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How deep does your trust go?

Lisa Frank

Feb 17, 2022

In a previous video titled "Leaders Set the Tone," I asked about the leadership qualities of the person in your organization with power and authority and how those qualities impacted you. One question was if they trusted you (rather than micromanaging)? Today's question is: How deep does your trust go of your leaders?

Trust must never be assumed and, once established, can be easily lost. Many people, depending on the judgment they make when first meeting someone or how they've been influenced by what they already know or have heard, begin by trusting. The best way to maintain that trust is by following through, doing what you said you would do.

But how do you gain trust where a lack of trust or distrust exists? Trust implies a relationship. A relationship implies a shared history. History implies shared experiences. For example, whether or not you trust government institutions depends on your experience, Did the government institution support you or create unnecessary obstacles and force you to run through a maze of red tape to clear up mistakes they had made? The same holds true for individuals. One of the nicest things said to me was, "I always have time for you" and their actions backed up the claim. How available or responsive is your best friend or spouse when you need help? How high an importance do they place on you and maintaining the relationship?

Trust involves a four-step iterative process that begins with establishing trust. Once established, you build trust. Once built, you maintain trust. Once maintained, you strengthen trust. After that, it's a continual process of maintaining and strengthening as deeper levels of trust are achieved.

Establish trust

When you want to establish trust with a group or individual that has no shared experiences, history, or relationship with you, you'd better be prepared to tell them why. Why do you want to establish a relationship? This was exactly what happened when the Environmental Committee at a nonprofit I worked for, located in one neighborhood, Squirrel Hill, reached out to nonprofit leaders of a nearby neighborhood, Homewood, to form a Redd Up Coalition for litter cleanup. Seemingly, the two neighborhoods had nothing in common and the Homewood leaders regarded the outreach with suspicion. Why did we want to partner with them? When the Committee Chair responded, "Because we're neighbors," which was true, only one road separated the two neighborhoods, Homewood leaders gave us a chance. Trust was given a chance.

Build trust

Building trust requires a track record. Over time and with regular meetings, the Environmental Committee showed itself as trustworthy. Members followed through on their words and plans with action. They were dependable and accountable. Working closely together, the Committee quickly realized the value and enviable organization of the many Homewood nonprofits. Respect blossomed. Relationships formed. We increasingly dedicated ourselves to the Coalition, its mission, and one another. Trust was built.

Maintain trust

It's said if you want to know what someone values, observe where they spend their time and money. Most of our monthly meetings occurred in Homewood. Our knowledge of one another deepened as did our caring about one another. Coalition members from each neighborhood showed up for Redd Up days in one another's neighborhood. Each Redd Up event culminated in a volunteer thank you picnic, which included family members. Trust was maintained through the relationships we nurtured.

Strengthen trust

Trust is strengthened as the history, experiences, and relationships expand and deepen. The crowning event of the Redd Up Coalition was a community meal celebrated together in Homewood. The meal acknowledged what made us unique and what brought us together. It celebrated our accomplishments and our affection for one another. The meal ended with a cry of "Next Year in Squirrel Hill."


To strengthen trust, the group and individuals must be allowed to expand and grow together. Sadly, the Coalition was prevented from expanding beyond its limited mission of litter cleanup. Because trust takes time to build and, perhaps, due to a lack of strategic marketing, those outside the Coalition did not understand or experience the inspiration, commitment, and magic of our partnership. They kept asking in confusion what we were doing and why we were doing it together. Back to square one. Know why when you reach out to establish trust. And next time, allow the group to grow.

Which phase of trust most accurately describes your current professional relationships: Establish, Build, Maintain, or Strengthen? What plan is in place to ensure trust is maintained and strengthened?

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