Struggling With Trust

According to recent Gallup polls, trust is declining again, especially in some of the major institutions. It is probably not surprising that Congress, television news, and newspapers tend to fall at the bottom of the list of organizations most trusted. Trust and confidence in big business also remains low.

On the other hand, small business and the military have still received high marks for trust and confidence. However, in almost every institution surveyed, including all which were just cited, trust has declined over the past year.

So what is the level of trust people have in your organization these days? How about the level of trust people have in you as their leader? Do you even know for sure?

Like the air we breathe, when trust is there, it is not an issue. However, when it is missing, we find ourselves struggling, sometimes to literally survive.

In the volatile and uncertain times in which we are currently living, people often more easily embrace the dark side of things, whether they are validated or not. They can jump to the conclusion that untrustworthy actions are occurring, even when they are not. Fear is a huge contributor to eroding levels of trust.

So leaders, be reminded that you have to work at replacing fear and uncertainty with trust every single day. You must raise the shades and let the light of the truth remove the shadows of misguided perceptions and assumptions. No one wants to be duped. So when circumstances are not perfectly clear, people may tend to err on the side of not trusting, as a means of protecting themselves.

One of the most important things to do in order to strengthen or rebuild trust is to own up when things you do go south, rather than attempting to hide them or, dare I say, lie about them. It also means having some important conversations about the extent to which your actions are being seen as genuine and trustworthy by others. Your intent to act in a trusting way is not enough. You have to actually be trustworthy in the eyes of others. Never lose sight of that difference.

There is an old saying that trust is a game of risk and leaders ante up first. So as a leader, make trust a daily priority. Work relentlessly to become that exemplary role model of a trusting and trustworthy person, in your organization – and your life.

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