Trust can be elusive. When someone is seen as being trustworthy, good things happen for that person and with that person. And the reverse can also be true; mistrust can form an invisible barrier to progress. Same with organizations.

Executive Summary

Executive coach Marsha Egan observes, “It is difficult to trust when there is no track record, no reason to trust. Humans are naturally cautious, and this caution can show up as either neutral or even mistrust in a work environment.” Here, she offers some thoughts on how leaders can gain trust and also be more trusting—efforts that may remove invisible barriers to progress.

We can all agree that trust is an important component of an organization’s culture. It is inarguable. Every leader will agree that trust is or should be one of the most important values and pillars upon which their success is built.

The sad truth is that while it might take years and numerous tests of trust to validate a person or organization as being trustworthy, trust can be broken with one incident. It is easy to break trust and difficult to make trust.

But the investment return of time, repetition and consistency in being trustworthy for both individuals and organizations is immeasurable. It is a value that needs to be lived and practiced continually. When there is trust, there is acceleration. When there is trust, the handshake is golden. When there is trust, there is positivity. That is why this article is titled “The Power of Trust.”

In his book “The Speed of Trust,” Stephen M.R. Covey says, “The first job of a leader—at work or at home—is to inspire trust. It’s to bring out the best in people by entrusting them with meaningful stewardships, and to create an environment in which high-trust interaction inspires creativity and possibility.”

Giving direct answers is a form of truth telling.
As leaders, to inspire trust, we first need to be both trusting and trustworthy. And while our intentions are always to be both trusting and trustworthy, we need make an honest assessment into whether our behaviors are matching our intentions. We need to live the value we want to inspire.

To inspire trust, you need to be trustworthy. Your behaviors, when they match your intentions, speak your values for you. They form the platform for you to inspire trust in your culture.

Thoughts on being trustworthy…

Your word. Your handshake. When your word and your handshake are gold and consistent with your trustful values, you exude the trustworthiness that stands as a platform for you to inspire others. In the words of author, behavioral scientist and coach Steve Maraboli, “Let your handshake be a greater bond than any written contract.”

Tell the truth—every time. Because trust needs to be built up over time, your truthfulness must be consistent. This does not mean you need to say things that will hurt others, but telling lies or hurtful truths can have their own complications.

Address issues directly. Giving direct answers is a form of truth telling. Being indirect and dancing around an issue are ways of allowing people to assume untruths that can break the trust that you have worked to build up over the years. Like our need to tell the truth, providing direct answers can be a way of avoiding misperceptions or assumptions that are not useful.

Trust yourself. Most of all, trust yourself. Give yourself the foundation that enables you to trust others.

Sometimes it is difficult to trust when there is no track record, no reason to trust. Humans are naturally cautious, and this caution can show up as either neutral or even mistrust in a work environment. While this is understandable, my view is that it is counter to promoting the value of trust in and among the people you work with.

The reality is that people can feel mistrust. It creates stress. It creates extra work in the form of extra documentation, hesitancy and duplicate work. Conversely, people who feel trusted feel supported.

Henry Stimson once said, “The fastest way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him.” This quote has a great deal of insight. What Stimson suggests is that we trust first. We lean toward trusting versus mistrusting. Our trust promotes trustworthiness in others.

Thoughts on being more trusting…

Assume positive intent. People try to do a good job. People mean well. And although there might be a few exceptions, the strong majority want to do the right thing. With a high percentage of workers having a positive intent, and an extremely low percentage who might not be trustworthy, the odds are in your favor to correctly trust rather than mistrust.

Embrace your vulnerability. It is understandable that you might have caution in trusting when there is no history to validate it. That is human nature. That is what makes us vulnerable. By confronting our vulnerabilities, we can overcome them and choose trusting over under-trusting.

Trusting says “I support you” or “I believe in you.” Mistrusting says the reverse. Which has a greater downside?
Trust but verify. Trusting does not mean blind trust. In the words of Ronald Reagan, “Trust but verify.” When there is a question about trustworthiness, setting up systems to verify will usually bring you the validation you had hoped for.

Consider the alternative. Which is riskier? Trusting or mistrusting. Trusting says “I support you” or “I believe in you.” Mistrusting says the reverse. Which has a greater downside?

To trust or not to trust? You’re the leader. You decide.