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Trust – How to Build, Demonstrate, and Regain It

By Chuck Cusumano and Jillian Broaddus


“Only time is more precious than trust.” – The Joshua Group Consulting


Some may disagree with our quote, but we have found a lack of trust to be one of the three most common problems we identify in organizations and teams when they are not performing as desired. (The other two? Ineffective communication within the organization and the lack of effective written processes to run the organization.) But the big show-stopper is lack of trust!



In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni states that the absence of trust is the foundation of dysfunction. Or, to say the converse – without trust, a team cannot function correctly.


Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”


Businesses, marriages, our political system, the police, our society, and our religious institutions all run on trust. The entire monetary system of the planet is run on trust! Because the US dollar is the main reserve currency for the world economy, and its value comes from government fiat, all monetary transactions are based on nothing but trust. (Basically, the promise that the US government will pay the stated amount for a piece of special paper if redeemed. There is no ‘gold standard’ for the dollar; we abandoned that in the early 1970s).


In addition to serving as the foundation of our world, trust is the primary attribute associated with leadership. People will follow a leader they trust and if trust is not present or has been broken, the team or organization becomes broken. No matter what your opinion is on the 2020 national election – one thing is crystal clear: for 231 years (less the Civil War) we operated on the peaceful and trustful transition of power in our county. It was a mark of success to the rest of the world that this experiment called democracy was and could work. But once trust was brought into question in the process, we now have something much less than what we had before.


So, how can we develop trust with others and what are the different kinds of trust?


There are three types of trust in organizational relationships.

  • Deterrence-based trust. Perhaps the most fragile of all the types of trust, deterrence-based trust is based on the fear of reprisal if trust is violated. A new employee might extend deterrence-based trust to his or her new manager, understanding that there is limited experience on which to base any other trust. The potentially harmed party must be willing to introduce harm in return if the trust is violated. “I am willing to speak poorly of you if you do the same to me,” is an example of that.

  • Knowledge-based trust. This trust is the most common, and it’s based on the behavioral predictability that comes from a history of interaction. Even when an individual can predict that another individual will be unpredictable or untrustworthy, knowledge-based trust can still exist. “I know enough to know he won’t show up on time and he won’t bring the pizza,” is what one might say in a knowledge-based trust situation.

  • Identification-based trust. This is the highest level of trust achieved between two individuals, because it’s based on an emotional connection. This trust is born from a mutual understanding of each other’s intentions and appreciation of the other’s wants and desires. A happily married couple exercises identification-based trust, as well as two people in an organization who have worked together for a long period of time.


Psychology Today listed the 10 behaviors that best demonstrate trust:


  1. You influence more by your actions than your words.You operate as the message, not the messenger, with an alignment between your words and actions.

  2. You are self-aware. You recognize the impact of your beliefs and actions on others and are tuned into others' needs, strengths, and perspectives.

  3. You give trust first. You realize authentic trust evolves incrementally over time, and the way to start or rebuild trust is to give it, using a dimmer-switch approach.

  4. You use trust elevating communication techniques. You own your message, actions, and mistakes and authentically show up in the process.

  5. You bring the best of who you are to your work. You operate with characteristics like kindness, compassion, love, tolerance, trust, and integrity.

  6. You want the best for others. You aren't playing a work-game where only one or two people win and the rest don't, but help to make the pie bigger for everyone.

  7. You tell considered stories. You understand the stories you tell at work are impactful and choose stories that positively influence the culture and those in it.

  8. You operate with dependable politics. You get things done the "right" way, with ethics, integrity, and positive intention that builds relationships.

  9. You collaborate, cooperate, consider, and contribute.You value relationships and build lasting ones not only with what you do, but how you do it.

  10. You demonstrate competence as your starting point. You do what you say you can and will do, you do it well, and you enable others along the way.


Trust is such a vital part of our human condition that without it, all other systems and relationships break down and create dysfunction in any organization. Be it a sports team, a house of worship, a sorority, a family, or any 1:1 relationship – if trust is lacking, all else struggles to work. So here are our quick tips to survive the challenge of losing others' trust –


  1. Be a trust giver! There are two trust positions which we can come from – a trust-giver or a trust-earner. Trust-givers trust first, until someone proves untrustworthy. Trust-earners do not trust others until they prove they are trustworthy. Sure, it may protect you from hurt in the short run to be a trust-earner, but it will slow you down and, in many cases, never let you get to a trusting relationship if you withhold trust until earned. Trust-givers do get hurt more, but research tells us that they establish quicker and deeper relationships because they start with trust.

  2. Know and appreciate your team’s or others' intentions – not just their actions. This is the key component to having identification-based trust. Many times, we only evaluate others based on what actually took place. We must not just look at what happened, but also what the intention of the group or individual was, just like a court of law. We are such a results-based society, but not all things in life come out the way we intend them to. So, if you only evaluate people or organizations based on the results, you may miss most of their thinking. And who among us likes to be told or judged by what someone said we were thinking? The only way to know what is in someone’s mind is to ask them, and asking them is the start to an emotional connection!

  3. Say what you are intending to do and then attempt to achieve it. Be real. Be honest. Predictability is the turbo-charger of building trust!


In summary on TRUST – Hold it, savor it, honor it, cherish it, and do all you can to give it to others and never lose it yourself.


If you would like assistance in developing a trust-giving organization that allows teams to flourish and maximize results, we TRUST you will reach out to us at Hello@thejoshuagroupconsulting.com.

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