The Hard Truth About Trust

| | Leading Organizations

TrustWordCloudTo effectively cultivate trust we must recognize that trust is more than just a feeling. 

It is an assessment we make, either consciously or unconsciously, regarding the extent to which we can count on someone to honor their promises, as well as the sincerity of their commitment to act in service of the commitments we share. 

On a very personal level we also make assessments about whether someone “has our back.” Can they truly be counted on to consider our best interests, not only their own? 

Unfortunately conversations about trust all too often digress into nebulous assessments made based on feelings, personality preferences, and ungrounded interpretations of intentions. 

We too easily turn trust it into one of those “soft” conversations that is easy to have when trust is strong.  After all, “I trust you” is a conversation that feels good to everyone involved. 

On the other hand, “I do not trust you” is more often than not a conclusion that invisibly drives our interactions, rather than a conversation we have with the hope and intention that trust can yet be forged. 

This not only limits the satisfaction of our relationships.  As leaders it limits what we can accomplish.

Our inability to talk about trust in a way that gives us access to change our relationships for the better and in service of better outcomes for all involved is perhaps one of the most significant gaps in leadership capability today.

In The Energy Efficiency of Trust and Vulnerability, Deb Mills-Scofield and Carl Stormer eloquently illuminate the significant payoffs of trust in organizations.

The good news is that closing this leadership capability gap begins with a simple, yet potent, shift in how we approach matters of trust, both in building it, as well as in repairing trust that has been broken.

The hard truth about trust is that if we want to lead effectively we must be willing to make a shift that may leave us feeling vulnerable.

We must be willing to reach beyond our gut feelings, personality preferences, and all of the trappings of our relational comfort zone.   Instead we must learn to mindfully make assessments about trust by considering the sincerity, abilities, and integrity demonstrated in a person’s words and deeds over time. 

We must also be willing to risk having conversations based on those assessments with a commitment to mutual growth and in service of a commitment much larger than that of the individuals involved.

Being trustworthy is an act of effective self-leadership.  Giving others a genuine opportunity to gain your trust even though they may falter, however, is an act of great leadership.

Are you willing to take the risk and make the shift to embrace the hard truth about trust?


Image credit: studiom1 / 123RF Stock Photo


Enter A Comment

Randy Conley   |   30 January 2014   |   Reply

Excellent post Susan! You and I must have been on the same wavelength yesterday, because I published a post this morning on LeaderChat.org titled: You Must Confront These 4 Uncomfortable Truths About Trust (http://leaderchat.org/2014/01/30/you-must-confront-these-4-uncomfortable-truths-about-trust/).

Trust pushes us out of our comfort zones into areas of risk and vulnerability. It can be scary at times, but it’s necessary if we’re going to grow as self leaders and leaders of others.

Best regards,


Susan Mazza   |   30 January 2014   |   Reply

Yes Randy, we are most definitely on the same wavelength here. For far too many people in leadership, trust is like a “last frontier”. The case for stepping into that frontier is clear, but without support many will never truly venture past the edge of their comfort zone.

Thanks for sharing the link to your article. It’s excellent.

Suzanne Daigle   |   03 February 2014   |   Reply

Trusting leaders even when they falter, seeing ourselves as human, giving each other the benefit of the doubt …. This is what your post inspired in me. I think I might add with a smile appreciating very much the hard truth about trust and the soft side of trusting.

Susan Mazza   |   06 February 2014   |   Reply

Well said Suzanne! At the heart of the soft side of trust is the honoring of our humanity.

Elwira   |   12 March 2014   |   Reply

“Speak to me – I will listen to you. Touch my heart – I will follow you”.
It’s not what we say to people we want to lead or we have been leading already (e.g. due to our job position), but how we behave in situations they can watch us and decide if they want to be like we are.
Trust comes from of our personality, our skills, our competences which make other person follow us or our ideas or goals we as a team want to achieve.
And, what’s more important, is that you will never trust anybody you don’t respect. To build respect takes the same way as to build trust.


Susan Mazza   |   13 March 2014   |   Reply

Well Said Elwira!