Trust: The Glue That Makes Exceptional People Stick Around

by Linda Henman, Ph.D.

“Trust” has become a conversational shuttle cock that people bat around—assuming everyone defines the word in the same ways and values it to the same degree. Everyone seems to Building Trustagree that trust is a good thing. They just don’t all agree on exactly why.

Trust has three main constructs.

  • The first and most obvious involves the faith in people that they won’t lie, cheat, or steal—a sort of “honor code” genus of trust.
  • The second part addresses belief in your competence. I trust my daughter to keep my books and invoice my clients, but I wouldn’t trust her to take out my appendix—even on a good day.
  • The third aspect of trust relates to reliability or consistency of performance over time. I may trust your integrity and value your product, but if you can’t consistently get it here on time, I ultimately won’t trust you.

What price do leaders pay when trust wanes? The most dramatic is usually loss of valued customers. When you deliver world-class products or services, clients develop loyalty to you.  But if you can’t distribute them in some reliable fashion, even the most devoted of your fans won’t stick around. Or, if you give customers any reason to question your ethics, they’re gone.

The second price involves loss of key talent. Top performers simply won’t tolerate situational integrity, incompetence, or substandard performance. They will leave. They take pride in their work, and if you won’t let them do their best work at your place of business, they will take their talent to your competitor.

A third price you’ll pay involves the contagious nature of low trust. When senior leaders cheat on their expenses, overcharge customers, sell inferior products, or offer second-rate service, some employees eagerly pick up the gauntlet. They start expensing meals they didn’t eat, billing for services not rendered, and doing the wrong thing for a perceived “right” reason like helping the company. Eventually leaders spend all their time looking behind doors—ones they’ve hidden behind too often.

There’s a simple solution. Trust and offer trustworthiness.

If you found these tips from Linda Henman, Ph.D. of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at


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