Trust Me. I Know What I Am Doing?

This will be a short posting because I am not sure what I mean by “trust.” Oh, I know the dictionary definition and can even point to several books on the subject. Even so, here is my real dilemma: can I really trust my organization and my leaders when they embark on a trust-building effort? Either I feel like this is another management fad that will be quickly forgotten when the expected results don’t quickly appear or this is just a way for the management to achieve organizational goals by pretending to be interested in my personal goals. When do I become so cynical?*

Search for organizational trust on Google and you will come up many consultants ready to put trust back in the organization. Here are the “four principles of trust,” the “five A’s of trust,” and “Trust 2.0.” Which method should I trust to give me trust? How do I know that I am not being manipulated and will actually benefit from being trusting?

I think what is needed is a better term than trust that really captures the kind of ideal relationship between employees and the organization where I feel engaged in the organizational mission and willing to collaborate with other employees to achieve the shared mission. Is this engagement? Alignment? Or loyalty? Is trust enough or do we need more in our work relationships?

Answering this question is vital because if we want more innovative agencies that better serve the American public then we need to allow for experimentation, risk-taking, and thinking differently. All this requires a safe environment in which employees can trust that they will not be penalized for giving an honest effort.

*Note: My guess is in the early 90s when reengineering was all the rage.

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Dannielle Blumenthal

Agree. You can build a capacity for the organization to communicate, innovate, learn, collaborate – trust would be a byproduct. Trying to build an emotion is vague, forced, sounds phony, and is bound to be misinterpreted. For example what if there ends up being a RIF after the trust-building campaign? If the organization has good process skills such challenges can be overcome, and trust kept intact anyway.

Stephen Peteritas

This is something we are really focusing on at GovLoop. The way we phrase it is “assume the best” and it basically boils down to knowing that when taking risks or having differences of opinion every team member has the best interests of the overall community at heart. It doesn’t mean we all agree and that we embrace failure but it means we know hearts were in the right place and that everyone is always giving 100 percent to the cause.

Carol Davison

According to Stephen M. Covey’s “Leading at the Speed of Trust” there is a trust dividend of saving time and money and a mistrust expense of costing additional time and money. I see trust as a cornerstone and not a byproduct.

Scott Kearby

Here’s what Lou Holtz had to say about it. I think it can apply to organizations as well.



“There are three things that people want to know in any relationship with a leader, a friend, a coach, a spouse ….

1. Can I trust you?

2. Are you committed to excellence?

3. Do you care about me?

If you answer yes to all three then you will have a successful relationship, if you answer no to any one then you will have a problem in the relationship.” paraphrased from Lou Holtz, College Football Coach