Who Do You Trust? What can leaders do about it?

Curated by J. William DeMarco

“And now, folks, it’s time for “Who do you trust!” Hubba, hubba, hubba! Money, money, money! Who do you trust? Me? I’m giving away free money. And where is the Batman? HE’S AT HOME WASHING HIS TIGHTS!” -The Joker

Interesting how many articles and blog entries I have come across in the past month or so addressing the issue of trust.  Always a big fan of Batman… I of course disagree with The Joker, money does not establish true trust–words don’t, plans don’t…so what does?


Dan Mccarthy on his blog greatleadershipbydan.com  notes, there is a crisis of trust in this country. You can see it everywhere you look: business, politics, financial Institutions…somewhere along the way authentic communication became a thing of the past. In recent times, transparency, vulnerability, and empathy in the workplace have been lost.

In organizational culture, it’s not often encouraged to challenge authority.  We live amongst cover-ups, ethics violations, and deception on all levels. The timing is critical to find the dare within you to “speak truth to power.” This is an important goal in building strength that all of us need to be our best with others, and also appropriately value ourselves.  This is the bottom up style–indeed very important, but can quickly lead to self-destruction if leadership does not support such confrontation.

Miri Mcdonald quotes Linda Dulye, and data Linda collected in 2011 though an online, anonymous poll on workplace lying and lack of trust.

The poll asked three simple yet powerful questions that evoked the following responses:

  1. What is the single biggest factor that causes lying in the workplace? 50% of people said fear is the biggest factor that causes lying in the workplace, with 18% citing poor communication practices.
  2. What is the worst lie your manager, a direct report or a co-worker could tell you? 60% of responses focused on lies that involved their job or career status such as “your job is safe.” The remaining 40% were split between lies involving team performance and overall company performance.
  3. How do you create a workplace where truth can reign? 65% said better communications would do it. 30% cited workplace culture.

Margaret Heffernan says…you can earn the trust in the workplace, but first, ask yourself if you deserve it.

Trust lies at the foundation of all organizational activity and, ultimately, any successful society.

Good leaders know to pay attention to their intuition and hunches. But be wary of depending on those alone. We are all biased and highly driven to defend our sense of self-regard. Instead, it might be more useful to ask: Is my business, organization, unit, work….. trustworthy? Do I treat my people well enough to deserve their trust? Do we treat each other well enough to be confident that we’re worthy of trust? Is there any valid reason why anyone should not trust us?

It is important to remember…trust is a privilege, not a right. It’s earned, not assumed. If you pay suppliers late, drive too hard a bargain, over-work and underpay your workforce, then you shouldn’t be too confident of anyone’s trust. If you treat everyone who connects your organization with respect, you stand a far better chance. This is an investment: The more you put in, the more you get back.

Finally…Art Petty states…So as leaders how do we ensure we present an organization that supports trust and one where our people know they can approach us with ideas and issues.  One of the lessons the best leaders will offer is the importance of showing trust as a sign of respect in the people who work with and around you.

If you don’t trust your team members and you showcase this lack of trust through your management tactics (especially micromanaging), you will be moving quickly away from displaying respect. It’s hard to start an effective relationship on the basis of lack of trust and disrespect and expect it to improve.

While it feels counterintuitive (and risky) to step into a new leadership role and trust the people who have been in place doing their jobs, it’s the right thing to do.

I’ll always err on the side of trusting first, starting a relationship based on showing respect and then adjusting as conditions merit.

Modeling trust as a leader is so important, but I honestly worry that we are forgetting the value of trust.  We have all worked for leaders that we don’t trust or that we know do not have our interest…or even the organizations interest at hand…are the leaders you trust becoming more abundant or less so?  It seems the later…and I am sure it is the same for many out there–hence the reason for the rise in articles concerning trust.  As always…very interested in any thoughts or feedback.  Thanks

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