Changing the Trust Equation


Changing the Trust Equation

Some people are inherently reluctant to change. Others embrace it. To accelerate the pace of change, you may need to change “the trust equation.”

In my book The Leadership Equation, I talk about how trust hinges on predictable expectations. If I do something for you, then I expect to get something in return. That’s the principle of reciprocal altruism. It’s at the root of trust. Changing the trust equation means animating the workplace with mechanisms of reciprocity that encourage change, rather than subvert it.


1) People need to believe that the change will result in an overall improvement in the way the company does business.

At Apple, what drove its momentous growth was a relentless focus on the user. CEO Steve Jobs created a culture that continuously experimented with new ways to surprise and delight customers.

Intel is another company with a relentless focus on change. With each new project, employees compete for positions on project teams. Those who bring the best ideas and proven skills get selected. Those who get left out are literally left without jobs. It’s “survival of the fittest,” and it creates a culture of continuous improvement, innovation, and success at Intel.


2) The most powerful way to accelerate the pace of change is to engage people in real, honest discussions.

Once people understand why continuous change is truly important for the company’s future success, it ignites a sense of ownership. This has nothing to do with compensation and everything to do with instilling a sense of purpose. Once people see what is truly essential for the company’s success, it unleashes the natural drive to improve.

With that idea in mind, it is the leader’s job to make sure this honest conversation is taking place regularly throughout the organization. That means reorienting yourself and understanding that this type of communication is the most important thing you can do.


3) To change the trust equation, you need to multiply the patterns of communication throughout the organization.

Internally, this means a focus on creating forums throughout your company where people can talk, share information, and continuously learn. It also means focusing on external communication. Since there is no “under the radar” anymore, leaders need to invent new ways to communicate and shape the rules of the game with customers, shareholders, and others.


Download the PDF – The Four Powers of Communication