Do you have a healthy understanding of trust? “Just trust me on this one” or “It’s a slam dunk” are statements too many C-suite executives and boards have come to regret believing. When these individuals accept each others’ word without examining the complexity of the situation, they fall into a trust trap.
Why does this happen? On the surface, getting along is given priority over asking tough questions. Deeper still, how trust is given strengthens or weakens those relationships. Our findings suggest that executives and board members sometimes extend trust toward each other in a way that leaves both in a fragile state.
In the hundreds of sessions we’ve conducted using audience response technology, we find that 50% to 65% of respondents report their approach as trust until proven otherwise. Another 35% to 45% indicate their position as trust but verify. When broken promises and moral injuries occur, executives and board members find themselves bruised by the fall into the trust trap. A trust only if no other choice view forms and along with it, deep skepticism toward each other.
What is the solution? Build trust but verify loops. Trust establishes the boundaries of a communications relationship. Size and frequency determine the quality of the feedback loops between boards and executives. Big issues require detailed questions. Trust failures must be repaired. Increase your frequency of verification to the level of skepticism that exists. Authentic trust builds or declines as a result and a future trust trap is avoided.
This article was originally featured in Trust Inc.: Building Trust for Boards and C-Suites, edited by Barbara Brooks Kimmel. To purchase this insightful publication and learn more about Trust Across America, visit their website.