Trust is one of the most critical factors in building a high performing team. Without trust, things move slowly (often one step forward and two steps back), redundancy and rework increases, and engagement drops while stress goes up.  If there is an absence of trust on your team, take it seriously and address it as quickly as possible.  I’m dedicating a few posts to the topic of trust to help you get the right mindset and to start doing the things that will bolster trust on your team.

Trust Defaults

In today’s post, let’s start with your mindset around trust. What are your trust defaults?

In a session I was facilitating recently, one of the team members proclaimed “Liane, we all know trust is earned.” He said it as though it were a universal truth.  (He said it because he believes that his teammates aren’t trustworthy and he has an ax to grind.) He’s waiting for them to change something before he will be willing to trust them.

Choosing to wait for someone else to behave a certain way before you trust them is one option. The other option is giving trust as a default and working on the assumption your teammates are trustworthy. From years of experience with teams, I know that your default style is partly attributable to your personality and partly attributable to the experiences you’ve had and the situations you’re in.  Regardless of where it comes from, think about which trust mindset is more true of you.

I give trust from the beginning

Do you naturally trust that your teammates are allies who can be counted on? Do you take for granted that they are capable, reliable, high integrity people who are doing their best for the team? Where does this confidence come from? Have you had good experiences with people or do you just persist in trusting even if a few bad apples have violated your trust along the way?

How has your willingness to trust as a default affected your relationships? Where has it served you well? Where has it gotten you into trouble?

My trust has to be earned

Do you wait for the proof of the pudding before giving trust to your teammates? Do you keep a healthy dose of skepticism until there is evidence that your teammates know what they’re doing and can actually deliver? Do you always keep an eye out for someone who might be willing to sabotage you for their own gain?  How did your hesitance to trust evolve?  Can you always recall examples of being cautious or did your approach change after getting burned?

How has your reluctance to trust affected your relationships? Where has it served you well?  Where has it gotten you into trouble?

There isn’t really a right or wrong mindset about trust. Although neither is right or wrong, you can see how differently these mindsets will impact your relationships.

Reverse it

Another lens on trust mindset is to think about how you react to the different trust mindsets in others.

How do you feel when you work with someone who trusts you from the start? How does it make you want to behave? Where does it lead the relationship?

In contrast, how do you feel when someone withholds trust until you demonstrate that you deserve it? How does that impact your mindset and your actions? Where does it lead the relationship?

Take a few minutes today to reflect on your own trust defaults. How did they develop over your career and your life? Where do they serve you well and where do they set you up for failure?

In the next posts, I give you some more concrete ideas about how to build trust and also how to repair trust when it’s broken.


[Fun Fact: The expression “the proof is in the pudding” is an abbreviation of an expression that dates back to the 14th century “Jt is ywrite that euery thing Hymself sheweth in the tastyng.” The full phrase “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” might be a favorite phrase of those who believe trust is earned!]

Further Reading

Who Can I Trust?

Counter-Intuitive Advice on Building Trust

Dealing with Trust Issues on your Team

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