We have been taught to believe that trust is a commodity earned by others. Once they have passed certain tests, then we feel safe to extend our trust. In my consulting with several different companies, I found a lack of trust at the root of many of their problems. Sometimes the lack of trust is for other co-workers, and other times it’s a lack of trust in the company or administration.

However, trust can be a verb instead of a noun. It’s a choice you make, a behavior you choose to enact, and it says much more about you than it does about the person you’re deciding to trust.

When I posed the question, “Do you want to be able to trust your co-workers or administration?” everyone responded in the affirmative. They wanted to be able to trust but did not believe that others deserved it. This begged the question, “What would you have to give up in order to trust others?” There were a variety of answers, but most centered around the idea of self-protection. If you were to trust, you would look foolish. If you were to trust, you would be hurt again. If you were to trust, you would somehow lose something if the other person disappointed you.

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Subscribing to this common belief system isn’t very helpful in the workplace.

My model of Empowered Leadership is an Inside Out model: if you want more trust in your life, you have to be more trusting and worthier of trust. You can’t get from others what you don’t possess in yourself.

Ask yourself some difficult questions. Why do you feel the need to protect yourself? What are you afraid of? What is it you need protection from? What’s the worst thing that can happen? Will that really be so bad? Looking from the inside out, you must ask yourself, “Am I a trustworthy person? Do others realize that I have integrity and can be trusted? Do I extend trust to others?”

Being a more trusting person doesn’t mean you continuously put yourself in situations with someone who has proven a lack of trustworthiness. If you work with someone who attempted to pass off your work as his own, then you may be foolish to afford him another opportunity. However, is it possible for you to extend trust until someone proves he or she doesn’t deserve it, rather than starting with no trust until he or she jumps through the necessary hoops to earn it?

It comes down to deciding what kind of person you want to be. Do you want to be a person who believes in the general good of humankind, or do you want to be guarded, self-protective, and suspicious? You get to decide how you operate in the world. Do not allow others to dictate this for you. Take charge and be the person you want to be.

If you find yourself in a situation with someone where trust has become an issue, make it a priority to investigate. Ask the person for his or her account of what occurred and really listen. It’s possible that you don’t have all the accurate information.

Without trust, there will only be limited teamwork or no teamwork at all. If you are in an environment where you believe it is impossible to trust others, ask yourself if that is really where you want to be working. It may become necessary to reevaluate your employment decisions.

But the bottom line is, if you want to trust those you work with, then do so. Figure it out. Extend your trust. If your trust is violated, then that says a whole lot more about the other person than you. If you understand InsideOut Thinking, you know that you can handle those situations; you don’t allow other people’s behavior to shake your foundation. You know who you are and are solid in it.

If you are in an organization where trust has become a big issue, it will likely take some time to heal the situation, but it won’t improve without action. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you will continue to get what you’ve always gotten. It’s time to make a change. What do you have to lose?

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