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  • Barb Bickford

The impact of trust

Updated: Nov 7, 2022


A carefully balanced pile of smooth stones

Recently I recommended to the leaders of a non-profit board that they look more closely at how trust impacts their operations. They were focused on tasks such as creating governance documents -- and quickly.


They didn’t quite see the connection between trust and getting things done. (Many people don't.) Here is what I told them, with identifying details removed.


As Stephen M.R. Covey says, "nothing is as fast as the speed of trust." Trust -- or lack of it -- impacts everything your board does and things you care about. For example, when your board members trust one another and have a clear purpose, you can change direction quickly after unexpected events.


Trust, or lack of it, likely also can impact whether or not your group receives resources (volunteers, donations, and endorsements) for implementing your programs.


Trust shows up in behaviors that enable boards and organizations to thrive. Generally speaking, when trust is high, people can vulnerably raise differences of opinions and pertinent facts, they disagree in a healthy way, they easily make commitments, they follow through, and the organization as a whole gets the results they want, in less time (and with fewer long meetings!).


In contrast, when trust is low or eroding, people may not follow accepted procedures and may do "end runs" around them. The resulting dysfunction slows things down and saps the emotional energy of group members.


Erosion of trust can happen quickly and take a long time to repair. It may ripple out and cripple an organization. I'm sure you can think of examples of this happening in groups to which you have belonged.


As a consultant, I'm looking for ways to help your board shift both what it does and how you do it, so that you can work well together and so those outside your group -- potential members, volunteers and funders -- will eagerly support your mission.


For me, the choice is not "either work on trust OR work on tasks." For me, the question is "How can I help your group build and maintain healthy relationships AND clarify its roles, responsibilities, processes, structures, goals and priorities?"


I will weave trust-building into whatever we do. It may not be front and center, but it will be there.


Building trust will make your group's work easier, save time (both total time and elapsed time), relieve the stress of contentious/toxic relationships, invite gifts of resources like money and time, and help you all get back to focusing on projects in line with your core purpose.


Besides all that, trust makes group work more fun! (If you want to be notified about new articles and more, sign up for our news emails)

Photo credit: Zdenec Machacek on Unsplash

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