Trust is a Relationship (Not a Commodity)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Waiting For Trust to Be Earned

I sometimes hear leaders say that they think “trust is earned” and that we should not trust others until they have earned our trust through their behavior and choices. I see several big problems with this way of thinking about trust.

1. This way of thinking about trust is narrowly focused on the leader, implying that trust is “someone else’s responsibility.”

2. This perspective imagines trust as a commodity, something that can be exchanged transactionally at will. 

3. The leader is not expecting trustworthy behavior, and withholds trust accordingly. This negative expectation may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There is a better way of thinking about trust that leads to more positive leadership outcomes.

Thinking About Trust As a Relationship

Trust is reciprocal, requiring relationship. It is something that must be built over time for mutual benefit, not just the leader’s benefit.

In a trust relationship, all parties are responsible for being trustworthy (personally) and trusting others (interpersonally). If we remove the interpersonal aspects of trust, what we are really saying is “I have all the power here. I’ll decide when you’ve been trustworthy.” That detached perspective is controlling and judgmental, and controlling and judgmental leadership is not effective leadership.

Why is controlling and judgmental leadership not effective? Because leadership (like trust) is all about building positive relationships.

 

 
7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics 41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
  2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner “7 Lenses” 
  Your Roadmap For The Journey to Ethical Leadership (Foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey)  
 
 
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How Do We Achieve Corporate Integrity?

Corporate IntegrityBy Linda Fisher Thornton

To achieve corporate integrity, we must do a number of things well. We need to have a clear message about what taking responsibility for ethics means to us; clear expectations for what it looks like in our organization day-to-day; and a congruent system for managing for ethical performance. 

There is a current ethics trend away from a “push” mentality when it comes to learning about ethics (making people do it) to a “pull” mentality (making it positive so that people will want to do it). Taking on a “pull mentality” involves creating a positive ethical environment, which includes:

  • Reaching beyond laws and regulations (they represent the punishment threshold, not ethical business)
  • Reaching for ethical values – respect, care, trust, doing good and avoiding harm

There are specific actions that we must take to develop a positive ethical culture where our ethics message and our day-to-day actions are clearly aligned. The 7 actions listed below are some of the most important ones to take on the journey to corporate integrity.

Companies With Corporate Integrity Develop:

  1. An ethical leader’s mindset.
  2. A multidimensional understanding of what ethical responsibility means in a global society.
  3. An ethics message that we keep current as times change.
  4. An awareness that profitability is not an ethical value and decisions about money must always be balanced with ethical values. 
  5. A well-informed leadership team that knows what leading ethically looks like in action.
  6. A quick response to problems, and full accountability for ethical behavior. 
  7. A consistent and integrated performance system that rewards ethical behavior.

 

 

 

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
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