Trust is the fundamental building block of all good relationships be they personal or professional. Conversely, a lack of trust is at the heart of almost all pathology that can be found in relationships and in entire organizations. Let’s test this hypothesis by examining a few examples of dysfunctional relationships which can be found in many government offices and societies throughout the Caribbean.

  • At the political-administrative interface, the relationship between ministers and permanent secretaries or other senior administrations is often characterized by suspicion and mutual distrust;
  • When overworked and stressed out senior public officers are asked why they don’t delegate more, a common response is that they don’t trust the staff to complete the task to the required standards ? either in terms of time or quality; and
  • While, for the most part, governments attain power through free and fair elections and securing the popular vote, the relationship between the political directorate and the citizenry is often characterized by distrust – reference the numerous jokes about crooked politicians.

The solution to this conundrum lies is what some may consider to be counterintuitive – i.e. to gain trust, you must extend trust. In other words, you must apply the law of the harvest and sow the seed in order to reap the fruit. Sowing the seeds of trust requires two specific actions – i.e. finding ways to trust others and providing tangible evidence that you are trustworthy.

Great Seed #1 – Trusting Others More

In order to determine what is required for one to become more trusting, it is essential to first acknowledge that trust is situational as opposed to an absolute condition. If we accept this premise, then instead of discarding someone as being wholly untrustworthy, we can acknowledge that there are some circumstance and certain tasks where we can indeed extend trust. Having done so, we can then build on the existing foundation in order to expand and increase said circumstances.

Another useful tool in this context is to choose to adopt the most respectful interpretation of the other person’s actions. This is the direct opposite of what is often our default position – i.e. imputing improper motive.

Great Seed #2  Becoming More Trustworthy

In terms of our becoming more trustworthy ourselves, it is useful to break down the concept of trust into its constituent parts – namely competence, consistency and character. When someone doesn’t trust us, that could be because…

  • they question our competence or ability to complete the task at hand; OR
  • our past performance has been inconsistent thereby creating some doubt/concern about whether we will deliver this time around; OR
  • the other party may even have doubts/questions about our honesty, integrity or the extent to which we have their best interests at heart.

Since trust is situational, the first step in sowing this second seed is to ascertain the precise nature of the lack of trust and to then authentically affirm our desire to be trusted, following up by taking the necessary actions to address the other person’s concerns re our competency, consistency or character.


Take a moment to think about an existing relationship which is characterized by a lack of trust. What would change if you chose today to extend trust to that person by applying the most respectful interpretation of their actions.

What possibilities might open up for you and that individual as well as the people you serve if you were to initiate a candid conversation geared towards ascertaining whether they had reservations about your competence, your consistency or your character and then systematically set out to address/resolve any such concerns?

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