Do you trust people when you meet them? Or do you make them prove themselves to be trustworthy until you grant them your trust?
I befriended two pretty famous people years ago who were in the national spotlight and they had diametrically opposite philosophies on this question of initial trust.
One told me he trusted no one when he met them. He came to this conclusion because there were a number of people to whom he gave his trust only to have them betray their word. After having this happen too many times, he concluded that people would have to exhibit trustworthiness before he would believe in them.
The other friend felt the opposite way. He afforded trust to people he met from the initial meeting. He certainly wasn’t a naïve person by any stretch of the imagination as he led a multimillion dollar company. He felt giving trust was the better way to do business.
In the group, Alabama’s song “Down Home,” the refrain states, “A handshake and a man’s good word is all you need.” Obviously, this philosophy does grant initial trust.
I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to this question for leaders. In my leadership roles, I elected to trust people initially and accepted their word that they would follow through on what they said. I did grow up in an environment where a person’s word was their bond.
Given this philosophy, I did get burned occasionally. There is no question about that. There are definitely people who are not trustworthy and who have the ability to look you in the face and lie. Knowing this, I still felt better beginning the relationship with trust – giving them the benefit of the doubt. If they proved to be untrustworthy, then I never again gave them my trust.
So, leaders have to decide if they begin a relationship by assuming the other person is trustworthy or do they make that person prove he or she is trustworthy?
I think each leader has to find their own way on this subject.
Looking back, I would not change. I have found that most people’s word is their bond.