Trust leadership and communication compendium

This page is your reference guide for learning about trust leadership and trust communication in today’s uncertain economic environment. Following are web-based reference materials that inform some of the strategies and theories described on this website. Ultimately, leaders will want to understand the root of these issues. Here, I make that possible.

Currently, this resource is divided into three sections: Leading with trust, Communicating trust, and Identifying trust and mistrust as societal trends. Please suggest new topics for addition to this list via Twitter or Google+.

Section 1: Leading with trust
  • Building Trust in Business 2012, How top companies leverage trust, leadership, and collaboration.
  • Not surprisingly, this report was first produced in 2009, the same year that mistrust became a powerful wedge between business and consumers. With only three years of data, the trends identified have limited value but the scope of work, including a survey of over 440 leaders at more than 300 companies, is valuable.
  •  “In 2012, the biggest decline in trust is in leadership – people are noting a lack of consistency, predictability, and transparency in leaders’ decisions and actions. This is a real wake-up call to leaders. It’s a communication issue for sure, and it’s also an issue of involving employees at the right level,” says Linda Stewart, President and CEO, Interaction Associates.
  • Read the full report here:
  • Read a short summary of the report here:
  • Trust in the Age of Transparency, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2012
  • The author, Julia Kirby, takes note of the rise in publications designed to help businesses fight the tide of societal mistrust. Her article focuses on the role of transparency as a necessary practice for establishing trust. However, she applies transparency to sensitive aspects of business operations, thereby showing the competitive disadvantages to a trust-based strategy. Kirby also offers a few interesting observations that reveal why it’s so difficult for all of us to wrap our arms around the issue of trust. Specifically, she highlights a widespread sense of vulnerability among Americans that heightens anxiety.
  • “The real problem might be that, as time goes on, consumers are increasingly being placed in situations where they are forced to trust—and they resent that,” says Kirby.
  • Read her article here:
  • Building corporate culture, Jack Welch appearing on CNBC’s Squawk Box, March 28, 2012
  • When asked about the corporate culture at Goldman Sachs in the wake of Greg Smith’s NY Times Op-ed, Jack Welch responded with leadership advice for building a sustainable culture through trust.
  • “There are people who did bad things there, obviously. The kid didn’t make it up. There are some people who got away with doing bad things. Go in and hang those people… Public hanging is an awful expression but it is what leadership is about in teaching others what we will tolerate and what we won’t tolerate…Public hangings are teaching moments that every company has to do. And it’s worth a thousand CEO speeches.”
  • Welch’s point about the importance of action as a demonstration of a company’s values reflects the principle that trust is predominantly established through non-verbal communication. If leaders want to create a climate of trust inside the organization, they have to communicate through decisions and actions, not messaging strategies.
  • Watch the full video:


Section 2: Communicating trust
  • Lessons from the master: Stephen Covey
  • Stephen Covey’s lessons on empathetic listening, inspiring trust, and relationship-based communication strategies will continue to be wellsprings of insight for years, if not decades. He was a pioneer in many of these areas and remains an authoritative expert through the instructions and advice he left behind. As we see in the emergent Trust Economy, the very issues Covey identified long ago: empathy, emotions, relationships, and trust, are converging and thereby becoming more influential in the marketplace. Following are a few of his notable statements on these topics.
  • “The first [leadership imperative] is to inspire trust. You build relationships of trust through both your character and competence and you also extend trust to others. You show others that you believe in their capacity to live up to certain expectations, to deliver on promises, and to achieve clarity on key goals.”
  • “The High Cost of Low Trust: Most organizations have no clue of the enormous cost of low trust, and because most executives have no means of measuring its bottom-line impact, they have little motivation to seriously address it.”
  • “When I say empathic listening, I am not referring to the techniques of “active” listening or “reflective” listening, which basically involve mimicking what another person says… I mean listening with intent to understand… It’s an entirely different paradigm. Empathic (from empathy) listening gets inside another person’s frame of reference.”
  • There are too many sources to gather them all. These are just a few:
  • Then, of course, there’s the book Stephen Covey published over 20 years ago: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which remains a great resource for leaders who seek to build trust.
  • Psychological Foundations of Trust, Jeffrey A. Simpson, Association for Psychological Science, 2007
  • To build trust, we’ve always been taught to focus on actions, not words. In business, several things complicate that simple axiom. First, business schools don’t teach trust, they teach competence. Second, companies are not organized around trust; they are organized around the functions of business. Therefore, the functional department of communications is often tasked with upholding trust. Consequently, business leaders and their employees develop communication strategies as a means of establishing trust.
  • Underpinning these misconceptions about trust is the surprising lack of research that exists on the topic. In this paper, Simpson provides a survey of published research on the topic of trust spanning over four decades. The results are astonishingly meager when contrasted with the subject’s significance.
  • “Trust lies at the foundation of nearly all major theories of interpersonal relationships. Despite its great theoretical importance, a limited amount of research has examined how and why trust develops, is maintained, and occasionally unravels in relationships.”
  • “Trust involves the juxtaposition of people’s loftiest hopes and aspirations with their deepest worries and fears.”
  • Read Simpson’s paper here:


Section 3: Identifying trust and mistrust as societal trends
  • The Trust Deficit, Jon Huntsman appearing on The Colbert Report, August 30, 2012
  • Huntsman, whose bio includes serving as ambassador to China, serving as Governor of Utah, and most recently running for The Office of President of the US,  attributes the current epidemic of societal mistrust to the actions of our elected officials and their apparent lack of honesty. He identified systemic issues such as term limits (for congress), campaign finance, and the revolving door between DC-based lobbies and Congress.
  • “Why do we have a trust deficit in this country?…Because we’re not getting the straight scoop from our elected officials. And because of that, people don’t trust their elected officials, they don’t trust their institutions of power.”
  • Watch the video:–2
  • Trusting and Being Trusted in the Sharing Economy, Forbes Magazine, May 2, 2012
  •  Hailed as the latest solution to our sluggish economy, the concept of Collaborative Consumption isn’t as offbeat as it initially sounds. The movement is supported by real financial transactions and investments. Although the numbers are not sufficiently compelling to justify a term like The Sharing Economy, there is a substantial societal trend away from ownership. And, this trend has just begun to show its long-term capability to change commerce as we know it today. Naturally, a business model based on sharing relies on trust and this Forbes article highlights how precarious and misunderstood trust really is.
  •  “People talk very inaccurately about trust as if it were a unitary thing.  It is not.  ‘Trust’ is the result of a trustor and a trustee arriving at an agreement. The two parties are not doing the same thing. Trust is an asymmetric relationship.”
  • Steve Case and Rachel Botsman, the two most prolific voices of Collaborative Consumption, frequently highlight the criticality of trust in this new model which begs the question: If trust is so important, why not call it The Trust Economy?
  • Read the article:


More resources will be added to this list over time. Again, please contact me to make any suggestions.

Thank you.


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