Today’s post is the featured article from the March 2013 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription

john-newThere has been a lot written about trust in the last decade. It is probably a systemic reflection of the lack of trust that has evolved. You might say there is some rust in our trust.

Some great wisdom has been shared in these recent writings. I especially gained valuable insight in the works by Stephen M.R. Covey (The Speed of Trust) and my good friend, Joe Healey (Radical Trust). Stephen’s subtitle reveals the value of his work … The One Thing that Changes Everything. Likewise, Joe’s subtitle does the same … How Today’s Great Leaders Convert People to Partners. Both works reflect the imperative nature of trust.

Just over a decade ago, I wrote a cover story article titled Searching to Find Trust Again. A lot had happened in the months just preceding writing that article. There had been Enron, Worldcom and the related implosion of Arthur Andersen. We had witnessed the unthinkable on September 11th and the largest US airline declaring bankruptcy for the first time. In the same preceding months, news broke from the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston of a sex-abuse scandal that would spread beyond anyone’s imagination. So many examples coming week after week that would so visibly erode the very nature of trust.

You might say we were getting RUSTworthy.

As I wrote that article, my hope would be that there was a point where you could draw a line in the sand and begin to search for trust again. My prayers would be that there were mistakes made and powerful lessons learned on many fronts. I suppose those have been the hopes and prayers of many generations. The narrative of the decade to follow would not bring fulfillment to my hopes and prayers but it would not diminish them either.

It just made me think there was something more than trust. It wasn’t until I started writing GOOD to the CORE, years later, that I fell into the answer. It would be this issue of core values … personal and organizational. Every event that has diminished trust can be traced to the rusting of the core. That is if the core ever existed to begin with.

I would fully agree with Covey’s potent formula of character + competency = trust. I believe this is true on both an individual and organizational level. Yet, it is precisely core values that drive this formula on all levels.

Core values make your metal rust-proof.

And where there is no rust … you will generally find trust. Left unnoticed, rust will attack the constructive design of any metal. Unless it grabs your immediate attention (and you respond with immediate corrective action), it creates a destructive path of no return.

We can’t just desire trust. Nor can we demand it. We can certainly give it away … but there is no such gift that rust won’t eventually destroy. We have to deeply desire to work on the fabric of trust. And it is work. It is inspiring work, but it is work.

Core values are the work of great leaders.

I am fully convinced when leaders deeply embrace the hard work of core values you will rarely find rust. I also find that it takes a bold and courageous leader … who is willing to lose everything for the sake of intentionally defined core values! There you will find an organization that gains everything.

For leaders, I had typically thought of this as a process of discovery. But recently, I went back and re-read my own article on Searching to find Trust Again. It was there I realized, for many leaders, it isn’t a process of discovery at all.

It is a process of re-discovery!

My daughters, Kelly and Julie, will graduate from college in June and December respectively. That means when I wrote this article they were only in the fifth and fourth grades. As part of writing the article, I decided to do a little “trust” experiment with them. I simply asked them to make a list of descriptions of a great friend … the kind of friend you could really trust. Their combined elementary school list amazed me:

1.  Keeps secrets (i.e. respects confidentiality)
2.  Helps me when I’m hurting or don’t understand something
3.  Doesn’t leave me behind
4.  Doesn’t lie
5.  Helps people who don’t have many friends
6.  Cheerful
7.  Giving
8.  Kind-hearted
9.  Loving
10. Listens to what you have to say

Like a carefully refined metal, trustworthiness is fired into us. For we have always known … we started that way! As a leader, the important question is … will you end that way?

Rust finds metal … not vice-versa. Leaders who personally do the work of rediscovery, and lead their organizations to do the same, will soon discover they have nurtured trust in a genuine way. Rust will simply have to find another home.