It’s been said that trust is like money: it's tough
to get and easy to lose. But what does trust look
like and how can you tell if there’s trust within
your leadership, your team and your organization?
It’s much easier to discern its absence than its
presence. When trust is low, morale and profits
follow. Other telltale signs are higher turnover, an
overactive rumor mill, less innovation and risk
taking, followed by lost customers. By contrast,
high trust pays. Watson Wyatt Worldwide found that
companies with trusted top executives posted
shareholder returns 42 percentage points higher than
those where distrust was the rule.
Sadly, trust in leadership is not the rule.
According to Aon’s Loyalty Institute, less than half
of employees trust their organizations leaders
overall. The challenge can be easier to address
once it is defined. One definition of trust is: “a
positive expectation that another will not act
opportunistically.” Another is: “Confidence in and
reliance on good qualities, especially fairness,
truth, honor or ability.” Trust requires a mutual
understanding and expectation of values, roles and
behavior. Can you say with certainty that you and
your team share the same expectation of your role in
their immediate work life and career? Building
trust means looking for what you may not want to see
and finding what you may not want to know. Can you
really afford not to?
What can you do to rebuild lost trust with teams or
● Seek feedback: Leaders are often baffled by the
lack of trust in their organizations. Multirater
feedback instruments, such as a validated 360 degree
assessment, can offer a reliable window into areas
● Zero in on the issue: Is it personal mistrust,
such as lost credibility, reliability or
overindulged self-interest, or organizational
mistrust, caused by unfulfilled promises,
organizational misalignment or the unintended
effects of rapid change?
● Acknowledge and plan: Once identified, openly
acknowledge the specific issues and create a plan to
close trust gaps.
● Raise the bar and follow-through: Whatever the
initial issue, repair comes over time with overt and
consistent behavior. Create higher expectations for
trustworthy behavior and follow through.
● Watch it: Monitor the effort closely, repeating
assessments within six months.
Trust is priceless and can even be a competitive
advantage. Don’t assume you deserve it. As in all
things, be deliberate about earning and maintaining
organizational and personal trust.