Log in

Building On Trust

April 14, 2022 by Twan van de Kerkhof

Teams, organizations and even societies can only flourish and perform if there is trust and psychological safety. That is the key message of this book about trust, written by three Dutch consultants from De Transformatie Groep. If problems occur in organizations, the root is nearly always in the relationships between individuals and they often relate to trust, the book says. Both leaders and their staff should invest in and maintain trust, although it is intangible, hard to measure and multi-interpretable.

The erosion of trust is a problem at many levels. (That is why ELP is making it the theme of its Annual Conference 2022, see https://www.leadershipconference.eu/.) Leaders should identify the issue of trust and help to restore trust. It is a virtuous circle: giving trust leads to being trusted leads to giving trust, etc.

Three elements are necessary to establish trust, the authors write: connection, transparency, and consistency. Connection means building relationships that go beyond the transactional level that is required to get your work done; be genuinely interested in the other, be vulnerable, check your ego at the door. The authors note that this is uncommon in many organizations; in particular non-executives have a habit of keeping a so-called professional distance that stands in the way of building deeper personal relations. Transparency, the second element, means saying what you do and doing what you say. It is about verifiable reliability and about timely, open and veracious communication with people that have an interest in your plans and actions. Thirdly, consistency is about holding on to a vision, not being opportunistic.

The authors applaud dialogue as an important way of having meaningful conversations amongst colleagues and as the only way to solve tough problems. They offer a seven-step model for dialogue, including identifying the tough problem, creating safety and basic trust, creating new perspectives, crossing the tipping point, gaining new insights, making a real commitment and deciding on action.

It won’t come as a surprise that they are strong believers in the so-called soft sides of leadership, including courage and vulnerability. They write that a tough exterior is often protection against pain from the past. They think that leaders should do some soul-searching to find out who they really are and what makes them tick. They suggest to start every team meeting with a check-in to determine what is really going on in participants’ minds and lives (we have been doing this for years at ELP and I wouldn’t want to miss it), to share life-lines amongst team members that give each other insights in the highs and lows of their life experiences and to spend time in nature. (I myself don’t experience nature as a teacher, but that is a big topic in itself.)

I agree with the authors that trust is an extremely important topic. It surprises me how few books there are on this topic. If only for that reason this book is an addition. It is written in Dutch and it has an English summary at the end.

Derk Egeler, Joost Manassen, Maikel Batelaan. Waarom zou ik je moeten vertrouwen? Brandt, 2021