Recently, I inadvertently lost trust with a long-term client and personal friend due to a misinterpretation of a communication that was sent to him which I didn’t get a chance to reply to, as a result of his response not being forwarded on to me when I was away at a Leadership Conference over the weekend.


It resulted in a significant missed opportunity, but most importantly, it saddened me that this particular friend was made to feel the way he felt, without me knowing how he was feeling.


The event taught me some lessons I needed to learn – I need greater clarity in communication and better communication systems and flow in my newly re-structured office, and it highlighted the importance of formality and follow through, regardless of how busy I am. A phone call over the weekend would have resolved the matter, so there are many lessons that have been learnt.


Everything has now been resolved and formalised and we have moved on and there’s nothing else I could have done or can do to re-build whatever level of trust that was lost with this particular friend. He’s very successful in his own right, but he has been burnt in life and in business, which resulted in a major loss of trust.  It is certainly something I need to be more aware of regarding the level of sensitivity to what has transpired in his life.


We all have a lot going on – it’s not an excuse and I have to take responsibility for the lost opportunity that was the result of loss of trust. But most importantly, a certain level of trust was lost with a special friend whom I have a lot of respect for.


The entire matter has been resolved and we both now move forward – your past isn’t your future, so it’s now about re-earning trust.  I dearly wish that instead of re-earning trust, I was simply building on our past!


If you’ve been reading my prior articles, you’ll know I endeavour to live my life by a set of principles, the FLITU principles.


Family. Loyalty. Integrity. Trust. Unity.


And you’ve probably gathered by now that my article today is on the 4th FLITU principle –  Trust!


Every single day you have to focus on to earn, and re-earn trust, over and over.  It’s that important.  You cannot lead effectively if you don’t. And another important reminder I received from the weekend – you can’t rely on your own perception of how trustworthy you think you are!


You must have trust if you are to grow your influence and effective leadership is all about growing your Influence so that people will go over the top of that mountain with you in all weather conditions, which means they will follow you, through the good times and the hard, to achieve your vision


The more trust you have as a Leader, the more influence you have and the more people that will be following you.


Who trusts you?

Who doesn’t trust you?

What are you doing to earn trust daily?

 When you look behind you who is following you?


Good character builds trust and trust is, as we all know, the glue for all relationships.


Anybody can achieve short-term success but long-term success will be achieved only with long-term, loyal, trusting relationships.  You can’t do anything great in isolation.


Like it or not, relationships are the cornerstones of all serious business dealings.  People need to know there is a trustworthy human being on the other end of the phone or hand shake – someone that won’t run at the first sign of trouble, someone that isn’t only in the relationship for a fast buck.  People want to believe they won’t be hurt, let down, ripped off or disappointed.


Who’s hurt you?

Who’s let you down?

Who’s ripped you off?

Who’s disappointed you?

Have you hurt, let down, ripped off or disappointed others?


To become a person of influence – a Leader, a Vision Builder, you must first become a person of substance.


A person of substance has a depth and realness about them.


When all is said and done, the biggest mistake you can make is to deviate from the pathway of honesty and transparency, which will see you lose trust and therefore diminish your ability to influence people who follow you as the leader.


Your reputation is all you get to take with you to the grave.


What is your reputation? 

What is your character?


Your character builds the trust others have in you.


Character means trust is inside you.  It’s in you and it means that you value long term trusting relationships over money and success.  An influential leader sells out to earning and re-earning trust because they truly understand that money and success will come as a result of their exceptional character.


Authentic leaders make the decision, due to their attitude, to earn trust daily.


Just because you have trust today with someone doesn’t mean you will have trust tomorrow and when you lose trust it is so much harder to re-earn it and get it back.  To grow trust, you also have to ensure you have open and honest communication, ensuring there are clear expectations between all the individuals you surround yourself with – you all have to know what your expectations of each other are!  And by assuming the leadership responsibility for your actions, will grow trust.


Are you earning trust daily?

What must you do better to earn trust?

Are your results growing your credibility which grows trust?

Have you set clear expectations with the people you surround yourself with?

Do you know what is expected of you?

Where must you take greater leadership responsibility to earn trust?


Achieving your big vision means displaying consistent and predictable character as the leader, day in, day out, in public and in private.  That way, people will always know you can be trusted and that you are dependable. Remember, as the leader, your actions are always under close scrutiny.


“Look up, Harry.… you are no longer Colcord, you are Blondin. Until I clear this place, be a part of me, mind, body, and soul. If I sway, sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing yourself. If you do, we will both go to our death.” **


This is a quote from an incredible true story of trust that really impacted me to exactly what trust is – it’s the story of the life of French Acrobat, Jean François Gravelet, who is better known in the history books as Charles Blondin.  Charles Blondin was the first man to ever cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope. And he did so with no safety net or harness.  By the end of his career, it was reported that he’d crossed Niagara Falls over 300 times!  There were many instances where he carried a stove and cooking supplies to the middle of the Falls and cooked an omelette which he then lowered down to the people below on the Niagara Falls boat, The Maid Of The Mist.  Sometimes Charles liked to have a glass of champagne in the middle or carry a camera on his back and take a photo of the swarming crowds of onlookers, or hang upside down on the wire, or walk backwards across the tightrope.  But the time that he crossed the Falls that is a demonstration of true trust is the day that Charles’ manager, Harry Colcord, crossed with him, clinging to his back!!  What faith and trust in Charles’ ability!  Charles had displayed his skills on the tight rope over the Falls time and time again, in a multitude of varying conditions, that Harry Colcord could look past his fear and trust Charles to get them safely across to the other side. What a thrill ride to say the least!


Are your actions and results as a leader that dependable that it inspires absolute trust from your team?


We’re all human so it’s natural we mess up some times (case in point, last weekend), but we need give 100% to ensure we don’t knowingly act in a manner that breaks trust. We must also be vigilant that we don’t unknowingly break trust either (again, like last weekend for me).  When you do mess up, quickly apologise and move on the best you can, learning lessons from your mistake.


Who is following you?

What lessons can you learn from relationships that have been lost as a result of trust breaking down?

What must you do to grow trust with the people you surround yourself with?


Trust comes from the heart and spirit of a human being.  It is an attitude and it is a decision, and as I keep reminding myself and others, it’s a daily attitude and it’s a daily decision. You won’t build anything great if you don’t, and more importantly, you won’t have any real and lasting relationships.


So, let’s be men and women and let’s be leaders in whom others have complete trust – earnt by our words, our actions, in public and in private, day in and day out.


Thank you for taking the time to read my article.

I trust my articles can play a part in helping you grow your Leadership strength to live a better life!

Peter (Coxey)


Some other articles I’ve written on this topic (or similar ones) are:

Who Are You When No One Is Looking?

The Only Thing You Get To Take With You To Your Grave


**Read more:
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter