The Trust Imperative Trust Imperative

Building trust is an imperative to creating a better world.

Through my work advocating ethical and values-based leadership, I sometimes see eyes glaze over. “Whose values?” people wonder. “How do you define what’s ethical?” “Can we really act morally in this rough-and-tumble world?” Fair questions from people trying to survive in a tough, competitive environment.

While many of us struggle with what ethics and values mean, almost everyone understands trust. Why? Because we experience it daily in good or bad forms at home and work. We trust our spouse, our children, our colleagues; or we don’t. We have seen and experienced the warm feelings of a trusting relationship; or felt the heartbreak and loss of trust broken.

An organization to which I belong, Trust Across America–Trust Around the World (TAA-TAW), has done laudatory work over the years forming an alliance of people who are working to enhance trust. I have learned much from many of these trust experts–leaders like Bob Whipple, Stephen M. R. Covey, and TAA-TAW founder, Barbara Kimmel.

This organization identifies which companies are the most trustworthy and publishes many articles and books about how to build trust. Its mission is to “enhance trustworthy behavior in organizations.”

Perhaps we in the leadership world should begin with a focus on trust rather than values and ethics? Perhaps we should be asking:
•    Does my behavior build trust with people?
•    Is building trust with people on my mind daily?
•    Is trust one of my personal values to guide my behavior?
•    Is trust one of our shared values as an organization?

If we are known trust builders with people, if people see the importance we place on trust, then we can dive into discussions about values and ethics.

Recently, I was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by TAA-TAW. I felt humbled by this award because other Lifetime Achievement recipients are so accomplished. Each of the recipients of the Award was asked to comment on what trust meant to them. Here’s what I wrote:

“What does trust mean to me? To me, trust means going first in extending trust to others. Not naïve trust, but smart trust where I start out with a reasonable degree of trust in you, and we build more or less trust in each other depending on your responses to me. Trust means being respectful of others, even those with different points of view. Trust means being open and vulnerable, willing to show I don’t have all the answers and am willing to learn. Trust means recognizing that life, business, leadership are all about relationships, and that alone I can accomplish little, but together we can achieve so much. So, building trust is an imperative to leading a wholly satisfying life and to leading others well, where we achieve goals that could not be achieved without trust in each other. To me, it is important to keep trust visibly on our mutual agenda, constantly asking each other, ‘Does what we are doing here build trust with others or not?’ With trusting relationships, I am leading a life of integrity. Some of the sweetest and most profound words I will ever hear are ‘Bob, I trust you.’”

Practical Applications:
1.    Write a short paragraph, as I did, about what trust means to you.
2.    Is your behavior building trust with the people you touch?
3.    Is building trust on your mind daily?
4.    Will you ask how much people trust you (perhaps on a scale of 1 – 5)?
5.    Will you consider joining the TAA-TAW organization?

Building trust is an imperative to creating a better world.


Bob Vanourek is the former CEO of five companies and the co-author with his son, Gregg, of the award-winning book, Triple Crown Leadership. Bob’s new book is Leadership Wisdom: Lessons from Poetry, Prose, and Curious Verse. To get Gregg’s manifesto on Leadership Derailers (and how to avoid them) and free book chapters from Gregg’s books, including Triple Crown Leadership, check out his Free Guide. Trust Imperative

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