Bridging the Gap to a High-Trust Workplace

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs on the relationship between trust and success. It was a yet untested version of my regular talk, tailored to this audience to focus on more business development than team building. Despite my comfort level with the topic, I wasn’t sure how it would go.

Fortunately the ideas I introduced for building trust and creating connection, inspired by and aligned with my C-IQ (Conversational Intelligence) training, seemed to resonate with most of the audience, and after an engaging hour, the presentation was coming to a close.

I intended to wrap up with something inspirational, while also reconnecting to the focal point of the presentation;  trust.

This burst of inspiration had been undeniably last minute, stemming from earlier that day when I was struck by how so much recent media calls trust into question, and how this might be effecting society at large. I had Googled it and immediately my suspicion was confirmed; up popped the first page of hundreds of links to articles on this very subject.

There it was; my inspirational close; an invitation to the audience to be the change by incorporating the trust-building tools I’d introduced in my talk into their future communications. I was convinced it would be so well received, I envisioned myself basking in rounds of enthusiastic applause.

Irony can be so subtle. Had I followed my own advice to the audience and been tuned in enough to realize they needed further context to warm up to this suggestion, I would have done things differently. I wish I could say that was what happened.

Instead, I delivered a close that was misconstrued as political commentary by this highly sensitive audience of the hosting firm’s customers, clearly triggering an older gentleman seated in the front of the room. His hand shot up. “Where did you get this information about public mistrust levels”? he demanded to know. I answered competently I thought, but his hair was still standing on end when he stormed out. Needless to say not the ending I’d envisioned.

It wasn’t until then that the question occurred to me to consider the word “trust”, as a “feelings” or emotionally driven term, could cause discomfort in some people. This is not to say the topic should be avoided. In fact, it’s more critical now than ever.

In its 2016 global CEO survey, PwC reported 55% of CEOs cite lack of trust as a threat to organizational growth.

Fortunately there is a better way to approach a potentially sensitive topic, one that may relate to emotions, is to validate shared meaning. C-IQ founder Judith Glaser calls this practice double clicked, or drilling further down into concept-centric words to find the hidden meaning.

I could have asked my audience what role they thought trust plays in communications. Instead, I just told them my version and expected that since I presented research-based evidence to support my claims, we were all on the same page.

Ultimately the surveys that came back from the talk were overwhelmingly positive. Yet I know a small percentage of the audience was not fully open to the concepts I presented, in spite of the science. They were held back by the word “trust”. By using this emotionally and more recently politically loaded term without first exploring our shared meaning ironically had people wondering whether they could actually trust me!

This was a potent reminder that whether we’re coaching, managing or just casually communicating, the practice of establishing shared meaning is critical to assure we’re speaking the same language and truly understanding each other.

Is miscommunication, lack of trust or low engagement negatively effecting performance in your team or workplace? I have the tools and programs to get your team on the same page. Contact me at elizabeth@theborelligroup to schedule a free 30 minute consultation, today!


Conversational Intelligence; Judith Glaser, 2016 Bibliomotion,

Your Brain at Work; David Rock, 2009 McGraw Hill

Confirmation bias:

On trust;

PwC Survey:


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