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Let's Talk About Trust

By Nan S. Russell
Posted Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I agree with Brooker T. Washington, "Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him." I agree with Mr. Washington because I've experienced trust. I've been on both the giving and receiving side of the equation, and I know first hand the power of trust.

That's what trust is. It's power. Power to transform an ordinary, everyday, OK place to work, into an environment where people are almost unstoppable. Power to unleash creativity, commitment, enthusiasm, and fun. Power to bring out the energy, talents and gifts of individuals, to build teams, to achieve amazing results.

Look around your organization. There's some division or department or work unit or team that's like that ... some pocket of excellence where people shine, ideas flourish, and exceptional work is achieved. That's where trust is.

People work for people, not for companies. And no one needs permission to create his or her own pocket of excellence. Trust is not about them giving it to us. Trust is an action we can take. We start trust by giving trust.

But, simple behaviors diminish it. The first question I ask when a staff member shows up in my office to tell me a tale of woe about a co-worker is a simple one: "Have you talked to them?" I can count on one hand how many times in twenty years of managing that someone said yes. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the person who is the offending party was never told about the issue before it was escalated to management. Will the co-worker feel betrayed? I did when a peer went to my boss without giving me a chance to address their concerns, or informing me there even was an issue. Was trust diminished? You can bet on that one.

Hate those e-mails where someone cc'd "the world", including your boss and your boss's boss, and everyone else's boss? Not a trust building behavior, I'd say. What can you do about it? Don't send e-mails like that and don't push the "reply all" button. Address your remarks to those that need to be included.

Ever get irritated when people blow off meetings, miss deadlines, and take weeks to reply? Not behaviors that build confidence and trust. So, be aware of behaviors that irritate you, and don't do them. Model the behaviors you want from others.

If we want to work in a trusting environment, pay attention to yourself ... to your thinking, your intentions, your actions, your commitments, and your promises. Trust is not blind or unconditional, and it's not without risk. But is it a powerful choice you can make if you want to be winning at working.

(c) 2004 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.

About the Author
Sign up to receive Nan's free biweekly eColumn at ( Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. She has held leadership positions in Human Resource Development, Communication, Marketing and line Management. Nan has a B.A. from Stanford University and M.A. from the University of Michigan. Currently working on her first book, Winning at Working: 10 Lessons Shared, Nan is a writer, columnist, small business owner, and on-line instructor. Visit ( or contact Nan at


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