Training Today: Why Is Extending Smart Trust Smart?

There are three primary reasons: It produces results. It increases trust. And it generates reciprocity.

According to Stephen M.R. Covey and Greg Link, authors of “Smart Trust: Creating Prosperity, Energy, and Joy in a Low-Trust World,” there are three primary reasons extending Smart Trust is smart:

  1. It produces results. Why? Because extending trust to people inspires them. It brings out the best in them. It motivates them. In fact, the reason extending trust is so powerful is because to be trusted is the most compelling and sustainable form of human motivation.
  2. It increases trust. It’s somewhat ironic that one of the best ways to increase trust is to simply extend it. There are many reasons for this. Trusting people inspires them to want to be worthy of that trust. It brings out the best in them. It helps them develop their capabilities. They perform, and the results of their performance generate more trust, facilitating an even greater extension of trust to them. The result is increased trust. As Frito-Lay CEO Al Carey told the authors, “If you trust people, they start leaning in and you see their best selves. You see their best work. They bring the best of their abilities to the party. You get 50,000 people working like this, it’s going to be great.”
  3. It generates reciprocity. When we give trust to people, they tend to give it back. When we withhold trust, they withhold it in return. In teams and organizations, giving trust manifests in greater employee engagement and retention, increased customer loyalty and referrals, and other economic benefits. A Paul Zak study showed that sending intentional signals of trust created reciprocity that resulted in a nearly threefold increase in economic returns. Leaders who deliberately extend trust typically find the people in their organizations far more willing to place trust in them and their leadership. Thus, the reciprocal process becomes a virtuous upward cycle, all triggered by that first extension —sometimes leap—of trust.

For more information, visit

Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training Top 100 and Emerging Training Leaders.