Trust Inspires Growth and Success

Trust inspires excellence. When we trust our team, we elevate their status and inspire them to exceed their own expectations. By trusting others, we can breathe life into them.

Expectations and Trust

In 2000, President George W. Bush coined the phrase, “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” He was speaking to the NAACP about discrimination that results when we expect people to do less than their potential.

Many studies have shown that people who think of themselves as high-achievers generally surpass those who do not, even if there is no evidence to support the supposition. One of the earliest studies on this subject was done in 1968 by Rosenthal and Jacobsen. To quote a recap from Sonia Nieto,

In this study, several classes of children in grades one through six were given a nonverbal intelligence test (the researchers called it the “Harvard Test of Influenced Acquisition”), which researchers claimed would measure the students’ potential for intellectual growth. Twenty percent of the students were randomly selected by the researchers as “intellectual bloomers,” and their names were given to the teachers. Although their test scores actually had nothing at all to do with their potential, the teachers were told to be on the alert for signs of intellectual growth among these particular children. Overall these children, particularly in the lower grades, showed considerably greater gains in IQ during the school year than did the other students. They were also rated by their teachers as being more interesting, curious, and happy, and thought to be more likely to succeed later in life.⁠1

Who Trusts First?

Do you trust your team? How do you react when someone delivers bad news? Do you ask for a second opinion? Do you doubt the information, until you hear it for yourself? Can you trust the person who delivered the message?

We enter every relationship with a predefined set of expectations. When I first took a management position, I felt that everything I knew and over half of what I didn’t know was bad. I felt like my expectations were seldom met and we seemed to always come up short. Once I developed that attitude, it seemed that all of my experience lined up. My results seldom exceeded expectations in a good way.

Trust, like respect and excellence, is contagious. When I trust someone, I create room for them to operate. As they continue to earn trust and I give more, they grow. And their growth reflects their environment. Garbage in, garbage out. Trust in, trust out . . . most of the time. Trustworthy people want to earn the trust you give. When a trustworthy team member is trusted, they respond not only with trust, but with effort and results to backup your trust.

The exception comes with people who are not “worthy of trust.” People who are not worthy of trust aren’t those who have some type of class distinction or birth defect. These are people who haven’t earned trust. But how does one earn trust? Use short feedback loops.

Feedback Loops

A feedback loop is the time between the action and the feedback. Grant small opportunities for people and see who responds. Don’t give your team the answers all the time? Coach them to ask better questions of themselves. Help them make better choices. Give them opportunities to grow.

Trustworthy people respond to trust by earning more. With short feedback loops, you will identify the people you can trust quickly. Over time, you can increase the trust and the length of time in a feedback loop. Eventually, you will have a team of self-developing high-achievers.

Or not. But even if you don’t, you can’t blame your team. Most people will respond positively. The leader must try different responses and methods to give team members every opportunity. Yes, others must earn the trust, but the leader creates the environment for success.


1 Nieto, Sonia. Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education, White Plains, NY: Longman Publishers USA, 1996, p. 42.

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