trust is a reward not a right

making it personal

By definition, trust is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

The other day, I watched a youth basketball coach release his frustration in front of everyone—parents, players, and the opposing team. He was angry. One of his players passed the ball over the head of another, turning the ball over to the other team at a crucial point before halftime. I couldn’t help but shake my head. How can a grown adult be so ignorant as to how youth, especially today’s youth, learn? I have met few adults, let alone youth, who feel like working harder, going further, or taking more risks after being spoken down to or embarrassed for trying to be good (or not bad) at what they’re doing.

Having played sports for much of my life, I know what it feels like when a coach makes it personal—when they make you feel like you never should have been born because you missed a pass or turned the ball over, all while living under the pressure of trying to be good and please an adult (coach).

safe enough to fail

I believe trust is a reward, not a right. This is true of any relationship, to include that of a coach/player relationship. The best way to get the most out of any relationship is to create an environment where trust is more important than any apparent success. Again, this is when a player, employee, or even your own child will give you all they’ve got.

When I coached, I would ask myself, “Do my players feel safe enough to fail? Can they trust me and my emotions? Do they know that their best is good enough?” This same principle can be applied to our spouse, children, grandchildren, co-workers, and employees. Trust is what happens when authenticity and transparency are greater priorities than any apparent perfection.

There have been great people with great intentions who make it too hard for anyone to trust them. They cannot control their emotions or haven’t learned how to use failure as a tool to create more trust versus destroy it. Trust is a reward, not a right; it's the reward of doing a number of other things right. 

We can look at trust as a bicycle. You have to have all parts—a frame, gears, wheels, and a chain—in place and working in order for it to exist. Trust works the same way.

how to create trust

Here are a few of the parts that work together to create trust:

Character - Demonstrating integrity and doing the right thing when we think no one is looking goes a long way. People are drawn to, and trust, those who are honest even when it costs them something. The opposite is true, too. When people see us act one way in front of one person and then another way in front of someone else, they consciously or sub-consciously learn that we cannot be trusted because our opinion changes based on our circumstance or audience. 

Consistency - Trust takes time and consistency. When others get to see us behave the same way over a period of time, they learn that there is something about us that seems to be true and authentic. Generally speaking, most people have been hurt by someone they once trusted and are hesitant to trust again. An inability to trust can be overcome over time, which is why consistency is so important. 

Communication - Communication builds trust. When we communicate, especially before we have to, we build trust. This lets those who are following us know that we are aware of their questions or suspicions. To the contrary, when we fail to communicate, we create doubt arising from the gaps left from our lack of communication. 

Courage - Creating trust requires the courage to be strong and stand for what we believe in. Believe it or not, when we demonstrate courage by communicating how we feel when we’ve been hurt or disappointed, it actually builds more trust, not less. In parenting, for example, kids do not like to be disciplined in the moment but all research points to the fact that they appreciate it (though they cannot communicate that) because it creates boundaries and makes them feel safe. This is what happens when we’re courageous enough to say how we feel or articulate what we see. 

Confession - Those we’re in relationship with are not looking for perfection, they’re looking for authenticity and transparency. Never, ever waste a good opportunity to apologize! Mistakes create opportunities to take responsibility for our actions, and this breeds trust. Imperfections or failures can serve as a steroid for strengthening trust. The more honest we are about our shortcomings, the faster and stronger trust can grow. 

Trust is a reward not a right, and it’s worth it to earn it.