A friend recounted a story as we were discussing the topic of trusts. He said it was one of the earliest gifts of someone else’s trust in him that he can remember. To this day 25 years later it still is a tattoo on his heart regarding the enormous value of giving away trust. Here’s his story:
“Growing up in Memphis, Tenn., I had little freedom. Our fair city offered us many opportunities for entertainment and life experience, but it offered no assurance of safety to my parents. As an 8-year-old boy with a bike, I had about a 300-yard radius in which I could move about freely in our neighborhood. This enabled me to ride down about two different streets that intersected ours. It wasn’t that my parents didn’t trust me, although I am sure my lack of maturity figured into it; the matter was that they did not trust the environment. Too many cars, too many people they didn’t know.
When we eventually moved to a small town in which my mother had grown up, things changed significantly. It wasn’t Mayberry, but it was pretty close. I was shocked when I asked my father if I could ride my bike to a friend’s birthday party one Saturday. He asked me whether I knew the way, and then granted permission! I was invigorated. He trusted me to stay out of trouble, to navigate my way, to act responsibly. I couldn’t wait to see the look on my friends’ faces when I rolled up on my bike having traveled a mile and half on my own.
However, a problem developed when I found myself lost on my way to the party. I got my directions mixed up and wandered the town for more than an hour. Eventually, I recognized the church down the street from my grandmother’s house and rode rapidly to her home, where I broke down tearfully on her front porch. She was very sympathetic to my scenario. She offered a hug, a piece of candy, and a ride home. She even expressed shock that I had been given freedom to venture out such a long distance on my own. I can remember her clearly communicating that to my father when she drove me home and delivered me tear stained, without ever having arrived at the party.
Even though her rescue efforts and polite rebuke of my father’s misplaced trust created a bit of tension at home that night, and even though I experienced the terror of being lost, and even though I missed a grand birthday party, I cherished the opportunity to be trusted. I relished in the fact that my father gave me a chance. He allowed me a shot at third-grade glory. I discovered then that trust is an empowering currency.”
Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.— Booker T. Washington
As my friend’s story illustrates, we all desire for others to trust us, even at an early age. The Golden Rule challenges us to give our trust to others. While you cannot control whether people give you their trust, you can control your actions with them. And you can determine to give them your trust.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson remarked, “The chief lesson I have learned in a long life is that the only way you can make a man trustworthy is by trusting him; and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust.”
Giving Trust to Others
Picture someone in which you need to give greater amounts of trust to in your organization. Work through the following areas of trust and give a example for how you can give this person a greater amount of trust. After thinking through this, list any possible downfall or benefit of giving them this trust. Does the possible benefit warrant the amount of risk involved? (You might work through this list thinking of several people, not just one.)
Area of trust How can you give a greater degree of trust?
Potential loss to the company?
Potential benefit to the company?
Does the benefit warrant the risk?
Interact with the following statements and examples. Do you agree or disagree? Write a brief thought in reaction.
● Trust from your superiors or company can enhance your performance. For example: Your boss gives you the lead role in a sales pitch for a big client. You develop a greater sense of ownership and go the extra mile in preparation.
● Trust should be given in proportion to trustworthy performance. For example: The company probably shouldn’t trust the pension fund to an associate who has mismanaged his expense account.
● Trust should be hedged against the potential downfall. For example: The company shouldn’t put the cash-cow account in the hands of the new college intern.
● Trust should be able to be earned again after a failure. For example: Outside of major moral failure, associates should be able to earn the company’s trust after a setback through repeated trustworthy actions.
● Trust is the key to developing others. For example: A manager can only raise up his replacement by trusting him enough to give him the opportunity to perform managerial tasks. A salesman can only be developed by trusting him enough to give him an account.
● Trust allows the freedom to fail. For example: A company leader entrusts a creative project to an employee who has less experience. Even with a great work ethic, the project fails. Yet the employee is given another project with pointers on how to improve.
People will tolerate the tiniest mistakes, but if you violate their trust you will find it very difficult to ever regain their confidence. That is one reason you need to treat trust as your most precious asset.—Craig Weatherup, PepsiCo Chairman & CEO
It is more shameful to distrust our friends than to be deceived by them.—Francois De La Rochefoucauld