Building Trust: 4 Primary Ways Trust is Broken

September 9, 2013 — Leave A Comment


“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” ~ Steven Covey

What does someone have to do to lose your trust?

You might think the answer that just popped into your head is the same one everyone would have, but that’s not necessarily true. Turns out people define trustworthiness in different ways, and watch for different behaviors to determine whether someone is worthy of trust.

As Ken Blanchard says in his book, TrustWorks:

“Trust is in the eye of the beholder.

What does that mean? It means that you can be completely unaware that your behavior is eroding the trust of those around you. What looks like fine behavior to you could make your friend, spouse, boss, employee, or constituent downright wary.” ~ Ken Blanchard, TrustWorks

In Trustworks, Blanchard identifies four primary categories of “trustworthiness” people use as a filter for determining who is or isn’t worthy of trust. He calls it the ABCD Model of Trust:


There are several useful insights here for leaders (or, really, anyone looking to build trust in their key relationships):

  • People tend to assign greater value to one or two of the trust categories.
  • These are often not the same categories that you value most.
  • This means that you can break trust with someone without even realizing you’re doing it (and vice versa) ~ not because either of you is insensitive or uncaring, but simply because you define trustworthiness differently.

For example, let’s say your key measure of trust falls under the Able category. You trust people who get stuff done, and do it well. But several of the key people on your team value the Connected category most. So how do you suppose it will impact them if you hold “no nonsense” meetings that include little or no time given to connect with each other more personally before diving into the work? Yep. Your team will begin losing trust in you…and you won’t have any idea it’s happening until toxic resentment and suspicion start gumming up the works of productivity.

So how can you apply this model to help avoid breaking trust with your team? Or to rebuild trust if it’s already been broken? I’ll toss out some practical ideas in the next post.

For now, though, take some time this week to consider:

  • Which of the four categories of trust matters most to you?
  • Which category are you most likely to overlook or dismiss as less important? (Hint: This is the area where you’ve most likely broken trust with others without realizing it.)

(This is Part 2 of a Series on Building Trust. Here’s Part 1.)

Michael Warden

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Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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