Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Who do you trust?

Trust is a popular corporate buzzword. It creates, according to Tom Peters in his seminal work "In Search of Excellence", the highest form of human motivation.

A person experiences trust when he realizes people or institutions or systems or equipment won't allow him to be hurt when he is vulnerable.

We are vulnerable when we buy a product or service, when we share private or personal thoughts, and when we take risks.

We are willing to follow people we trust because we believe our best interest is served by them. They won't hurt us. Trust lubricates the cycle of effectiveness where trusting thoughts influence trustworthy actions to impact positive results to build trusting relationships.


We trust doctors to heal us when we are sick or injured. We trust banks to secure our assets. We trust teachers to share the truth. We trust coaches to build skill and psyches. We trust institutions to protect our interests to propel the greatest good.

In the past six months two people I knew were critiqued in the media for betraying trust.

Joe Paterno lost his job for not protecting innocent children when he failed to report to Pennsylvania State Police a sexual assault by Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky is accused of committing additional acts of pedophilia after Paterno was aware of Sandusky's crime.

Dan Doyle, the embattled executive director of the Institute for International Sport in Rhode Island, reportedly siphoned considerable monies earmarked for the Institute and its efforts to use sports to promote goodwill. It appears he used these monies to invest in private properties, trips, and personal gain.

Before their public persona was punctured, both men appeared to stand for good values projected by their sports related programs. They used their programs as venues for others to develop trust in them. Joe's program touted high graduation rates and wins. Doyle's world scholar athlete games brought young athletes from warring countries together to play on the same team.

These men ultimately put their personal gain ahead of those they claimed to serve and they lost trust. Joe's image and his pursuit of the all time wins record for major college football took precedent over the safety and well being of young boys. Dan's image and fund raising took precedent over using sport to build young souls, and communities.

Selfishness trumped selflessness in both cases and both men, in the end, were vilified. It's disheartening, but not uncommon when common men are given uncommon power and control over their environments.

In both cases, the men were aligned with universities filled with good and virtuous people who were kept distant from taking a closer look at the way these men ran their regimes. Perhaps their achievements and affiliations stymied standard audits and assessments.

I was drawn to their advertised outcomes, but was less impressed with my one on one meeting with both men. Publicity and image can seduce the broad audience. I left both organizations before any scandal was evident.

Sharing their headlines is the retirement of Pat Summitt, the revered University of Tennessee basketball coach. I don't know Pat, but I've admired her from afar. She's suffering from Early-Onset Alzheimer’s and decided to leave her post before becoming a detriment to her players and the university; a trusting move.

All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

1 comment:

mark s. said...

Matt,

Some interesting points of view. I don't think the 2 examples you used are similar, altough they do both deal with trust. One deals with someone who didn't do something, one deals with someone who did do something (hence, the difference).

Trust does require a certain "vulnerability". Hopefully, our previous experiences afford us the insights necessary to effectively determine whom we will place our trust in.

As for situations of power, I am always reminded of: "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely."

I have always found a social conscience is an attribute I look for in those I trust.