Rules for Deciding Who to Trust
By Maribeth Vander Weele
One of the most difficult aspects of leadership is deciding who to trust. When a confidante has a dark agenda, misplaced trust can have incalculable ramifications: lost revenue, lost reputation, and lost morale. To navigate a complicated web of advice and agendas, leaders need more than just gut instinct. Good judgment requires developing a framework for decision-making based on intuition and logic, grounded in facts.
Particularly in work cultures that operate on trust, it begins by challenging the core assumption that all confidantes have the organization’s best intentions at heart. In evaluating whether other motivations may be in play, follow these rules.
Rule 1: Don’t Accept “Fog”
If something doesn’t make sense, somebody’s making money. It’s a truism, but a course of action that defies logic may reflect a darker agenda. When advice or actions don’t conform to common sense, leaders should seek a second objective opinion. Famed Investor Warren Buffet said, “Never invest in a business you can’t understand.” The same is true for accepting advice. True professionals explain the logic behind their recommendations, enabling the leader to achieve clarity of thought about the matter. Although they are compensated for their wise advice, advisers with integrity never recommend actions contrary to your best interests for the sake of promoting their own.
Rule 2: If You Encounter Resistance, Hit Harder
Those with dark agendas cannot provide clarity because the only logical explanation is one they do not want you to hear. When fog doesn’t work, defensiveness, resistance and even belligerence come next. Those with dark agendas rely on your desire to avoid confrontation and trust that enough resistance will force you and your questions to go away. So when being bullied, don’t back away. Push harder.
Rule 3: Value Intuition
Intuition and logic are not mutually exclusive. Particularly when information is scarce, intuition can be invaluable in prodding the leader to gather more information. In situations of potential fraud, it is important to initiate a fact-finding process through due diligence and investigations. Many great decisions begin with intuition, followed by a logical analysis that provides stunning clarity.
Rule 4: Defend Your Reputation – Don’t Assume Truth Will Win Out
The discovery of a hidden agenda can draw fierce opposition from wrongdoers, accompanied by bewilderment from well-meaning members of the team. The accused becomes the accuser and lashes out with allegations. In this case, defend your reputation and immediately correct errors of fact and erroneous conclusions. Unrefuted allegations stand as truth and, in the age of the Internet, can be forever memorialized as history. While some leaders fail to take action because they believe truth will win out, those imprisoned for crimes they did not commit know better. In a global and philosophical sense, truth will win out – but not without great pain to those lacking the discernment and courage to challenge those bent on dark agendas.
Rule 5: Once Trust is Broken, Terminate the Relationship
Watch for misrepresentations of truth and understand that one small lie or theft is typically only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If trust is broken, the leader should terminate the relationship or, at minimum, get out of harm’s way by reducing contact and information flowing to that individual. A person who steals or lies once demonstrates a moral deficiency that invariably applies to other areas of his or her work life. The situation will get only worse.
- In Leadership