Tools to Cultivate Authentic Trust

Authentic Trust logo.jpg

In working on culture and strategy with dozens of client organizations since 2004, the word that shows up most often when they discuss their challenges is Trust. Whether it’s individual Trust between staff and management, management and executives, executives and the Board, or organizational Trust between us and our customers, vendors, partners, etc., Trust is a critical success factor – maybe THE critical success factor!

And it’s a factor we have a surprising amount of influence over, as long as we make an intentional decision to trust and are able to separate the emotions that Trust - and more specifically, Mistrust - inevitably conjure up.

The graphic with this column provides a visual model to process rationally your Trust relationships, which is drawn largely from Charles Feltman’s The Thin Book of Trust. I know this isn’t the “Recommended Reading” column, but you should read, re-read and memorize its concise, four-dimension framework for understanding the components of Authentic Trust:

  • Capability: You have the ability to do what you are doing or proposing to do.
  • Reliability: You meet the commitments you make, and you keep your promises
  • Sincerity: You are honest and mean what you say: you can be believed and taken seriously.
  • Care: You have the other person’s interests in mind as well as your own when you make decisions and take actions.

Once you understand the four dimensions of Trust, you can diagnose the source of mistrust - and then decide to take action on it (or not: it’s important to note that Trust is a choice). Depending on the source of mistrust, there is a range of conversations necessary to bring Trust back to health. (The Thin Book gives you very useful scripts for these conversations, too.)

“Authentic” is the modifier that author and longtime collaborator David Hutchens added in more recent years to understanding Trust. “Authentic” means “adult” trust - earned and reciprocated and above all, nurtured. David worked extensively with the Covey organization for a few years – their ironically titled, 354-page tome The Speed of Trust is the exhaustive resource on Trust.

To make that work more digestible, he wrote a delightful and engaging learning fable called A Slice of Trust: The Leadership Secret with the Hot and Fruity Filling, which further condenses Feltman’s work into two elements: Who I Am (Sincerity & Care) and What I Can Do (Capability & Reliability).

I must have drawn a similar diagram large and small 200 times in the last 5 years, so I worked with illustrator Brad Talbott to design something memorable that I could print out and leave behind. Whether you want to use it as a biker-jacket patch, tattoo, beer label or something else, now you have it too.

Use your new powers for good.

The Leadership Center offers a two- to three-hour Authentic Trust workshop for your organization - hit us up to learn more about our range of team experiences.


Jody Lentz is a lifelong facilitator with a passion to create high-performance, low-drama work environments. His focus on supporting organizations to create and maintain better teams, better meetings and better decisions touches strategy, culture, leadership and innovation. Also, he worked for LEGO and lost on Jeopardy!