these interlocking components, the most, all being placed as a foundation in leadership, we’re talking about beliefs and values. It has a substructure. This is connecting everything to those beliefs and values. It has bearings in a bridge. This is the moving parts that you don’t really see there. We talking about the ability of leaders to be involved and flexible.

Toby: (05:50)
Um, the girders of our bridge, the beams that go to eat underneath well, they look different based on the size of the bridge and the context, the bridge. So here, we’re talking about those skillsets of being able to adapt and contextualize the super structure of the bridge. The most visible is culture relationships. And there are skill sets related to that in leadership. And then the deck of the bridge is what appears to be simple, right? It’s just pavement with a couple of lines. Well, this is also what a good communication skills, clarity order, you know, as leaders, it should be obvious where we’re going, what lane we’re in, you know, and, and what the markings are to get there. And then we talk about the suspension cables of a bridge is really kind of the best practices that hold it all together. So what are these very specific things we can do to keep those six major components all working together so that people can get from where they are for, to where they want to be. So there you go. That’s the bridge and it’s as

Dan: (06:49)
What are your two favorite? You know, what maybe the more important of those cables. Yeah. The important best practices that you think teachers and leaders should be doing?

Toby: (06:59)
Well, I, I think the, when I think about the substructure, um, portion that we talk about, which is this idea of connecting everything to your beliefs and values schools are usually really good, especially in the private school sector. Um, really good at spending lots of time on mission and vision. You know, they’ll articulate these documents there’ll be everywhere, but then where they fall short often is being consistent and actually operating every day. Every policy, every program is thought through and evaluated by that mission and vision statements. So it’s that idea of let’s connect. What we’re doing in here, where we lose trust is when we’re not being consistent to who we say we are. And that, that one you see frequently, a leader stumbling over there, they’re doing something maybe more efficient, or they’re doing something that may have some benefit to the school, but it’s not focused and zeroed in on the unique mission of the school.

Toby: (07:54)
And if you’re familiar with the work of Jim Collins in his, a good to great, you know, the good is the enemy of great schools to get involved a whole bunch of good things and never become a great school because they’re not staying focused to their unique mission and vision. Um, I think another component that I do like to talk about a lot is, is the deck, this idea of order clarity. Uh, it it’s, it’s hard work, but often what we find is less is more, you know, you can take a good trusted leader, takes very complex issues and is able to boil them down in a way that’s, it’s simple to communicate for people to understand and be able to kind of get on board as it were, or get in the lane on the bridge and travel in that same direction together. But it takes real intentionality and consistency of, again, it goes back to mission, where are we going? What w what’s our unique, um, offering that we have for students and for families.

Dan: (08:57)
So, Tyler, can you tell us where could a school teacher or a school leader start this week to really get themselves moving in this direction of becoming more trusted or moving the school in the direction of the school improvement? That’s based on a trustED model.

Toby: (09:14)
The real first step is that willingness to look in the mirror. You know, people often the grass schematic kind of a question, Dan, they’re looking for an action step. You know, you know, what’s, what’s a practice I can do, and we can talk about those if you like. But really the first step is really a state of mind. It’s a paradigm it’s, I’ve got to be willing to be assessed. I’ve got to let others speak into my life. I’ve gotta be honest again, looking in the mirror. So we’ve worked really hard on developing assessments for school leaders. Um, so they’ve got some data about their level of trust. And so we’ve done a 360 that we use, but you don’t need necessarily that tool. A teacher can do this just by opening themselves up to some peers that they trust and say, tell me how I’m doing with this.

Toby: (09:59)
Um, we’ve created, and I know you’ll share the website later in the contact information. We actually have developed a free self-assessment and where they can answer about 48 questions about themselves. And we’ll give them, um, some scoring on these six components of trust as a teacher or as a leader. And, um, that’s a great, that’s the place to start. You have to be willing to assess, okay, where am I? Where w again, self-assessment get others to assess you. And once, you know, okay, this is spraying a clearer picture of reality, because often we don’t have an honest perception of ourselves, you know, of course I’m trusted, right? And so the very first step is just that humility being willing to listen and let others speak into your life. So that that’s step number one.

Dan: (10:51)
Yeah. I think that’s really important. Maybe that idea of still reflecting and really looking at that, where you’re going as a leader, whether what you are trustworthy and really, you can only work out if people are trusting you or you feel you at least seem to be a trusted person by actually getting that peer feedback. So I think that’s super important. And thanks for talking about your, your free assessment too. I will definitely put a link to where people can go and get connected and grab that free assessment. Can you just, as we finish up here, can you tell us where our listeners can go and connect with you? If they want to learn more, where can they find your book? You know, this trustED, you know, the framework for school improvement books, where can they go viral?

Toby: (11:32)
The book’s available on Amazon. So amazon.au, is that what it is? And you’re part of the world. And anywhere Amazon is, is you can find the book and more information and reviews the book you can find on good reads. And, um, obviously, uh, anywhere where books are being reviewed to connect with, with me, and to learn more about the trusted framework and our consulting and training resources for schools and school leaders, you can go to trustedschool.org, or you can just go to my name, Tobytravis.com or Tobytravis.org. That’ll get you there as well. And, um, and there’s contact information there and just really, really happy to, to assist and support, um, anyone that is struggling with these issues of restoring trust, developing trust, maintaining trust, um, it gets, it is the key element to school improvement.

Dan: (12:30)
Well, Toby, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you and listeners, if you would like to come and it gets, you know, if you want to win a copy of Toby’s book, the trustED trust ED, the bridge to school improvement book, please head over to teacherspd.net/TrustED. So trust and an ED at the end you’ll land on the page, and you can find out there how to win a copy of the, of this book. And I’ll be announcing who the winners are on Friday this week. If you’re enjoying, the podcast, I’d love it. If you could leave a review and of course, make sure that you come back and subscribe so that you can be with me next week, when we look further into education and how we can be effective teachers.

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