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Can “those people” be trusted?

3 min read


Do you spend more time thinking about why people can’t be trusted or why they can?


When planning large-scale change, or developing a communication strategy, do you ever find yourself focusing on the lowest common denominator? How much time do you spend thinking about why people can’t be trusted? Do you worry about what could go wrong if some faceless person does or says something stupid with the information you provide? Do you stress about what will happen if “those people” get a hold of the information prematurely?

Those people who:

  • just can’t understand the big picture
  • might cause a ruckus
  • might tweet out something sensitive
  • will over-react
  • view everything negatively
  • manipulate the system

If you are too worried about why people can’t be trusted, it’s tempting to create spin and talk with strategic ambiguity. With this approach, you may prevent bad behavior in a few outliers but you are likely to alienate the rest of the team. The good guys will know you are not telling the whole truth and see through your glossy storyboard. They may even question your motives.  Some of the good guys then become “those people,” too.  Keep at it long enough, and you’ll be surrounded by those people.

What about the people we trust?

What if instead we built our strategy around the solid majority of good guys — the ones we trust.

Those people who:

  • care deeply about doing a good job
  • understand the strategy when you explain it
  • get that businesses also need to make profits
  • run productive families and are active in the community
  • may even teach our children in Sunday school

What if we assumed most of the organization is smart, cares deeply, and wants to work hard? What if we communicated messages in the way we would want to hear them? Sure, there will still be people who do something stupid, and you can deal with that. In fact, the more you treat others with deep respect, the more likely the team will work to reject any member acting inappropriately.

Those people are smarter than you think. Those people will surprise you. Treat people with respect and the magic will follow.

See also:

A Matter of Trust:  Why I Trust You, Why I Don’t

Trusting Leaders

Karin Hurt is an experienced executive and leadership zealot whose favorite work is to ask questions and inspire others to look deeply within themselves as they grow as leaders. Connect with Hurt on her website, Facebook page or on Twitter.