People in organizations talk about trust. Much of that time, however, is devoted to talking about others who they do NOT trust. I hear comments like the following with regularity:

• "I don't trust my boss. He gives me an assignment and then micro-manages me."

• (From a CEO) "I don't trust that most people in the company are prepared to do the jobs that they’re supposed to do."

• "My spouse doesn't trust me. Whenever I go on a business trip, he gives me the 'third degree' when I return."

Trust is a "loaded" word. It's invoked in disparate situations, generally describing negative aspects of a relationship. In truth, it's multi-dimensional.

When working with clients, I describe trust as having two broad meanings with many implications:

Trust is "confidence in competence." This is frequently an overlooked definition of the word. Whether you are a boss, a team member, or just working among peers, the level of confidence you have in the competence of others (and they in you) determines levels of authority, autonomy, and responsibility that are delegated as well as accountability for results.

Trust is the "assumption of intent." When you trust another person, you assume that he/she has positive intent. When you don't trust that person, you assume that person's negative intent. In this context, trust has a complex "anatomy" that includes the following:

  • Boundaries – I trust that you are clear about your boundaries and can hold them, and that you are clear about my boundaries and respect them.
  • Reliability – I can only trust you if you do what you say you are going to do – over and over and over again.
  • Accountability – I can only trust you if, when you make a mistake, you are willing to own it, to apologize for it, and to make amends. I can only trust you if, when I make a mistake, I am allowed to own it, to apologize for it, and to make amends.
  • Vault– What I share with you, you hold in confidence; what you share with me; I hold in confidence; we do not share anything that is not ours to share (gossip). In our relationship, I see you acknowledge confidentiality; we do not create false intimacy by having a common enemy.
  • Integrity – I cannot trust you and be in a trusting relationship with you if you do not act from a place of integrity and encourage me to do the same (choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; practicing your values rather than just professing your values).
  • Non-judgment – I can fall apart, ask for help, and struggle without being judged by you; you can fall apart, ask for help and struggle without being judged by me; trust = help that is non-judgmental and reciprocal.
  • Generosity – Our relationship is only a trusting relationship if you can assume the most generous thing about my words, intention, and behavior, and then check in with me.

Using these criteria, how many of us have truly trusting relationships in either our workplaces, our homes, or among friends? Real trust requires that we dissolve our egos. It's courageous; wimps need not apply.

Trust is a lubricant that reduces friction, a bonding agent that glues together disparate parts, a catalyst that facilitates action. No substitute – neither the carrot nor the stick – does the job as well.

In every context, trust begins with a period of extending. In new relationships, we extend some degree of trust. As our actions provoke responses, positive or negative, we can withdraw, remain or extend our involvement further. While we need to be alert for danger signals, we also need to extend enough trust to move forward.

If you extend to a person who also extends, trust will grow between you. In any organization where people are trying to get a job done, we need to work at trusting others and encouraging them, through our actions, to trust us. Trust building is a dynamic process; an investment in the future. It isn't blind; no investment ought to be. Like any investment, it's a calculated risk. When we trust, we are braving a connection with someone else and creating an environment in which independent and interdependent actions create purpose and effectiveness.

A personal note: I am frequently better at elocution than execution along all of these dimensions. I view my shortcomings this way: It's about progress, not perfection.

Copyright 2016 Rand Golletz. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Rand Golletz is the managing partner of Rand Golletz Performance Systems, a leadership development, executive coaching and consulting firm that works with senior corporate leaders and business owners on a wide range of issues, including interpersonal effectiveness, brand-building, sales management, strategy creation and implementation. For more information and to sign up for Rand's free newsletter, The Real Deal, visit