The Trust Element


If you’ve just had your car’s brakes repaired, you’re confident that you’ll stop before the locomotive comes rumbling through the railroad crossing. If you pick up a prescription at the pharmacy, you assume the medicine will treat a specific ailment. If your girlfriend accepts your marriage proposal, you believe that you can proceed with wedding plans.

Trust plays an enormous role in life. Think about all of the routine decisions you make based solely on trusting individuals and organizations. Trust is arguably the most critical element in the workplace. It underscores virtually every relationship you have with colleagues and managers. Trust that’s violated or shattered is often difficult to make whole.

In his excellent 2012 book, Smart Trust, Stephen Covey points out that centuries ago, Maghribi traders based their business solely on handshakes – a gesture that still represents an agreement of faith. But trust has taken a real beating in today’s world, thanks to crooked politicians, greedy CEOs and maniacal terrorists. We’re not sure who or what to believe or whether our instincts are reliable.

“What we believe is even more important than what we know because beliefs drive our behavior and our actions,” Covey writes.

So how do you establish trust? Where can you find it? Why do some people – and organizations – have it and others don’t? And if you’ve lost it, is it gone forever?

Covey suggests that many people, through their upbringing and social conditioning, have either naive blind trust or innate distrust. Your orientation directly impacts your relationships, particularly in a workplace context. In an environment of trust, people are able to let their guards down and significantly improve their chances of having beneficial interactions. It’s no coincidence that trust is a major factor in influencing organizational success… or failure.

Corporate leaders normally are responsible for establishing cultures of trust. They demonstrate moral integrity and transparency, accept their shortcomings, are kind and compassionate, value their employees, have the proper perspective and place organizational achievement above individual glory.

An organization’s reputation typically reflects the leader’s influence. Employees communicate openly and honestly with each other, keep their promises and aren’t afraid to take risks or make mistakes. They treat co-workers and customers with respect and problem-solve accordingly.

“‘It’s not about you.’ If you can remember that, then you will always remember trust is about relationships,” writes Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe in The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook. “Trust is personal: pretending otherwise is never a good bet.”

No amount of money can buy trust. You can’t earn an online degree in it. Building trust requires commitment and hard work. If trust is an issue in your office, try to fix it … before that speeding locomotive comes through.

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