Should trust be earned or given in the workforce?

By Mark LeBusque. Published at Mar 2, 2021, in Features

Trust can never be earned, but can only be given. But once you have it, you can damn sure lose it – Auliq Ice.

Successfully managing a team and running a business requires a lot of energy.

Hiring and keeping the right people, creating a point of difference in your product or service offer, staying on top of cashflow and expenses and simply keeping the lights on requires the expenditure of energy.

Energy is not infinite, and it’s important to use it wisely and keep some stored for those times when you may face challenging situations. Running the tank too low on activities that don’t require it will put you at risk of focussing good energy after bad activity where it isn’t needed.

One area is how you approach the topic of trust in your business.

Managers waste far too much energy following an outdated idea that trust must be earned and not given. Managers who adopt the following twelve words will help reduce wasting energy, keep a full tank for the activities that require energy and will positively impact on how humans interact with each other:

‘You don't have to earn my trust, you have to lose it...’

Old school thinking that ‘trust must be earned’ means that humans are continually trying to either prove themselves or are spending energy watching for mistakes to confirm a story that someone can or can’t be trusted.

Think of it like this if you will.

Do you think there are humans in your business that turn up each day with the intention of destroying your business?

It’s absurd to even go down this pathway, however that’s what is at play when we go down the ‘trust has to be earned’ pathway. We spend too much energy focussing on looking for the bad instead of assuming that the employees are well intentioned and want to do good for the business. Why did you hire someone in the first place?

As a manager, you have to decide where to spend your energy and where to store it for when it’s going to be needed most.

If you have been caught up on the old school thinking, then you will have to spend some energy to change by facing into the following questions:

  • What is the personal risk associated with being too trusting of others?
  • Is it "soft" to show your hand too early and be disappointed when things didn't play out as you hoped they would?
  • Why not just tell them all they had to earn your trust over time and the precise moment this had occurred?

These are all energy depleting activities.

It all comes back to a change of mindset and these twelve words:

‘You don't have to earn my trust, you have to lose it...’

As Harold Macmillan once said, “A man who trusts nobody is apt to be the kind of man nobody trusts.” The surest way to earn the trust of employees is to show them that you trust them in return. That will fill your energy tank, not deplete it.

Trusting implicitly allows you to keep a full tank of energy to be used when it’s really needed, and will build deeper connections, stronger employee engagement and ultimately better business outcomes.

Where do you spend your energy?


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