The 10 Laws of Trust — Book Summary and Review

Building the Bonds That Make a Business Great

The bond that makes a business great is — trust.

Make these “10 laws of trust” central to your organization:

Laws of trust 1: Start with Personal Integrity

Promoting an organization as ethical only works if the leaders demonstrate integrity. If employees don’t see their senior executives as trustworthy, they will ignore efforts to impose a system that promotes honourable behaviour. Employees depend on their leaders. To sustain that trust, leaders need to align their actions with their words.

Besides being sincere, leaders must be competent and must execute efficiently.

Laws of trust 2: Invest in Respect

Leaders should show respect for all employees. Leaders should listen, without filtering everything through their own agendas, to everyone, from senior managers to the lowest-paid workers. Leaders should empower their staffers and encourage feedback from everyone, not just their top advisers.

“Trust wilts in the presence of leaders who absorb the limelight. It grows when they reflect it on their team members.”

In the best organizations, employees interact easily. For example, Google purposefully put the tables and chairs in its employee cafeterias in lengthy, tight rows. Employees bump into their colleagues when they get up or sit down. This is the “Google Bump,” which is meant to foster contact and conversation, especially among people from different levels of the company.


Laws of trust 3: Empower Others

When you give others independence and authority, you demonstrate trust. Google senior engineering director Thomas Williams believes in grassroots empowerment. He trusts the employees he supervises to work at their own comfortable pace. “If you work with great people, everyone is setting their treadmill high,” he explains.

“In low-trust organizations, communication is generally wanting. We may know what’s going on in our department, but when it comes to the company’s broader goals, we’re in the dark.”

The senior managers at Room & Board, a home-furnishings company, permit employees to outline and plan their own performance priorities. Three times a year, employees meet with their supervisors to discuss the progress of their work. The company also allows employees to plan how much time they take off from work. Other enlightened companies do the same. HubSpot’s vacation policy is two weeks to infinity.

Laws of trust 4: Measure What You Want to Achieve

Employees must know what their leaders expect of them and how senior managers will hold them accountable. Companies that prize accountability make sure that employees understand what winning looks like. All goals are precise, as are the firm’s expectations for its employees.

“It’s little wonder that team members don’t really trust what they’re being told if the targets are ever moving, hazy or en¬tirely unknown.”

In organizations that revere accountability, senior leaders give credit to those who accomplish their established objectives. These leaders accept responsibility if things don’t go as planned. This is in the spirit of the sports adage, Players take the wins; coaches take the losses. Trust disappears when leaders hog the limelight or blame others when projects go wrong.


Laws of trust 5: Create a Common Dream

Athletes on championship teams share a vision of success. The more tangible the vision is, the more likely the athletes are to accomplish their goals. In organizations, the more inclusive the mission is, the more trust it engenders.

“Hitching one’s interests to a counterparty can feel like authentic trust, but only until respective interests diverge.”

Your organization’s mission must be more than a mission statement. It should be meaningful to everyone your organization touches, without getting mired in jargon and lofty language. When choosing your mission, think big but simple.

Laws of trust 6: Keep Everyone Informed

Trust depends on communication. Leaders must inform their whole workforce about what is going on within the firm – good and bad. Employee satisfaction can fade in the face of inadequate internal communications. Workers need to know that the firm’s direction benefits them.

“The touchstones of mistrust can slow things down, drive away the most trustworthy people and inhibit innovation.”

Always tell the truth. If things aren’t going well let everyone know immediately. Bad news always comes out, but management’s failure to communicate it on a timely basis makes it worse by generating employees’ distrust. Once trust is gone, it’s extremely difficult to recover. Management should stay as positive as possible no matter what the news is.


Laws of trust 7: Embrace Respectful Conflict

Discord and disagreement are not, in and of themselves, negative. The open expression of different opinions within an organization builds trust. It demonstrates that the company is an open marketplace of ideas. Industrial designer Jerry Hirshberg developed the idea of “creative abrasion.” As he explains, organizations can transform ‘pregnant moments of friction and collision into opportunities for breakthroughs’.

“Trust grows when people relate to the mission of an organization and have leaders and employees committed to that mission.”

Such open organizations operate according to a basic principle: “The best ideas win.” Open debate calls for holding a forum for discovering the best ideas, which often turn out to be unorthodox fixes. In high-trust organizations, people want to examine and discuss all options to find the best possible solution. They face up to circumstances honestly, fearlessly and proactively.

Laws of trust 8: Show Humility

Some CEOs believe they are minor deities and act accordingly. Egotism is a huge turnoff to employees. It destroys trust and it’s never appropriate. As the late French president Charles de Gaulle put it, Cemeteries are full of indispensible men. Leaders who believe they are an irreplaceable focus too much on themselves and not enough on their organizations.

“The integrity of leaders is the sine qua non for a high-trust culture, and communication – through words, symbols, budgets and stories – is the fuel they use to power trust in their organizations.”

CEOs and other senior leaders should tell themselves: “It’s about the mission, not about me.” They should always honour the achievers in their organizations in a fitting, public way, recognizing high-performing employees in front of their peers and citing their achievements in detail. To earn trust and respect, CEOs and other top executives must be humble.


Laws of trust 9: Strive for Win-Win Negotiations

The best negotiations end with both sides getting something they want. Such negotiations enhance trust, but Zero-sum bargaining inhibits trust. People should never regard negotiations as stand-alone affairs. They should see negotiations in context as a series of ongoing conversations that make participants more inclined to work with and trust their negotiating partners.

“People will forgive you for not being the leader you want to be – but never for not being the leader you claim to be.” – ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer

As you negotiate, consider what the people on the other side want to accomplish – and respect their motivation. Seeing their interests as legitimate infuses the proceedings with trust.

Laws of trust 10: Proceed with Care

Niccolò Machiavelli in his book, The Prince, wrote, “It is much more secure to be feared than to be loved.” Employees may fear Machiavellian leaders, but they don’t trust them. Try to work with people you can trust. Choose them on the basis of their character, competency and authority.


How to Recover Broken Trust

People usually assume that those they deal with regularly are honourable and worthy of trust. Unfortunately, you can’t get a guarantee that someone is trustworthy. The best you can do is to associate with people who consistently exhibit integrity and responsibility, and hope for the best.

Despite your best efforts, betrayals may occur. Over the long term, some degree of betrayal is almost certain. It’s an unfortunate hazard and if it happens, it’ll hurt. Sometimes, betrayal is not personal; for instance, think of how you feel about Lance Armstrong. And, even if someone betrays you, reconciliation is possible.

Though you may not want to accept it, you are likely to bear some degree of responsibility in any betrayal. Fixing things may prove impossible, and it’s rarely easy, but do what you can to straighten out the problem – the sooner the better. Remember that restoration requires restitution and that reconciliation requires forgiveness – which usually benefits the forgiver far more than the forgiven. Never try to get satisfaction from your betrayer. That will only diminish you.

Read 10 Laws of trust yourself 🙂 It is a good read.

Click here to buy a copy.

Read 10 Laws Of Trust: Expanded Edition



Author: Muhamad Aarif

A notorious book addict by night and an oil and gas executive by day. As Mark Twain said, "The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." So, read, read, and read some more.

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