Horsager Shares the Eight Pillars of Trust at STN EXPO Indy

David Horsager gave a keynote address at STN EXPO Indy on June 11, 2019.
David Horsager gave a keynote address at STN EXPO Indy on June 11, 2019.

INDIANAPOLIS — David Horsager, bestselling author and CEO of the Trust Edge Leadership Institute, started his Tuesday keynote at the STN EXPO Indy with a video of two siblings about to engage in a trust fall.

The sister was prepared to catch her brother from behind. However, he fell the wrong way. Horsager used the video to begin his presentation, “The TRUST Edge,” in which he said trust is the foundation of any relationship.

Every day when boarding a school bus, students and their parents are trusting the bus driver to provide a safe ride to and from school. Horsager focused his conversation around building that trust and the pillars that hold up that foundation.

So, what is trust? He asked the audience to share one word that sums up their understanding of the definition. Responses included honesty, loyalty, integrity, mentoring, comfort, friend, surrender and faith.

Trust is a confident belief in a person, product or organization, Horsager stated. With trust, a system will be the most efficient possible system that one can create.

Horsager recalled his own time as a child riding the school bus in Minnesota and how he still remembers Mr. Olsen’s Veggie Stand that his bus would drive by daily. Nobody worked the stand, but vegetables were laid out on the table and change was in a jar. The stand ran based on trust and the honor system. Mr. Olsen, he said, had loyal customers because of this trust—people kept coming back.

For organizations, when trust increases, so do the output, employee morale, retention, productivity, innovation, loyalty and revenue. However, a lack of trust is what costs organizations dearly.

Horsager asked why do we lock up our possessions. It is because of a lack of trust, and in return, that lack of trust results in a loss of money and a loss of time.

Again, he asked the audience, what is a lack of trust costing your team? Among the responses were communication, productivity, passion, relationships, speed and money.

While trust can be built over time, “A whole lot of trust is built and lost in a moment,” Horsager said. He referenced 9/11 and how complete strangers trusted each other during a time of need.

“In every single action that we have with every single person, we increase or decrease trust,” he added.

In his research, Horsager said he discovered eight pillars of trust that help one build that relationship, and in return, create a stronger organization.

Eight Pillars of Trust

Clarity is a clear message sent to a recipient. When delivering a message, Horsager noted, one needs to boil it down to five whys, which need to be repeated five times. He added that it is best to start with the pain people are experiencing, as that is a motivator. He referenced the 2016 presidential election as an example. Horsager said one of the reasons President Donald Trump won was because of his clear message and goal, “Make America Great Again,” while the messages of the other candidates failed to resonate.

Horsager added that there are three questions that drive clarity and have changed organizations. How? How? How? He said you must ask “how” at least three times to create a final “how” that finally leads an organization to answer how it will take action toward solving a particular issue.

Compassion is when people care beyond themselves. “I will not trust until someone shows they care for me,” he stated. The most trusted person in the world, he said, is mom. A mother will go out of her way and do anything for her children. He added that people leave an organization because they are not feeling that compassion and they don’t feel appreciated.

Character refers to when people trust those who do the right thing, rather than the easy thing. Instead of telling his kids to “have fun,” something he noted that younger generations are doing now, he tells his kids to “be good.” Choosing to do the right thing over what is easy is what gives someone that trust.

Competency is the ability to stay fresh, relevant and capable—to learn from each other and build ideas with one another, Horsager said. In terms of school buses, parents want to know their children are cared for by a competent busing system that leads to a trusted output of students being delivered to their destinations safely and on time.

Commitment is trusting people who stay committed in the face of adversity. Horsager referenced Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. Both men remained committed to their causes, regardless of the adversity they faced. Commitment is doing what you said you would do, even when no one is looking.

Connection is the goodness that comes out of the association, the willingness to connect and share ideas. Horsager said companies that can’t figure out how to work together have a problem. It takes a team to get something done. He referenced the iPhone and the creation of the light bulb. While the credit is given to one person, it took a team of people to get the job done.

Contribution is the result. The results in the school bus industry consist of transporting kids to school on time and safely.

Consistency, the last pillar, is sameness. In an organization, this is known as the brand. Horsager observed that the world is changing, and therefore, you have to be consistent in a way of change. It’s the small, everyday interactions that gain trust and consistency. Becoming a good leader, or a bad one, is the result of every interaction you have with a person and how they add up.

Horsager suggested that school districts and company officials look for the eight pillars in their organization and discuss them with their teams. He encouraged them to determine what they are doing well and where improvements can be made.

Horsager concluded, while building trust does take work, everything of value is based on trust.