"We improve our relationships not by changing others but by changing how we are in relation to others."

How often have you heard the words “trust me” only to be extremely disappointed when your acceptance of someone’s trust has hurt you deeply? We all can cite an example, some more extreme than others. When we lose someone’s trust it becomes very difficult to regain that trust. When your trust has been betrayed, it is difficult to trust that person again or even to trust in general. A Peanut’s cartoon called “Can I Trust You” makes the point very well. 


Certainly trust and its attributes have also been the focus of many songs and certainly have ensured that the Country and Western music industry survives very well. Bob Dylan (I don’t believe he is a Country-Western song writer) wrote an interesting song titled “Trust Yourself.” An excerpt from his song says:

Trust yourself to do the things that only you know best. 

Trust yourself, 

Trust yourself to do what’s right and not be second-guessed. 

Don’t trust me to show you beauty 

When beauty may only turn to rust

If you need somebody you can trust, trust yourself.

When listening to his song I thought, how unfortunate if life has fallen to the point where the only people we can trust is ourselves.

During my consulting days, I was asked regularly to meet with management groups and explore trust. I delivered a seminar called “The Trust Factor.” Roger Allen, Ph.D., the author of the course, always asked us to start the seminar with this statement:

"We can build our relationships on fear, obligation or trust. However, only a foundation of trust results in the collaboration and good will necessary to achieve our peak performance."

Dr. Allen compiled the “Ten Principles of Trust” and they are as follows:


Trust is not blind.

Trust requires boundaries.

Trust requires constant learning.

Trust is tough.

Trust needs bonding.

Trust means letting go of fear.

Trust HAS to be earned.

Trust is an intangible asset.

There are two kinds of trust: 1) benevolent; 2) competent.

Trust affects the bottom line.

It’s the last principle, from a corporate perspective that caught my attention. How does trust or how can the lack of trust affect the bottom line? In my studies, two strong negative reasons driving organizations throughout the world to focus on their corporate identities, brands, reputations and trust were cited as:

  1. The decline in general levels of trust and consumer confidence following highly publicized cases of questionable corporate governance and questionable ethics.
  2. Problems associated with inferior and dangerous lines of business products and services. More positively however, organizations see strong corporate brands, identities and reputations as significant intangible assets, sometimes worth up to twice the book value of their tangible assets. The world’s best known brand, Coca Cola, has been estimated to be worth close to $100 billion.

The critical point for us to understand is that a corporate brand, identity, and reputation is largely created through the unscripted and discretionary actions, attitudes and behaviours of employees which lead customers, investors and the public at large to infer favourable or unfavourable impressions of the company. These impressions will drive success or failure.

How do we as managers and/or leaders create a negative trust factor? Here are but a few examples:

  • We don’t model what we say.
  • We make promises we can’t keep.
  • We tend to avoid dealing with conflict.
  • We guard and selectively disclose information.
  • We don’t allow employees to exercise their own judgment.
  • We ask for input and suggestions but ignore them.
  • We monitor everything.
  • We give information to employees but don’t include them.
  • We encourage unhealthy competition.
  • We don’t meet expectations.

There are a few facts that we must not forget about corporate life: 1) the work of an organization is accomplished through people; 2) people are interdependent; 3) interdependence requires collaboration; and finally 4) collaboration is built on a foundation of trust.

So how do we define trust to ensure it becomes the foundation of our organizations and exemplified through our people? Trust is defined as “the confidence we have in our relationships with others.” Trust invokes several attributes: it invokes a character based on integrity (we act from a guiding set of principles); it invokes a competency (we are capable of fulfilling our roles and responsibilities); it invokes compassion (we care about the needs of others); and it invokes consistency in our behaviours (our performance is predictable). 

"The ability to form good relationships, to make people believe in you and trust you is one of the few absolutely fundamental qualities of success!"

Each year I have a 360 degree Multiple Rater Feedback assessment performed on my leadership, which collects the opinions of many colleagues within and outside CMA Ontario. Of the 18 competencies that are assessed, “Building Personal Relationships” is one. It becomes a good reminder to me of how important the trust factor is if I am truly to be a good leader and to maximize the potential of our organization through the performance of its people. 

What then is my responsibility in this regard? It includes the following:

  • Trust begins with my personal commitment to respect others, to take everyone seriously;
  • Trust grows when people see me translate their personal integrity into organizational fidelity;
  • The moral purpose of our organization and of my personal commitments is the soil in which trust can take root and grow;
  • Trust is built upon kept promises (to be chosen means to be entrusted);
  • Trust in organizations depends on the reasonable assumption by followers that I can be depended on to do the right thing;
  • The building of trust in organizations requires me to hold the group accountable;
  • For trust to be maintained over time, I must demonstrate competence in my job - just like everyone else.

As a CMA, how would you assess yourself? My 360 score always reminds me that I’m not perfect and there is room for improvement, but I’m getting there.