Trust Me…Trust Me Not

IMG_2477_2I am honored to share with you a guest post from Frank Sonnenberg.  It is adapted from his wonderful new book, Managing with a Conscience: How to Improve Performance Through Integrity, Trust, and Commitment (2nd edition). Frank is a marketing strategist and top marketing author who has written four books and published over 300 articles.


mwc_cover_2h-300Trust is the fabric that binds us together, creating an orderly, civilized society from chaos and anarchy.

If we can’t trust our husband or our wife, if we can’t trust our children, if we can’t trust our boss or our colleagues, if we can’t trust our preacher or our senator, then we have nothing on which to build a stable way of life. Trust is not an abstract, theoretical, idealistic goal forever beyond our reach. Trust—or a lack of it—is inherent in every action that we take and affects everything that we do.

Trust is the cement that binds relationships, keeping spouses together, business deals intact, and political systems stable. Without trust, marriages fail, voters become apathetic, and organizations flounder. Without trust, no company can ever hope for excellence.

There has, however, been a deep, fundamental change in the way we view the world today, and, as a result, trust is no longer fashionable. Few adults can remember a world without cynicism. Where “death do us part” once had meaning, today one of two new marriages ends in divorce and countless others exist in name only. Politicians who were once solid members of the community are dropping out of campaigns due to scandals and irregularities. Employees who once believed in devoting their entire working lives to one organization have seen so many colleagues tossed out in restructurings and outsourcings that those who remain are often left emotionally uninvolved in their jobs.

The trust deficit is a sea change from the time when a person’s word was his bond, when employees worked for one company until they retired, when business deals were made on the basis of “I know your father” or “We’ve worked with your company before.”

These were all ways of saying we recognize your values, understand how much your reputation means to you, and know how you conduct business. These values resulted in increased business, stronger customer loyalty, better employee morale, reduced turnover, and higher profit margins.

If businesses are to thrive in the global marketplace, trust must be more than something that is talked about; it must be at the core of everything that is done. Organizations cannot be jungles where only the fittest survive, living in a state of battle readiness in order to meet the grueling tests of everyday corporate life.

In organizations, trust is like love in a marriage: it bonds people together and makes them strong and effective.

Trust in a relationship increases security, reduces inhibitions and defensiveness, and frees people to share feelings and dreams. Trust empowers you to put your deepest fears in the palms of your colleagues’ hands, knowing that they will be treated with care. Trust enables you to be yourself and maintain your own values without worrying about acceptance. Trust makes colleagues willing to spend time together and make sacrifices for one another. Trust is an expression of faith that makes it easy for colleagues to have confidence in one another’s ability to perform well and to know that they will be there if needed. Trust means that promises made will be kept, and it also means that if a promise is not kept, it was probably for good cause. And finally, trust means that a relationship will last not because it is good business, but because the relationship itself is valued.

What can each of us do to ensure trust is “fashionable” once again?

IndustryWeek named the first edition of Managing with a Conscience one of the Top Ten Business Books of the Year.   Trust Across America named Sonnenberg one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders of 2010.  In 2011, Social Media Marketing Magazine (SMM) selected Sonnenberg as one of the top marketing authors in the world on Twitter (@FSonnenberg, @A_Conscience).  To learn more about Frank visit his blog: http://www.franksonnenbergonline.com “Our mission is to spur conversation about the urgent need to reawaken personal values and personal responsibility.” © 2011 Frank Sonnenberg. All rights reserved.


Simply enter a comment below and you will be entered to win one of three copies in a random drawing.  Winners will be selected on January 17th and notified via e-mail.


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Jon M   |   09 January 2012   |   Reply

Frank, Trust is such a foundational element, and it is unfortunate that we have strayed so far from it. There is so much more that can be done when trust is present. Getting back to the trust principle is our leadership challenge! Thanks for your efforts in moving us in that direction. Jon

Frank Sonnenberg   |   10 January 2012   |   Reply

Hey Jon

You’re right on the mark. I believe the first step to reinvigorate trust is to accept personal personal responsibility to serve as a role model, speak out about the importance of trust and hold others accountable. I always say, “you can’t change the world, but you can change the world around you.” Have a great day! Frank

Toby Lindsay   |   10 January 2012   |   Reply

Thanks for this Frank, I couldn’t agree more. Making the decision to trust is a powerful and enabling one, both for ourselves and others. However, it involves risk and exposure – things we are socially so bound up with limiting and avoiding.
Sadly the benefits of trusting can never be known without taking the risk first…
So I’m wondering how do we make that easier for us all….?
Practice and individual action I guess – I’ll do what I can today!

Frank Sonnenberg   |   10 January 2012   |   Reply

Hi Toby

You’re exactly right. Trust is established over time, gradually, through a long chain of of successful experiences. In the early stages of a relationship, we extend ourselves in small ways and observe the responses to our actions. Then we take appropriate action, withdrawing, maintaining our behavior, or extending ourselves a bit further until trust is established. Your point is critical. For that reason, I devoted a chapter your point. Have a great day! Best, Frank

Amber-Lee (@girlygrizzly)   |   10 January 2012   |   Reply

I am thrilled that Susan invited you Frank, I may never had met you!

This is wonderful and I can’t wait to read this. Trust. I hadn’t put it together in so many of the ways you mention here, Frank. It is as if so many lights were turned on.

I can only say thank you, to both of you.

Frank Sonnenberg   |   10 January 2012   |   Reply

Hi Amber-Lee

Thanks so much for your kind words. That makes all of my work worthwhile. I hope this is the beginning of a long friendship. Have a great day! Best, Frank

Mado Hesselink   |   10 January 2012   |   Reply

Great point Frank! I am usually skeptical about idealizing the past, but the point about bringing trust back into fashion hits home. The good news is that I believe we are headed in this direction! There are many great leaders and out there spreading the word. Thanks for doing your part.

Frank Sonnenberg   |   10 January 2012   |   Reply

Thanks so much for your thoughts Mado. I believe the costs of mistrust in our society are mind-boggling. Thanks so much for recognizing its importance and for helping to spread the word. Have a great day! Best, Frank

Soul Dancer   |   10 January 2012   |   Reply

Aloha Susan and Frank!

Susan – as always, I’m delighted to see you “stirring the pot” (our minds and souls) to help us all learn, laugh and grow!

Frank – I wonder about trust. Trust, as I’ve come to know it within myself (as a shaman of four traditions and a monk of three orders), may often be the soil in which too many weeds of doubt, guilt, shame and worry grow under the radar for far too long.

I’ve witnessed 1000’s of people experience shattered lives all founded in blind trust in a leader who they hold to a standard they – themselves – could NOT live up to. (I know this first hand based on the clients who seek out my help in regaining the ability to trust in themselves – again.)

I learn from my own ‘hard knocks’ rooted in trust all because I ignored my intuition (something Susan has helped us all upgrade over the years with her courses).

The most endearing teachers I allow in my life are those teachers who consistently remind me to ‘trust Source.’ Trust an often unnerving, comfort-blasting, confusing, growth inspiring SOURCE – that all is well – trust or not trusted.

As I allow the concept of trust to be balanced with the reality of change mixed with unconditional love, I gain a more deeper understanding of how leaders like his Holiness – The Dalai Lama – instantly instills a sense of absolute trust when you connect with this energy.

Frank Sonnenberg   |   10 January 2012   |   Reply

Hi Soul Dancer. Thanks for your thoughts. I completely understand what you’re saying. When I read your comment I honed in on the phrase “blind trust” which is unfortunate. I believe that trust is built in a very systematic fashion––even if we’re not always conscious of it. I created a trust model, in my new book, that encompasses four phases 1) create a strong foundation 2) develop a solid support structure 3) establish consistency and 4) migrate from predictability to faith. I believe there are a lot of wonderful, trusting people in the world. Find them and surround yourself with them. The alternative is becoming a mistrusting person. When that happens, we all lose. Best, Frank

Soul Dancer   |   13 January 2012   |  

Aloha Frank,
Too true. Blind trust is something bestowed upon the Divine. I enjoy the perspective of blindly trusting that which I sense is Divine to me – or “faith” for you.

In an ever changing world where faith is often rattled by catastrophic events (unexpected poor health or death of dear ones, massive earth events, etc.) what a teacher faith is! Gladly, I’m learning how to enjoy being a student more and more! 😉 Mahalo for the 4 points! Sounds like a good ladder for one and all.

Frank Sonnenberg   |   14 January 2012   |  

Well said Soul Dancer. You clearly have the right perspective on life. Have a wonderful weekend! Best, Frank

Randy Conley   |   10 January 2012   |   Reply

Excellent article, Frank. You’ve captured the importance that trust plays in any successful relationship. I find that people tend to think that trust is an ephemeral concept that “just happens” over the course of time in relationships. The reality is that we build trust through the use of very specific behaviors, and once we’re aware of those behaviors and how they build or erode trust, the concept of trust becomes much more tangible. Keep spreading the word!


Frank Sonnenberg   |   10 January 2012   |   Reply

Hi Randy. GREAT point . . .Trust doesn’t just happen. When we know what to look for, we can build trust being more conscious of our behavior and the behavior of others. Have a great day! Best, Frank

Henry   |   10 January 2012   |   Reply

Your comments on trust are spot on.
There are only two people in the world….ourselves and others. Trust is taking responsibility for the relationship with others. Only people who respect others can build a relationship built on trust. If we want to be global citizens or business people, then we need to build relationships in many different cultures. The fundamentals are the same in the US as they are throughout the world…. focus on the needs of others.
Thanks for your insight.

Frank Sonnenberg   |   10 January 2012   |   Reply

BRAVO Henry. Well said. Thanks so much for your insightful comments.

Betsy Cross   |   25 January 2012   |   Reply

I found your post via: http://stanfaryna.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/blog-soup-01-25-2012-wednesday-women-a-celebration-of-woman/

Trust has been my mantra for years. Today of all days, all day long, I’ve had a newer thought trying to be heard and understood: I can’t wait to trust or to be trusted to live. If I’m shutting down because I think someone’s going to yell at me the lesson for me is to stand firm and unwavering WITHOUT getting flustered! I’m seeing more today than I ever have that I’ve closed myself off to people because I couldn’t tolerate their emotional outbursts. That’s what I’ve always been taught to do. Seems right? But I’d rather they remove themselves from me because I won’t engage them in the craziness than shut down and stay safe, not sharing who I am. Does that make sense?
Great post! Thanks!

Frank Sonnenberg   |   02 February 2012   |   Reply

Hi Betsy

I understand exactly what you’re saying. In my mind it’s important to be true to yourself and your values. One of my values is that I want people to respect me for who I am (not who they want me to be). Real friends understand that 🙂 I also believe that some people do not have an inner peace. It manifests itself in emotional outbursts etc. I always try to claim the high ground. It seems like you do the same.

Have a wonderful day,


Marguerite Granat   |   01 February 2012   |   Reply

Frank, trust is very similar to time. Once it is gone it can’t be recovered. Once we give someone reason to not trust us, it is almost impossible to recover. I can’t wait to read your new book. Preserving trust is an investment in our most precious resource!

Frank Sonnenberg   |   02 February 2012   |   Reply

Hi Marguerite

Great point. The key word in your comment is “almost.” In my mind trust is difficult, and takes a lot of work, to regain after it’s lost. For that reason, it’s critical to be conscious of our words AND actions. I hope you enjoy the book.

Have a great day!


Soul Dancer   |   10 February 2012   |   Reply

Aloha Frank!

What a hoot and treat to receive Susan’s email informing me I’ve won a copy of your book. Today, I received it. And now, time for some tea and a quiet corner! I look forward to the adventure. Mahalo for this gift!


Frank Sonnenberg   |   11 February 2012   |   Reply

Our pleasure Soul. Thanks again for your thoughtful comments. Enjoy 🙂 Best, Frank

Jon Mertz   |   11 February 2012   |   Reply

Frank and Susan,

Thank you! I received my copy of Managing with a Conscience this week. Very grateful. Look forward to reading it.


Frank Sonnenberg   |   12 February 2012   |   Reply

It’s our pleasure Jon. Thanks for commenting on the post. Enjoy! Best, Frank