Trust is an Attitude

Man on HilltopWe’ve just read a great blog post by our friend and colleague, Kiran Kandade, about retaining talent in an organisation, and why high performers stay.

Kiran interviewed several high performers and employers and says:

Using the power of stories over statistics, narrative over numbers, and strengths over deficits, I found that talent retention elegantly divides itself into 2 themes – (1) how organizations treat their employees and (2) the environment they create for them to flourish.

The blog post deals with the first of these themes and what she discovered from the interviews … And the results are essentially more affirming than surprising.

She found five key elements:

1. Trust is an attitude
2. Recognition counts
3. Challenge and stretch
4. Sharing wealth
5. They’re Humans not Resources

These five important factors relating to how people are treated resonated very much for us.

Hands Holding PlantFrom our perspective, Kiran’s interviews affirmed what all good leaders and managers already know. That keeping good people is fundamentally about valuing them and their work and demonstrating that appreciation in a multitude of ways.

Appreciation is to humans what the sun is to plants. (Frank Iverson)

This relates very closely to the capacity a leader or manager has in relation to his/her Appreciative Intelligence®.  As Tojo Thatchenkery and Carol Metzker discovered in their own research, leaders with a high degree of Appreciative Intelligence® bring out the best in others –  because that is what they see.

After reading Kiran’s post, I reflected particularly on the first of the above elements. Trust is indeed an attitude! And building it is very much related to Appreciative Intelligence® and the capacity to see the best – as well as the potential and possibilities – in others.

As human beings we all have our strengths and weaknesses. We will shine at some things we attempt, but fall over completely at others. At times we’ll experience the buzz of success and the delights of achievement. At others we’ll fail, make mistakes, fall short of our own expectations and go through all the self-recriminations and ‘if onlys’ this entails.

I’m sure all of us can remember experiencing times like these – at both ends of the spectrum.

And when we’ve failed at something – or know we’ve not done well – the majority of us already feel bad enough without anyone else pointing it out. Indeed, human nature being what it is, a very common reaction if someone else takes us to task is to duck away from our own responsibility and blame the blamer! He or she becomes the bad person and we comfort ourselves with a protective shield of self-righteousness and justification. :)

Helping HandsOn the other hand, I imagine all of us – if we think back – can remember a time when we’ve achieved more than we thought possible  … because someone else believed we could.

It’s amazing how often the positive expectations of others can spur us to greater heights –  people who believe in us, who cheer us on and who value who we are and what we can contribute.

This is not rocket science, do I hear you say? Absolutely! :)

It’s a factor that has been identified many, many times in research from various fields. One of those includes research into what makes people most resilient, beginning with Emmy Werner’s work back in the 1950s. She was one of the first who became curious about how some people, in spite of devastating personal circumstances and/or ‘toxic’ environmental factors, managed to overcome these challenges to lead meaningful and purposeful lives.

Many others have followed Werner’s research with their own, strengthening the body of knowledge about what helps people overcome challenges and succeed. To name just a few: Bonnie Benard, Glenn Richardson, Sybil and Steven Wolin and our own Australian researcher in this field, Andrew Fuller.

Woman on HilltopFrom this wealth of research one thing, among others, is always a key. People have been most resilient when they have had at least one caring,  supportive relationship with someone else. Someone who, in essence, says “I care about you, I believe in you, you can do it, and you can succeed!

Everyone who has managed not only to bounce back from adversity but also grow in the process can usually identify someone like this who helped them do it  – a member of the family, a teacher, a coach, a colleague or a manager.

So … back to the topic of Kiran’s post. How do you keep good people?

First and foremost, remember that (as we say in Appreciative Inquiry) what you focus on will become your reality.  So:

  • Develop your capacity for Appreciative Intelligence® and genuinely see the best as well as the potential in others
  • Believe they can succeed and tell them so
  • Don’t focus on weaknesses, but shine the spotlight on strengths and possibilities
  • Ask them what help they may need from you to enable them to achieve what they are setting out to do
  • Provide the necessary support – but get out of the way
  • Trust them … because you can!

And if you do all this?  Your people will trust you in turn, perform better than they’d thought possible and become invaluable assets to your organisation.

But then … you knew that already, didn’t you. :)


  1. Kiran Kandade says

    Hi Sue. Why/how am I reading this only today after so many years? Thank you for citing my blog but I must admit you took my piece much farther and brilliantly so. Loved your article and how you’ve weaved AI in so well.

    Just to let you know that my website for Socrates Learning no longer exists, so your link to my blog is broken.

  2. Hi Kiran … I’m delighted you found this post, even after all this time. :) And thank you for the heads up that your Socrates Learning blog no longer exists. I’ve edited this post to remove the link and other references to reading the blog.

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