Trust has always been an important element of leadership. But in today’s remote work environment, it really has taken center stage. Leaders who want to get the best of their teams have to ask themselves one question: is trust earned or given?

When I was just a kid, I remember growing up in a household where it was tough to measure up. My father was a first-generation immigrant who wanted the best for my brother and I. However, his approach could be harsh. Instead of having faith in what we could achieve, my Dad took the role of antagonist and seemed to oppose everything and most ideas we had. Coming from an environment that was under control of a communist government, I could see where the cynicism would filter down to my father’s interaction with his two boys.

I learned at a young age that trust in others was a long process that was based on achieving specific milestones. The more you achieved, the greater the trust the other party had in your perceived abilities. As I showed my father that I knew what a Crescent wrench or a box wrench was, he went from having me fetch them for him to allowing me to actually use the tool to loosen a bolt, fix a lawn mower, etc.

My dad was meticulous when it came to his tools. He knew exactly what he had, where it was, and when he last used them. As a result, it was difficult for him to trust others, including his own sons, to properly use and care for his elaborate collection.

Growing up with the mentality of trust is earned, I struggled early in my career when I first thrust into managing people. My attitude carried over from my childhood and for decades I adopted the approach that I would not trust my team members until they showed me that I could. From my perspective I was forcing them to grow. Yet from their perspective I was a leader who didn’t support them because I didn’t trust them! You can start to see the vicious circle I was in and the consequences that came as a result.

The fact that I hired members of my team and then didn’t trust them to do their job created numerous challenges that persisted for years. Unfortunately, I see the same thing happening in both new and experienced leaders.

What spurred me to write this post is a conversation I recently had with the Chief Marketing Officer of a Fortune 500 company. This CMO had recently recruited an SVP of Digital Marketing to expand their capabilities across the entire enterprise. Less than 30 days after this new executive started, he and the CMO were at odds. The SVP felt he was not be trusted to do his job, and the CMO felt he had to earn her trust before she would let him drive. You can only imagine the tension this created between them and for the entire organization!

The Truth

To really have a positive influence in your organization, you need to first select the right people, and then put your faith in those same people!

Putting your faith in those you select to be part of your organization is essential, yet few actually do it. It took me two decades to learn this simple truth – don’t let the same happen to you or the leaders your work with!

The Reality

Faith in people is scarce commodity, yet it is the difference between temporary performance gains and sustainable performance gains. Let’s first look at four facts about faith in others:

  1. Most people lack faith in themselves.
  2. Most people don’t have a leader who has faith in them.
  3. Most people sense when their leader does have faith in them.
  4. Most people will sacrifice to match a leader’s faith in them.

One of my favorite quotes is from network marketing guru Nancy Dornan: “When you believe in people, they do the impossible.” The problem is that most people lack the faith in themselves to accomplish big things. Having faith in in someone you hired can mean the difference between success and failure. As a leader you hold a massive amount of influence!

Statistically, we know that most people will rise and fall to meet the level of expectation you put on them in the workplace. If you show you believe in them, show you have faith in them, most will go the extra mile to prove you right! Unfortunately, the same thing also happens in reverse. If you show a lack of faith in most people, those people will also prove you right!

How to Have Faith in People

Many leaders I encounter today were taught and influenced like I was as a child. We were taught that others need to earn our faith before we give it to them. As a result, we now we need to learn how to begin to believe in others. As a leader focused on getting the best from my team, this was a difficult shift for me and may be for you. To simplify the process, think about these suggestions using the acronym BELIEVE.

  • Believe in your team before they succeed. They perform to your expectations and belief!
  • Emphasize the strengths of each of your team members. Why did you hire them?
  • List the past successes of your team members, especially if you just hired them!
  • Instill confidence when your team members fail. We succeed or we learn.
  • Experience wins together. Put new hires in a position to get small wins quickly.
  • Visualize their future success. What happens when they do succeed?
  • Expect a higher level of performance. The more people succeed the higher the level of performance.

The Thrill of Victory

People can smell victory or defeat. Depending on what they sense under your leadership determines how they react.

When people smell victory:

  • They sacrifice to succeed.
  • They look for ways to win.
  • They become energized.
  • They follow the game plan.
  • They help others on the team.

When people sense defeat:

  • They give as little as possible.
  • They create excuses.
  • They are always tired.
  • They forget the game plan.
  • They hurt those around them.

The next time you recruit a new member for your team, regardless of their level, start the relationship with faith that they WILL succeed. Don’t wait for them to earn your trust and be influenced by the obvious fact that you don’t trust them. That you don’t believe in them. If you correctly selected your new player by leveraging Results Based Interviewing™ and human analytics through The Predictive Index, then you owe it to yourself and your new team to believe that they will succeed.

Learning how to have faith in people may not be easy for some. It wasn’t for me. For other leaders it’s the challenge of listening to or connecting with others. Whatever challenge you are experiencing in your leadership journey, or if you support leaders struggling in their leadership journey, reach out to me to learn how I made the shift in my purpose and focus as a leader.

Contact me via email at, or phone at 734-521-2800.


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