Trust has two dimensions . . . do you know what they are?

By Steve Moran

I am and have been obsessed with leadership and culture this last year. Reading a lot more about it; writing more about it; running events that help leaders grow, and speaking about it. I thought I had the formula pretty well dialed in.

Then in April 2018, our Culture 2100 leadership group and Mike Rambarose, the CEO of Whitney Center, started talking about a deep dive he was doing with his culture — which is a really amazing culture already. But he discovered that after peeling off the layers of the onion the big bad thing they needed to work on was trust.   

Then I discovered Adam Grant’s podcast and his first few episodes really dug into the trust issue. That podcast led me to the book, “The Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle, in which one of the big recurring themes is trust.

The Trust Factor

Trust has two dimensions:

  1. How much do I trust those people I work with (my peers)?  

  2. How much do I trust my leadership?

The two are highly correlated and while it is possible that I can have a high degree of trust in my coworkers and low trust in my leadership it is rare or maybe even impossible to have a high degree of trust in leadership and low trust in coworkers.  

The reason is pretty simple, if leadership puts up with crummy team members or allows bad behaviors, it means the leaders are — by definition — not very trustworthy. I have too often seen senior living organizations tolerate bad behavior in a high performing individual, simply because he is high performing. They seemingly have no idea that this one person is like a skunk ruining the whole environment, and completely negating the high performance.

Building Trusting Relationships

Building trusting relationships is not the same as building trust. Trusting relationships means, I believe, these things:

  1. You have the best interests of the organization at heart.

  2. You have my best interests at heart.

  3. You as a leader are equally committed to the best interests of every single coworker.

  4. 1 & 2 both 100% true.

Your first reaction might be that this is impossible, that while there may be some overlap between 1 & 2 in particular, that they are largely mutually exclusive. But I believe with good leaders they are 100% congruent. It also assumes that the ones being led are equally committed to the organization, the team, and leadership.

The best way to explain this is to give some examples of what I am talking about:

  1. I as a leader am always looking to help you to be your very best at work and achieve your goals.

  2. I as a leader will work with you to figure out what is going on if you are struggling in any area.

  3. If I as a leader think you are not working out, maybe because you are in the wrong position or your goals have changed, I will have that conversation and try to figure out a better fit in the organization.

  4. If you are looking for a promotion and I don’t see that you are a fit, I will tell you why and help you figure out your next steps.

  5. If you want to grow and we don’t have a position, I will tell you that and help you find your next position.

In short, you will know that I as a leader have your best interests at heart.

As one being led, I will know with near 100% certainty that you will have my back.

How close to this is your organization?