Rich Diviney: The Anatomy of Trust

As Director of Outreach for the Barry-Wehmiller Leadership Institute, Rich draws upon 20+ years of experience as a Navy SEAL Officer where he completed more than 13 overseas deployments. Rich’s purpose in life is to discover, inspire and accelerate the potential of human beings. We want to illuminate that potential by sharing his thoughts with you. Today we share The Anatomy of Trust, an article that pinpoints what trust really is and how necessary it is for high performing teams.

It’s late at night and you’re ready to head home after a night with friends. You call a cab and your ride shows up within a few minutes. The driver pulls out into the street and within a hundred yards runs into a telephone pole.

Fast forward a couple of days and you are in the same situation but when the car pulls up, you realize it’s the same driver! Would you get back into the car with that driver? Most of us would not.

Now change the situation and imagine the same scenario but that the driver is a close friend or family member. Would you get back into that car? Most of us would.

Why is this? Two identical situations – the only difference being the driver. Why does trust disappear with the first driver but not the second?

Some people think that trust is a feeling. We often hear or find ourselves saying, “I feel like I trust him or her.” However, a feeling is simply a human emotion and trust is more than just an emotion; trust is a belief. A belief is an emotion that is rationalized or justified. It doesn’t matter how it’s rationalized – or even if it’s correct – it only matters that it has meaning for that person. When this happens, it becomes a belief.

Due to a neat thing called “free will,” none of us can make another person believe something. All we can do is create an environment that allows another to decide on their own. So it goes with trust as well. Building trust is about creating an environment that allows someone to make a decision to trust you.

One way as leaders we create the environment where the people in our span of care can trust us is through our behaviors – except you cannot “behave” trust. However, there are behaviors that can lead to the belief of trust. They reside in four key components: compassion, integrity, consistency, and competence.

“I care about you as a human being” is compassion concisely. Caring behaviors are shown in different ways and can depend on the culture. We do know that there are some basic foundational, universal behaviors:
– Listen. Not the typical listening where, while someone is speaking, we are judging, preparing our response, or thinking about something else. This is the listening where you are “hanging on their every word” with the full weight of your attention and being. Listening in this way shows that you care and value the person.
– Walk a mile in their shoes. Empathy shows we are taking the time to understand another’s perspective.
– Recognize and celebrate people. Every human being needs to know that who they are and what they do matters. The best way to do this is through recognizing and celebrating the people in your span of care.

Synonyms include: honesty, morality, honor, and virtue. So what are some ways that we can act this out?
– Be honest
– Do the “hard right” vice the “easy wrong”
– Be accountable for your actions and seek accountability for mistakes

– Display stable performance over time
– Show up in a way that is predictable
– Make equitable decisions

– Do your job efficiently
– Pursue mastery
– Display initiative

In this way, we create something called the “Circle of Trust.”

High performance in organizations, teams, and relationships occurs when you have all four components of trust. Remember though: we typically trust from the outside in. Competence and Consistency are visible, measurable, and easy to assess quickly. If one or both of these fail, so goes the trust. This is the reason we don’t get back in the cab after the first failure but we do get back in the car with a family member. The family member has displayed Compassion and Integrity, which although less visible, hold great value.

As leaders, we have the opportunity to go first in building trust within our organizations by making the decision to extend trust up front. We have to both ensure an environment of Consistency and Competence, and also include caring for each human being in deep and meaningful ways. Trust takes effort and diligence. These are the things that many leaders skip – often because it is hard. We know from experience that the true work of leadership is when people and profits are equally valued. And that is an environment where trust can be built.

As a leader, are you building trust with your people in all four areas? Or are you focused only on what you can see?

Trust is a belief. Give your people a reason to believe in you.



The Barry-Wehmiller Leadership Institute exists to illuminate potential and ignite human connections so people have the opportunity to thrive. People like you. If you or your organization is interested in learning more, contact us at Don’t worry we don’t have someone named Info; a real human will be in contact with you shortly.

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