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A Lesson Learned About Trust


A Lesson Learned About Trust

You often hear the phrase that “trust is earned and not given”. However, that is not the only way to go about building relationships. When I meet someone, they immediately have my trust. I am probably not the only person out there that gives trust immediately. However, I propose that there are two personality styles when it comes to trust, the "givers" and the "earners".


Each start at opposite ends of the trust spectrum when developing a relationship. The givers start with 100% trust in the other person and adjust their perception when trust is broken. The earners typically start out with no trust in the other person and build trust as it is earned. This in itself is not a bad thing. However, when you look at trust givers and earners through the leadership lens, a problem comes into focus. This problem can often occur in a new leadership position. Unfortunately, this is a difficult lesson that I've learned first-hand. When assuming a new leadership role, conversations and relationships need to be started and developed, typically, in that order. In the past, as a giver, I have assumed that those I interacted with were also givers. I believed that the trust was already established. This assumption actually caused a loss of trust. That is, those that were earners were waiting for me to build trust with them. When those actions did not immediately occur, I lost the trust they might have initially given me due to my leadership position. Trust building is exponentially more difficult once someone loses trust in you. In some cases, it can never be earned back.


When taking on a new role, it is important to take into account that both givers and earners must be accounted for. Because it is not easy to readily determine which people are the givers and which are the earners, it is important to assume that everyone is an earner. While it is sad to imagine a world where no one initially trusts anyone else, this adjusted mindset will help to more easily build trust when developing new relationships. Building trust is a major part of being an effective leader and should be the highest priority when building new relationships.


Here are a few books that I've found helpful in my efforts to build trust:

Trust Matters: Leadership for Successful Schools

By Megan Tschannen-Moran


Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust

By Edgar H. Schein


What have your experiences in building trust been? Do you have any resources that you've leveraged for learning to build trust? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Thanks for reading!

Erik Bentzel

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© 2019 by Erik Bentzel. 

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