“Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organizations to work. It’s hard to imagine an organization without some semblance of trust operating somehow, somewhere. An organization without trust is more than an anomaly, it’s a misnomer, a dim creature of Kafka’s imagination (German-language writer of novels and short stories, widely regarded as one of the major figures of 20th century). Trust implies accountability, predictability, reliability. It’s what sells products and keeps organizations humming. Trust is the glue that maintains organizational integrity.
Like leadership, trust is hard to describe, let alone define. We know when it’s present and we know when it’s not, and we cannot say much more about it except for the essentiality and that it is based on predictability. The truth is that we trust people who are predictable, whose positions are known and who keep at it; leaders who are trusted make themselves known, make their positions clear.
Theodore Friend III, the past president of Swarthmore College, told us how he defined leadership:
Leadership is heading into the wind with such knowledge of oneself and such collaborative energy as to move others to wish to follow. The angle into the wind is less important than choosing one and sticking reasonably to it, which reasonability includes willingness to be borne by friendly currents.
Followers do not collect to exhortation, but adhere from example. In action and in articulation, leading requires that one know where one is taking oneself: from the being that has been to the one that wishes to be, despite ambiguities, and against the odds that inhere in ideals.
Calvin Coolidge composed the following inspirational message, and is worth repeating here:
‘Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with great talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence, determination alone are omnipotent.’”
I’ll repeat what I said about trust when I started this blog in 2011:
Trust the Most Valuable Resource
I’m painfully aware of the importance of trust, through personal experiences, and through observation of others struggling with the issue. I believe trust is basic for any productive, and meaningful relationship. Stephen Covey in his book Principle-Centered Leadership writes, “Trust-or lack of it-is at the root of success or failure in relationships and in the bottom-line results of business, industry, education, and government.”
Trust has been written about in great detail, and yet it’s not easy to define. It’s a sense about someone that affects how we act, what we say, and how we say it. Trust is a mix of character, competence, integrity, and values. Trust is elusive. It can take years to build, yet can be gone in an instant by a comment, or an action. Trust issues begin with a few isolated incidents that can then affect everyone in the work group.
Examples of behaviors associated with destroying trust:
1 Assuming someone is going to respond in a negative way and interacting consciously or unconsciously with that person in a way that sows mistrust.
2 Making excuses; not accepting responsibilities.
3 Withholding information.
4 Not keeping confidences.
5 Talking about someone behind their back.
6 Saying one thing, and doing another.
7 Speaking in half-truths; not addressing an issue head-on.
8 Breaking commitments.
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