TRUST – Do You Know How To Create It?

Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash

Business, like life, is about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.

Danny Meyer, “Setting the Table”

When I was growing-up in the Bronx, my mother wouldn’t allow my brother and me to go trick-or-treating. She claimed it was begging and if we wanted candy, we should ask her. And, no, we didn’t open the door to trick-or-treaters as they were considered beggars! Over the years, I’ve always had ambivalent feelings about all the Halloween hoopla. I’ve also wondered what had happened to make my mother think of a simple childhood ritual in such an odd and distrustful way.


Ironically, although I did a stint in ministry and now coach people in how to communicate with confident authenticity, it is a value I seldom write or talk about.

As you can glean from my Halloween childhood, trust was actually not valued in my family. We had three locks on the apartment door because you couldn’t trust your neighbors – even though it was a boringly safe working–middle-class neighborhood!


 This is the one time of year when I’m acutely mindful of this value because I find myself telling folks of my odd relationship to the holiday.

In recent weeks I’ve had several clients unexpectedly raise questions about “trust.”

Sharon (names changed) is the head of a department in a small, faith-based high school and she lamented that she doesn’t trust Gail, the head of another department. Gail in turn doesn’t trust Sharon. But, wait – this is supposedly a “faith-based” high school!

Jack does strategic capital planning with the Boards and Administrations of colleges and universities. In a recent exercise, he asked Board members of a particular private college to list the values they want their school to stand for – and that are currently in short supply at the college. “Trust” ranked #1.

The Board, to a person, revealed they felt afraid of retaliation from the Administration if they did not toe the line.

And then there’s Nathan. The golden son of Richard, who returned to LA to take over the business his dad, Richard, founded. Only problem, Nathan is alienating most of the team and not winning over the hearts of clients.

Nathan lamented, “I don’t think my dad trusts me.”

 I asked, “Do you trust your dad?” He replied, “I think he’s a hard worker.” Ah – that’s not what I asked! “Do you trust him?”

This time he admitted, “No. I think he lets people take advantage of him.”

But that still didn’t quite answer the “trust” question I posed.

Here’s the thing – 

Not only do you need trust in order to go trick-and-treating, you need a climate of trust in order to get your work done with confidence and poise. 

And as a leader, you need trust so you can guide your team in hard conversations for the purpose of bringing about clarity.

Nathan grew annoyed as I pressed him, “I have a vision – it’s a solid plan – we’ll all benefit – I don’t see why they’re too stupid not to get it.” Hmm. . .your team is too stupid??

Nathan is arrogant, dismissive and non-empathetic – on a good day – and he doesn’t understand what makes people – PEOPLE!

He’s not alone in not knowing how to trust his team and so help them be energized by that trust.

 What is your relationship to trust?

Who do you trust? (I’m hoping you can easily answer this question.)

And I’ll make it a tad harder by asking you, “Do you think people trust you?”

Why? Why do people trust you? What do you consciously do to generate “trust?”

Dr. Heidi Larson, founder of the Vaccine Confidence Project, who has spent much of her medical career helping peoples and nations overcome their fear of vaccinations, when asked how a bridge could be built between health experts and skeptical members of society, she simply said, “Start a conversation. Find a way to talk to people who don’t necessarily share all your beliefs: Look for an entry point.”

Described by peers as a “patient optimist,” her outlook is partly anthropological, grounded in an understanding of and empathy for the messy complexities of being human.

It also comes from the relative simplicity of her diagnosis: Building trust is an everyday action.

The line she repeatedly quotes is often attributed to Teddy Roosevelt: 

People don’t care about what you know, unless they know that you care.

Yep, that’s the trust dilemma.’”

Nathan has not been able to generate trust because he is not able to have a conversation with his dad or his team members because he thinks they are “too stupid” to understand his plan.

Sharon and Gail have been too focused on accusing each other of incompetence to be able to have a real conversation.

I suggested to Jack that in his next session with the Board he ask them, “If you trusted each other more what would need to happen?”

Here’s what I hope their answer would encompass –

If “trust” begins with the brave act of having a curiosity-based conversation, then that means we are committed to being –

Consistent in our prep for those conversations + entering into those conversations with an attitude of curiosity + being generous in our perseverance for mutual clarity.

If “trust” begins with the brave act of having a curiosity-based conversation, then that means we are committed to –

Empathetically embracing the “messy complexities” of being human means embracing that people can be –


Confused in their thinking



As they strive to trust themselves and others.

If you are committed to generating “trust” then you know through and through that –

words mean something

you must follow through on your words

you are committed to creating clarity of thought

If you are committed to generating “trust” then you know through and through that –

You must listen.

People come to me and say, “I want to be more confident.” Confidence can mean a whole lot of different things.

But here’s the thing –

You can only be confident if you are trust-generating


only if recognize that by being trust-generating you’re doing something vital for society.

The Business of Confidence is really The Business of Trust!

BONUS : 12 Trust-Generating Phrases

1.    I don’t need to answer that (phone)

2.    It’s a common mistake – one that I’ve made

3.    We’re not in any rush

4.    It only makes sense you’re feeling frustrated – this is difficult stuff

5.    You’re right – I was wrong when I said. . .

6.    Let me tell you a story

7.    This is why I love what I do

8.    There’s no need to be embarrassed. Pause. Okay, maybe there is, but, hey, what’s the use in that?!

9.    Talk to me – what are you thinking?

10. What do you think you learned from all this?

11. Is this something you really want and if so help me understand why

12. Laugh! (when appropriate)

now THAT’s the business of confidence!

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