Posted: July 6, 2011 in Collaboration, Professionalism, Trust
Tags: ,

Trust FallThemes can arise unexpectedly some days. Today the theme was “trust.” I happened to come across three articles today on the subject in the course of my normal blog and Twitter perusing. The first was from Harvard Business Review – “The One Thing That Makes Collaboration Work.” In the article, Larry Prusak writes “If I had to pick the one thing to get right about any collaborative effort, I would choose trust.”

The second article was “3 Reasons Why Organizations Need to Increase Transparency” by Oscar Berg. According to Berg, “Perhaps the most important aspect of transparency is that it helps to build interpersonal trust, something which is absolutely essential for getting people to share and collaborate with each other.”

Third was the article “Building the Social Media Ecology – Part One” by Nadine Cooper. I love her statement that “You can’t have trust online if you don’t have trust offline.”

While reading these I couldn’t help but reflect on my work and the presence or absence of trust. I am fortunate to interact daily with others I trust – from those who sit near me and with whom I interact the most to my manager who welcomes openness and honesty, not to mention the scores of others I interact with daily online. But not all in my company or elsewhere are so fortunate.

Think about the implications of broken trust. If one confides in someone else only to have that trust betrayed, why should the one who originally confided ever trust and openly share with the betrayer again? Perhaps the betrayer used the information against the first person or broadcast what was shared to others without permission. Perhaps the betrayer took credit for something attributable to the first person. Perhaps the betrayer used the information to continue to humiliate or hold hostage in some way the first person. Regardless of the details, trust that is broken is very hard and slow to repair.

Businesses, being made up of normal people like you and me, are subject to all the pitfalls of broken trust between individuals. If the rank and file do not trust upper management, then there will be no buy-in and engagement at that most critical individual contributor level. If people in one area of the business do not trust those in another area, then information is hoarded and not shared in ways vital to the success of collaborative efforts. If people on project teams do not trust one another, then the typically dismal project success metrics will only get worse. If workers do not trust those in close proximity, then the giant sucking sound you hear is that of the life and enjoyment of one’s work going out the window.

One cannot demand trust from others. Trust is earned over time. We may choose to give someone the benefit of the doubt early in a relationship, but real trust happens only after someone proves to be trustworthy. Break that trust by your behavior in any way and you are not guaranteed to ever get it back. You may be trusted again if you prove yourself over time, but you can’t demand it and there are no guarantees that those betrayed will take that risk again.

Perhaps you’ve been on outings where you participated in a trust walk while blindfolded or you’ve fallen backwards into the arms of others, trusting they will catch you. Those are feel-good experiences that maybe serve some purpose, but I have yet to have a manager blindfold me or ask me to fall into his arms (thank God). I’m more interested in being trustworthy and rightly gauging the trustworthiness of others in more typical day-to-day scenarios.

How trustworthy are you? What is your reputation in this regard? If it isn’t where it should be (and you have at least a few people willing to tell you the truth without fear of negative consequences for doing so), then it’s time to start down the long, diligent path of earning back their trust. Your words and even your apologies will mean nothing unless backed up by your consistent actions over time.

Take a look at the graphic on trust below that I found on a blog at and see how you, your coworkers and your organization in general measure up. Commit to being trustworthy whether those around you are or not.

Nature of Trust

  1. William J. Ryan, Ph.D. says:

    Lance Secretan has it right, CASTLE (Courage, Authenticity, Service, Truthfulness, Love, Effectiveness) is a good base to be honest, to become fully engaged with others around you – and once you are invested then you are one with that person – the base where trust begins. Good reads, thanks Jeff! :)bill

  2. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?
    Plz reply as I’m looking to construct my own blog and would like to know where u got this from.


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