Trust 400x265As we spend time working on engagement and talent management, we might do well to look at trust within our business.

Research on levels of trust reveals that we have far deeper issues than developing the right talent.  If we do not trust our managers and business leaders, then any talent we do bring in or develop is going to be lost in the “valley of mistrust.”

The findings of the study by Cass Business School showed stronger levels of trust in immediate line managers than in senior leaders – as we might expect given the usual tendency to blame “them” for decisions that we disagree with.

So what makes up our decision on whether to trust a leader or not?  The research identified four drivers listed here in priority order:

  • Benevolence – are leaders self-serving or displaying interest in others?
  • Integrity – do we see honesty and a moral code we can identify with?
  • Ability – are leaders capable of running the business?
  • Predictability – is there consistency in the way leaders behave?


It strikes us that the traditional view that managers must have all the right answers and never be seen as weak, is more damaging now than ever before.

We want an engaged team of talented people to lead us forward to great success, and so we need their trust.  A great place to start is in trusting our own teams.  How can we expect people to trust us if we are not willing to trust them first?  By showing interest in others and owning up to mistakes, we may just start to plug the gap in the vast valley of mistrust.


  • Trust is a critical component to building engagement – and it’s severely lacking
  • Where trust levels are low, the greatest improvements are seen when leaders trust their teams, admit mistakes and apologise
  • As Veronica Hope Hailey of Cass Business School put it:  “People don’t want cheer leading, they want leaders who create trust”

Further Reading

We’ve found this book by Robert Hurley to be particularly useful.  Hurley reveals amongst other things, a proven Decision to Trust Model (DTM) of ten factors that establish whether or not one party will trust the other.  It’s fascinating stuff!