How Do You Get Your Colleagues To Trust You?

How Do You Get Your Colleagues To Trust You?

8:18am May 15, 2015
"[Trust is] the willingness to sacrifice for another human being." — Simon Sinek
"[Trust is] the willingness to sacrifice for another human being." — Simon Sinek
James David Duncan / Courtesy of TED

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Trust And Consequences

About Simon Sinek's TED Talk

How do you create trust? Management theorist Simon Sinek says it starts with a leader who makes people feel safe.

About Simon Sinek

Simon is the author of the books Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and Leaders Eat Last. An ethnographer by training, Sinek is an adjunct of the RAND Corporation. He writes and comments regularly for major publications and teaches graduate-level strategic communications at Columbia University.

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So on the show today, we're talking about trust.

SIMON SINEK: Trust is absolutely essential for human survival.

RAZ: This is Simon Sinek.

SINEK: Until we feel that we can rely completely on the person to the left of us or the person to the right of us, we can't really achieve anything great.

RAZ: Simon's consulted everyone from CEOs of large companies to Congressmen all about how they can cultivate trust, which can be tricky because sometimes, trust works in illogical ways. For example...

SINEK: It's just this weird thing that we trust people like us even if they're not qualified.

RAZ: So let's say you're on vacation in Paris.

SINEK: Standing in the Paris Metro, and some people, you know, next to you turn around and say, hey, where are you guys from? You're from Los Angeles. Oh, my God. We're from New York. And you, like, bond, and you're, like, other Americans. And then they say to you, hey, you've got to try this restaurant. It's so good. And you'll turn to your family and say, hey, we're going to go to this restaurant because these strangers who aren't even from Paris told us we should go there.

RAZ: (Laughter).

SINEK: It's just so funny to me. We feel that someone like us has our interest in mind because they're going through the same experience.

RAZ: Yeah.

SINEK: And that's where the trust comes from. Whereas if a Frenchman turned to you and randomly said, welcome to our country; you should try this restaurant. You'd be like, you're a weirdo.

RAZ: Yeah.

SINEK: What're you telling us this for? We are not going there. And he's far more likely to know something off the beaten path.

RAZ: Yeah, exactly. He would know, and he's just being friendly, saying, actually, you don't want to go there. You want to go there.

SINEK: Exactly.

RAZ: But we're thinking, maybe he works for that other restaurant.

SINEK: Yeah.

RAZ: But he's just a friendly foodie.

SINEK: Just a friendly foodie.


RAZ: Now, this might sound counterintuitive, right? And you might end up in a really horrible restaurant. But what Simon is getting at is that when we're surrounded by people who are like us in some way, we trust them. Here's the opening from his TED Talk.


SINEK: Trust is a feeling, a distinctly human experience. Simply doing everything that you promise you're going to do does not mean people will trust you. It just means you're reliable. And we all have friends who are total screw-ups, and yet, we still trust them. Trust comes from a sense of common values and beliefs.

And the reason trust is important is because when we are surrounded with people who believe what we believe, we're more confident to take risks. We're more confident to experiment, which requires failure, by the way. We're more confident to go off and explore knowing that there is someone from within our community, someone who believes what we believe, someone we trust and who trusts us will watch our back, help us when we fall over and watch our stuff and look after our children while we're gone. Our very survival depends on our ability to surround ourselves with people who believe what we believe.


RAZ: It's the TED Radio Hour from NPR. I'm Guy Raz, and today on the show, trust and consequences.


RAZ: We were just hearing from Simon Sinek. He writes and speaks about leadership and trust. And one of the things he's noticed is that at the best companies, when there's no trust, the companies are usually in trouble. So for example, several months ago...

SINEK: I was boarding an airplane, and I was witness to a scene of a passenger who attempted to board the aircraft before their group number was called. And the gate agent sort of berated him. You now, step aside, Sir. I haven't called your group. Wait until I call your group. And I spoke up. I said, why can't you talk just like we're human beings? And she looked me in the eye and said, Sir, if I don't follow the rules, I could get in trouble or lose my job. All she revealed to me is that she does not feel safe in her own job. All that she revealed to me is that her own leaders don't trust her.

RAZ: What's the connection between feeling safe and trust?

SINEK: They're inextricably linked. The sense of feeling safe comes first. So when we feel safe, trust will emerge. And this is what the foundations of leadership really are. The reason we call someone leader is because they choose to go first. They choose to extend trust first, even before maybe any signs have been offered that they should. It's the willingness to express empathy before anyone else.

RAZ: And presumably, that feeling changes behavior.

SINEK: Absolutely. And when we assess that someone would do that and we see that they have that integrity and they would willingly sacrifice their interest for our lives, we cannot help ourselves. The natural human response is trust.


SINEK: Bob Chapman, who runs a large manufacturing company in the Midwest called Barry-Wehmiller, in 2008, was hit very hard by the recession. And they lost 30 percent of their orders overnight. Now, at large manufacturing company, this is a big deal, and they could no longer afford their labor pool. They needed to save $10 million. So like so many companies today, the board got together and discussed layoffs, and Bob refused.

And so they came up with a furlough program. Every employee, from secretary to CEO, was required to take four weeks of unpaid vacation. They could take it anytime they wanted, and they did not have to take it consecutively. But it was how Bob announced the program that mattered so much. He said, it's better that we should all suffer a little than any of us should have to suffer a lot. And morale went up.

They saved $20 million, and most importantly, as would be expected when the people feel safe and protected by the leadership in the organization, the natural reaction is to trust and cooperate. And quite spontaneously - nobody expected - people started trading with each other. Those who could afford it more would trade with those who could afford it less. People would take five weeks so that somebody else only had to take three.

And this is the point, which is, as human beings, if those in, especially, leadership position express empathy for our wellbeing, we reward them with our trust and our loyalty and our love to see that their vision in the company is advanced.

RAZ: I mean, why do you think it's such a powerful emotion or feeling because when it's betrayed, it can be devastating.

SINEK: These things are hard to put into words because they're hard to measure, but they're alive and well. I wish we could just say, you know, how does an engine work?

RAZ: Yeah.

SINEK: You know, it's not mechanical, and I think that's what makes it so elusive, is there's no formula. Like, what are the seven steps to forming trust?

RAZ: Right.

SINEK: I don't have them. I mean, I can tell you some really important things that you should do, but if you follow the list, you still won't develop trust with someone. That's the problem. We're so obsessed these days with giving me a list, and let me check off the boxes and sort of don't I feel good - on to the next. And we forget that these very human things require us to sacrifice.


SINEK: And it can come in any form - you know, time or energy. But I think the foundation of trust really is the willingness to sacrifice for another.


SINEK: I heard a story of some Marines who were out in theater. And as is the Marine custom, the officer ate last, and he let his men eat first. And when they were done, there was no food left for him. And when they went back out in the field, his men brought him some of their food so that he may eat because that's what happens.

We call them leaders because they go first. We call them leaders because they take the risk before anybody else does. And when we ask them, why would you do that? Why would you give your blood and sweat and tears for that person? They all say the same thing - because they would've done it for me. And isn't that the organization we would all like to work in? Thank you very much.


RAZ: That's Simon Sinek. He's the author of the books "Start With Why" and "Leaders Eat Last." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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