Trust me! Not spoken here….

Liz Guthridge Posted by Liz Guthridge, Managing Director, Connect Consulting Group.

Liz Guthridge is a coach, consultant and facilitator who helps leaders turn their blue-sky ideas into greener-pasture actions. She uses applied neuroscience, behavior design and mindful communications. 


Trust me!  Not spoken here….

“Trust me.”

Do you still tell people to trust you?

If so, I hope you’re getting better results than I am.

Even my dog questions my words.

Last week when I told Gustav on one of our walks, “Trust me. Dolittle’s isn’t open on Sundays so we’re not walking in that direction,” he immediately quickened his pace and pulled me toward one of his favorite pet food shops.

Since he’s considerably stronger than I am especially when he’s on a mission, I followed him…and then sheepishly opened the door for him to enter the shop.

After apologizing to Gustav, I vowed to erase the expression “Trust me” from my vocabulary.

The phrase is problematic on several levels.

From the speaker’s perspective, it’s hard to be 100% accurate in today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world.

For example, the fast pace of asymmetrical change has affected even local stores and their hours of operations. We happened to be at the only one of the three Dolittle Charleston area stores that now offers Sunday shopping.

From the receiver’s perspective, the phrase “Trust me” can trigger a number of different thoughts, such as:

  • “Can I trust this person based on my past experiences with him or her?”
  • “Can I trust this person in this setting?”
  • “Does this person know what he/she is talking about?”
  • “Does this person have my best interests at heart?”
  • “I’m in the mood for a challenge. Let’s see if I can find evidence of whether or not this person is trustworthy.”

We’re living and working in an era in which trustworthiness continues to wane. Just look at the results from the 2015 Edelman TrustBarometer.

In the latest Barometer, academics, technical experts and “people like me” are the most trusted individuals, just as last year.

Nonetheless, their ratings (70%, 67% and 63% respectively) are nothing to brag about—unless you compare them with the ratings for CEO. Their credibility as spokespeople dropped from 46% to 43% in the latest barometer.

So what’s a CEO or other leader to do?

Lead with actions over words because actions speak louder than words. So rather than talk a big game, practice walking first, as described in this blog post, Try walking before talking.

And be a humble Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain’s fictional character who had a bias toward taking actions and building broad relationships.

Involve employees to help you figuratively “paint the fence” and enjoy the experience as Tom did. (See Channel Tom for change.)

When you involve others, people will see their peers—“people like me” who are trustworthy—not only making contributions but also a difference. This will make the effort more authentic, credible and trustworthy.

And there is a halo effect for leaders, certainly for the leaders I’ve been working with who have involved groups of their employees to implement new values, processes, technology and other initiatives that support company strategy.

Leaders can be viewed as trustworthy for showing more respect to employees as well as heading up an organization that gets things done efficiently and effectively.

And even better, they don’t have to waste time and energy saying “Trust me” and wondering if anyone—even a dog who wants to drive—will believe you.

How are you earning trust these days?