Busting trust

Trust is tricky. It takes two to have a trusting relationship yet all we can do is focus on our own behaviors. Our success at building trust is determined by the perceptions of those we lead and those we work with. At times it can feel like it is out of our own control since we never know for sure which specific comment or behavior is going to be the one that makes a difference to someone on our team. Think of your typical day as a leader. How many potential moments do you have to make an impression on someone on your team, a colleague or any co-worker? For most leaders it is hard to even count them all!


That is our reality as leaders and any one of those moments can turn into a “gotcha’” event that breaks down trust with someone. And most often we are completely unaware of it at the time. It can be one of our leadership Blind spots (post on 1/9/13). Today I want to share the ideas from a card game called Trust Busters that I use with leaders and with teams that can help leaders avoid “inadvertently” busting trust during our busy and chaotic days. It opens up blind spots and allows your team members to safely point out “gotcha’” behaviors before they happen. And it can be fun!

The cards list 25 common behaviors that can break down trust, such as:

  • Not following through on agreements
  • “Re-deciding” decisions
  • Inconsistent messages
  • Seeking input and not using it
  • Not fixing known problems
  • Tolerance of poor performers
  • Not understanding other’s reality

Either using the card deck, or a list of your own, leaders ask their team members to sort the cards into two piles.

1.      Serious violations of trust

2.      Behaviors that over time can erode trust

Our leadership blind spots are usually found in the second set of behaviors, the smaller actions that are perceived differently by our people than what we intended. I have discovered that my confident communication style (in my mind) actually is perceived by some of my colleagues as not understanding their reality and that it can erode their trust in me. Having the courage to ask your people to share examples of a time you have “played” one of those cards from the second pile will open your eyes and help you avoid inadvertently busting trust in the future.

Todd Thorsgaard


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