Play the Odds – 5 strategies for overcoming your fear of trust

(Guest Author Richard Fagerlin for Real. Simple. Leadership)

Let’s address this difficult situation of people that will likely take advantage of you if you are willing to give trust. So let’s play the odds.

Even though trust is not safe it can still be a wise investment. The question is, do the rewards outweigh the risks?

Everyone will eventually disappoint you in small ways. (And guess what? You’ll disappoint them, too.) A few people may betray you outright. But consider for a moment how many people we’re really talking about. How many people, of all those in your life, are really going to take advantage of you if you offer trust before it is earned? Twenty percent? Ten? Two? I guess that, on average, the number is closer to two percent than it is to twenty. Yes, a few people may abuse your trust. But do you want to live and act for the two percent, or the ninety-eight percent?scale

Imagine a weights and measures scale. Put the risk of the two percent on one side, and the
benefit of a trusting, generous relationship with the ninety-eight percent on the other.

Which is heavier?

A Disclaimer

I know many of you are sitting there thinking of all the situations where giving unearned trust doesn’t make sense. Keep two things in mind:

First, I’m assuming the relationships in question are ones where you actually want to win, where you have a vested interest in the relationship being the best it can be, and where collaboration is critical. If that’s the case, let’s apply these ideas. If not, you don’t need to invest time or energy into building trust.

Second, I am not speaking to the extremes. If you have experienced a betrayal of trust amounting to psychological or physical abuse, address it appropriately. Ask a friend for help, get a counselor, talk to a mentor, or read one of the many great books out there that address healing and boundaries on a personal level.

But most of life should not be a crisis. I want to speak to the rest of the time, to normal person-to-person interactions.

If you are struggling with the idea of giving trust – consider the following 5 strategies: Continue reading

Why I don’t own our ‘Culture’…

Some thoughts I would share primarily with HR friends & acquaintances, but also for general leadership and workplace knowledge…

I have noticed a popular trend in the HR world. There are a lot of companies who have labeled their HR leaders and HR department as “people and culture” or just “culture”.  It has caused me to reflect on this practice and the role of HR professionals (regardless of what they are called).

On one hand, HUGE props to these companies who understand the importance of culture in the workplace.  To impact engagement, and ultimately overall business results, culture is a MUST.  It is an absolutely vital ingredient to success.  So that’s good.


As an HR professional and leader, I don’t want the word “culture” to ever be in my title.

Wait.  WHAT?

Why not?

Because, very simply…


We are all responsible for building it, guarding it, preserving it, and enhancing it through our actions and behaviors.  This is something that no one person – nor any single department – “owns”.  Everyone shares the responsibility equally, starting at the highest levels of every company.

Now let me be clear.  Because the focus of HR is people, I definitely feel our purpose in the company is to teach, drive, and motivate the behaviors that will build the culture (this starts with my own personal actions, to work and lead in a way that will enforce the culture established by the company).

I would be concerned that having the word “culture” in my job title or description may give others in the organization that they don’t need to act as owners and builders of culture.  It is extremely important for every person in the company to know they own and impact the culture (and ultimately the success) of the company.

Remember: #everyoneownsculture.

HR Professionals – please comment below!  I would love to hear your thoughts!

If you agree with this concept, how does it really play out in practice?

Quit Your Job… You Are Not the Trust Ref

(Guest Author Richard Fagerlin written for Real. Simple. Leadership.)

If trust isn’t something that is earned (see past post here), then how do we approach relationships so we don’t get hurt, abused, or simply taken advantage of? This is the question that most often comes with the exposure of the big lie. Also, you may be thinking of 3 or 30 people that you think — no you know — would take advantage of you if you simply gave them your trust.

Let me address that but not yet… (this is for the next post)

Since we can’t keep score, it’s time to submit your resignation letter as Trust Referee of your relationships. Time to stop keeping tabs of who is ahead and who is behind. If you are like me, this won’t be easy. I trust ref my friends, I trust ref my colleagues, and I even trust ref my wife. I love my wife very much. We have been married for more than 17 years, we have four wonderful children together, and are truly best friends. But I still struggle with the mind-shift of not keeping score on a daily basis.

I want nothing more than to see my wife thrive. To see her vibrant and doing what she loves. I want her to be encouraged and loved in a deep way — and then I become a bonehead. I find myself counting up my good deeds and her not-so-good deeds. I hope that you can’t identify with this. But, chances are you can. Giving trust without keeping a record of rights and wrongs isn’t easy, but it is essential to win the war for relationships at home and at work.

Love is supposed to keep no record of wrongs. Love is supposed to endure, it is supposed to last beyond the moment or temporary satisfaction. I think trust is like love. Trust should keep no record of wrongs. Once you’ve made a decision to trust someone, once you’ve decided that winning at that relationship is non-negotiable, you have to stop keeping score—whether the relationship is with your spouse or your colleague. Stop keeping track of how much more work you get done, how many times you hold your tongue or how many good ideas you present at meetings.

It will still bother you when your colleague is late or your boss discounts your opinion. It will hurt when a colleague steals your idea for their own or when you get passed over for a promotion or opportunity by someone that doesn’t seem to play fair.

Not keeping score doesn’t mean ignoring a bad situation. Healthy conflict can be necessary. Address the situation with wisdom…

but don’t make trust conditional upon a person’s good score.

Trust them. If conflict does need to happen, it will go much better when it happens from a place of trust.

The number one reason why trust cannot be earned is that even if we could find a perfect way to keep score of the performance of every one of our colleagues, no one could do enough good things to guarantee that they wouldn’t disappoint us in the future.

Trust has never existed in a risk-free environment. No matter how well you know someone, given enough opportunities, everyone will fall short in some way or another. If that’s not a reality you’re willing to accept, then you’re never going to have high-trust relationships. At some point, one of the parties involved has to take the risk of giving trust.

richard-fagerlinRichard Fagerlin is the founder and president of Peak Solutions.

With over 20 years of leadership and organizational development experience, he is a sought-after speaker, consultant and facilitator. Richard travels internationally helping clients intentionally create a culture of high trust and to be on purpose with developing leaders at all levels of the organization. In 2015 & 2016 Richard was named one of the top 100 thought leaders on Trust in the world.

A Colorado native, Richard enjoys the beautiful Rocky Mountains with his wife and four boys. His favorite team is whichever one his four boys are currently playing on. He is active in his community while serving on the board of the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado and Mill City Church.

(Scott’s addition: Richard is also the author of a really good book, “Trustology: The art and science of leading high-trust teams”.  It’s one of my personal favorites.  Learn more at

Twitter:  @richardfagerlin   •   LinkedIn:

The single hardest thing about management…

Anyone who moves into a management position will tell you that at some point, things change.  Something clicks.  A switch flips.  Suddenly your job becomes much harder.  The problem is, it is really hard to identify why that happens, exactly.  After all, you have worked for managers before, and observed what they do (or didn’t do)… it isn’t that hard, right?  Well, or so you thought…

Then you got the big promotion.

Boom.  It all changed.  It all got WAY harder.  (maybe not immediately, but eventually it did…right?).

Why is this, exactly?

Simply put – because virtually nothing in management is black or white.

There is no simple formula for success as a manager.

Consider a few examples –

  1. A member of your team has lost all motivation and isn’t performing his job well.  A ‘prescription’ of how to cure this condition would be great.  Even the standard processes (call them performance management, or progressive discipline, or whatever…) are not completely black and white most of the time.  The most common answer becomes “it depends” – because there are so many reasons and factors and data points to consider.  There’s no magic switch to flip that will instantly motivate a person, unfortunately.
  2. Team meetings are a drag.  Everyone arrives late, people are totally disinterested, check their phones, or even create reasons (excuses) not to go.  But you know that an effective team meeting should be very important!  (and I agree with you)  So what do you do?  Is there a magic structure for meetings, or agenda to follow that will suddenly make them brilliant?  Sorry, nope.

…and the examples go on.  So many things that seem daunting, overwhelming, and frustrating are simply that way because they aren’t “black and white”.  There’s no simple solution.  Each will require a unique approach to solve them, completely different from what others may offer, and completely different from what you have done in the past.

So, what does this mean?

Well, it means that your success as a manager will depend on your ability to understand and evaluate each individual situation to decide on the best course of action.  It is HARD work.  It can be long, tedious, and frustrating.  There’s no magic bullet.

But understanding that there isn’t an easy answer is the first step.  You’ll stop looking for easy solutions, or waiting for a magic date to arrive when it all becomes easier.  It won’t.  You just need to roll up your sleeves and start doing work!

What do I do now? Continue reading

The Tightrope of Good Leadership

(Guest Author Pete Small for Real. Simple. Leadership.)

We all remember that manager who inspired us.  The one who pushed us to achieve our best and helped us to feel skilled and valued at work.  We also remember that other manager who made showing up each day a drudgery and who seemed to steal the joy out of our jobs.  If asked, we might easily be able to rattle off the traits that made one of them great and the other awful.  But, if you look closely, you might find that most of them are really just two sides of the same coin.

Most of us who have years of experience in management have long ago realized that the line between effective and ineffective leadership can be razor thin at times and that good management comes from learning how to walk that line as well as possible.  A valuable skill that we think of as a strength can quickly become a weakness if we don’t master the whens, wheres and whys of how to use it.

Assertiveness can become bossiness in a blink. 

One moment you are a visionary with a clear goal and the next you are too rigid and not open to your employees’ input.   Your openness to feedback has always been an asset until you are accused of being indecisive.

No manager has ever walked this line perfectly, so let’s throw that goal out the window right now.  Rather, we want to constantly be evaluating which side of the line we are on and then course correcting; the more balanced our trajectory walking this line, the more effective a leader we will be.  This thinking follows one of the secrets to success in life: Be aware of where you are.  Keep track of where you want to be.  Adjust as needed.

With that in mind, let’s look at one of the trickier leadership traits to find a balance on: Respect.  We all understand the inherent value of fostering respect from our employees but often don’t realize we are trying to balance two different types of respect:

Personal Respect – The feelings and attitudes your employees have about you as a person.

Role Respect – How much your employees respect your position of authority.

In order to operate as an effective manager, we must garner respect for our role.  We are the final decision maker and our employees should understand and respect this role clearly.  However, if we put too much emphasis on just this type of respect (eg “do what I saw because I am the boss”), we end up with resentful and passive-aggressive staff.

Likewise, there is great benefit to the workplace if employees have a deep personal respect for their manager.  If they like and value you, they are more likely to enjoy their jobs and feel supported.   But, if you stray too much to this side of the line, i.e. you are too busy being a friend and not setting limits, you risk employees becoming less productive and feeling entitled.

So, the skill that defines a great manager is the ability to walk that tightrope between personal and role respect, managing to maintain both and catching herself when she strays a bit too far one way or the other.  Here are some ideas to consider when trying to manage that balance: Continue reading

Four Steps to Effective Delegation

Leaders are asked to accomplish many things with limited time and resources.  They can’t possibly do everything themselves (nor should they).  It is absolutely critical for leaders to properly delegate.

Delegation is not just “passing the buck” to others; responsibility still lies with the leader.

Delegation is also not just blindly passing tasks to random team members. Effective delegation takes effort, preparation, and practice.

Back in 2012 I got an e-mail from Competitive Solutions, which now appears to be connected to, or known as Process Based Leadership.

Here are the Four Steps to Effective Delegation:

  1. Maintain supervisory control  (in other words, don’t go completely “hands off”)
    • Observe and provide feedback
    • Review periodically and track progress
    • Validate completion of tasks – both milestones, and final/overall task
  2. Select the task and match it to the proper employee
    • Consider time frame, necessary training, and ability to complete the task
    • Use previous experiences, utilize strengths and provide opportunity for growth
    • Consider desired outcomes and benefit to the employee
  3. Communicate the task and gain commitment
    • Meet to discuss the task’s importance and value to the organization
    • Explain the benefits of accomplishing the task
    • Clearly articulate the desired outcomes, timeframe, and results
    • Confirm understanding and gain commitment
  4. Provide recognition
    • Recognize both effort and results
    • Acknowledge growth, learning, and development
    • Set the tone for future delegation of tasks

Delegation, when done properly, can provide a true “win win” situation.  Help and support to the leader, and a valuable, rewarding experience to the employee.

And remember:

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.“ – Max DePree

(sidenote: I couldn’t find the original content I captured back in 2012, but this is a really good article I found on their site, on the topic of delegation. Credit “jamiee” – author of the article, who shared this quote)

The BIG lie about TRUST – 5 reasons why trust is not earned

(Guest Author Richard Fagerlin for Real. Simple. Leadership)

Nobody comes to the discussion on trust empty handed. We all have strong feelings about it. We know how it feels when trust is misused, betrayed, or withheld. Our perspectives are real and have been informed by a lifetime of experiences, pain and broken relationships. Sometimes these conclusions are helpful and sometimes they hold us hostage.

Over the years I’ve come to a surprising conclusion: our most popular theories about trust are often untrue and almost always unhelpful.

What I’m going to share will likely go against everything you’ve ever heard or thought about trust. Of all the flawed theories flying around about trust, there is one that is more prevalent and also more damaging than any other:

Trust’s Big Lie: Trust is something that is earned.

The Truth on Trust: Trust can’t be earned. It can only be given.

I know, I know. This is a lie that even I have believed for most of my life. The problem with it is that it just doesn’t make sense.

When we’re deciding how much to trust someone, we usually ask ourselves whether they have earned our trust. That seems like the smart thing to do. Until they earn it, we withhold trust to protect ourselves. We put protective policies in place. We micromanage to maintain control and create limits and boundaries to our relationships.

But the truth is, trust can never be earned. Trust can only be given.

Trust is the responsibility of the person who wants high trust. If you want others to trust you – it’s your responsibility. If you want to be able to trust others – it’s your responsibility. If you are committed to giving and building trust, and determined to overcome any obstacles that stand in your way, you will win high trust. If you work patiently and with perseverance to lead your team towards a high-trust, high-performance culture, you can see it happen. Ten of the most powerful two-letter words in the English language are: If it is to be, it is up to me. If you are to have high trust in your relationships, it starts and ends with you.

I fully realize that this line of thinking might make you squirm. When I’m working with my clients or speaking on this topic, this is where everyone starts to jump out of their seats.

Over the next few posts, I will outline why this lie is damaging, how you can better approach trust and give you a vocabulary for making this thinking stick.

For now, ponder these 5 reasons why trust cannot be earned: Continue reading

Align with your team using this one simple exercise…

Meet John.  John has been part of his team for three years – he knows his peers well, the team is doing a good job.  The Manager has resigned from the company, and John is promoted.  Congrats John!  Now the fun begins!

So John comes in on a Monday morning, as the newly minted Manager of the team, now the fearless leader!  Certainly John has many great ideas to implement that will help the team accomplish great things.  He probably can’t wait to get started!

Hold on John.  Pause for a moment.

Even if you are 100% certain your ideas are the best thing to do for your team’s performance, be warned that many, many Managers have started off on the wrong foot by trying to implement good ideas before taking important steps to build trust.

The first task for any manager is to build trust.  Genuine, authentic trust.

I recommend one simple activity for John to gain trust of the team and get off to a great start.  The exercise is simply called “Start Stop Continue” (this is not my original activity – I learned it a while back, there are many representations of it online… I truly do not know the origination).  The idea is very simple:  find out what the team thinks that you (collectively) should start doing, should stop doing, and should continue doing.  

Start with a whiteboard (or note-taking paper on the wall) like this: Continue reading