Thinking about Trust…

I often think about trust and the implications for organisations and the formula I use to explore how organisations can improve their results is:

(strategy x execution)trust = results

from the book ‘The Speed of Trust’ by Stephen M. R. Covey.

You can see from this formula that trust is a significant multiplier when it comes to results. It is easier to show this by what happens in organisations where trust is low.  There are ‘undiscussables’, people manipulate or distort information, new ideas are resisted and stifled, energy can be low and often people feel tension or even fear. In essence all of these slow or inhibit progress. Therefore, even with the best possible strategy and top-notch people who are capable of executing it, unless trust is actively developed the results obtained will be below potential.

I am sure you will have experienced situations where trust has been high and others it has been low so you will know from experience why it matters and the difference it can make.

How can trust be improved?

The first thing to recognise is that it is something that is given, it cannot be demanded. The key to improving it is improving trustworthiness.

Secondly, it is also context specific, you would most likely trust a surgeon to perform an operation but perhaps not to fix the brakes on your car.

Then, in an organisational setting the structures and systems in place are part of the context and must also be congruent and aligned to create trust. For example, how you control expenditure within your organisation. There is a big difference between broad, clear authority to spend and requirement for every item of expenditure to be agreed by a line manager and the finance department.

Finally, we each have a responsibility to use good judgement in trusting. So we need to do some research to have good grounds before we do.

Trustworthiness, context and responsibility give us three dimensions to consider when we are seeking to improve trust. As I am sure you can see these cannot be worked on in isolation as they are intertwined.

Improving trustworthiness

A good place to start when working to improve trust is to look at us as individuals.  I like the thirteen behaviours articulated in ‘The speed of Trust’ as a framework for this.

The behaviours are:

Talk straight
Demonstrate respect
Create transparency
Right wrongs
Show loyalty
Deliver results
Get better
Confront reality
Clarify expectations
Practice accountability
Listen first
Keep commitments
Extend trust

Honest reflection and getting some feedback from others around these areas can help each of us become more trustworthy.

The last behaviour links us back to the dimension of trusting with good judgement. If you build the relationships with your team in a trustworthy way that demonstrates your belief in them, in turn, they are more likely to trust you.


Whether on an individual or an organisational level our reputation plays an important part in signifying to others whether we are trustworthy.

A good reputation is a valuable asset and something to be looked after carefully as it can be damaged pretty easily. In today’s connected world it is very easy for information to spread that can be very positive where it demonstrates our good reputation.  Of course the converse is also true.

I believe this requires each of us to be authentic and scrupulous in our behaviour and actions and where we make mistakes to do all we can to put those right.

Those are a few thoughts to start with. It is definitely worth working on as the benefits can be significant.

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