Lessons Learned When Trust is Broken & What it Takes to Rebuild It

February 6, 2019

In the January Round Table meetings, we discussed the topic of “Lessons Learned When Trust is Broken & What it Takes to Rebuild It.”

As a reminder, our next event will be the annual Leadership Summit at the University Club of Grand Rapids on March 22, 2019 featuring Dave Kahle, President of Kahle Way Sales Systems. Dave will be speaking on the topic of “Overcoming the Overwhelm: The System is the Solution.” There will also four additional speakers giving focused module presentations. Click here to learn more and to save your seat!

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Below are the notes from the January Round Table meetings.

Plymouth Round Table

Q1: What drives people or groups to betray a trust?  Is it always intentional?

Drivers for betrayal: Greed, Jealousy, Laziness, Fear, Lust, Ego, Hate, Ignorance, Hidden Agendas, Not understanding what drives other involved parties.

Breaking of trust is often intentional, but not always. Unintentional breaches of trust can be caused by miscommunication, misunderstanding, fear of confrontation, and lack of leadership qualities.

Examples Discussed:

  1. How the news media is inconsistent with it’s message and reports skewed opinions instead of facts to promote their hidden agendas.  Nobody trusts the news media, they lack integrity.
  2. The cover up and lack of action regarding the sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Church was a breach of trust with their members and the public in general.
  3. The general situation with regards to Washington DC politics. The rampant partisanship and blatantly disingenuous behavior by many politicians has created a situation of genuine mistrust of the government by the citizens that they are supposed to serve.

Q2: In what ways can trust be broken?

The breakage of trust results when an expected action or output does not occur, often repeatedly.

Typical ways that trust is broken: Lying, Disingenuousness, Cheating, Lack of Support, Apathy towards a wrong situation, Cowardess, Acceptance of wrong-doing.

Examples Discussed:

  1. Gillette’s “Toxic Masculinity” commercial attacks many traditional male values, basically stating that all all males with traditional values are guilty of discrimination or abuse of some type. This has left many traditional males feeling attacked for something that is blatantly false, on a very large/public stage, with no ability to defend themselves.  This unprovoked/unwarranted attack has broken any trust that many had with Gillette and the marketing media.
  2. Recently, the Boys Scouts of America have been under attack on many levels by the news media, again for instances of sexual abuse and for promoting traditional male values. This is just another example of a hidden agenda being promoted in a very public/disingenuous way by the news media, further eroding all trust in their values and what they report.

Q3: For trust breakages that you either caused or endured, that were able to be repaired, how were they repaired and how long did it take?

Often a genuine apology regarding your actions, with an explanation of why you took these actions, will repair a broken relationship.  The nature of the incident, the scope of the damage, and the commitment to forgive the slight all contribute to how long it will take to rebuild the trust.  There is no guarantee that the trust can be repaired.

Q4: For the trust breakages that you’ve endured or caused, that have not yet been repaired, is there a still a chance that they can be repaired?  Why or why not?

There is an old saying that “time heals all wounds”.  There is some truth to this in that, over time, the offending party has the ability to further demonstrate a change, support a position, or consistently take a course to rebuild the trust.  While we may not always be able to repair a broken trust, we often learn more about ourselves and others involved, further honing our beliefs/values.

Q5: We live in a world where trust at all levels is eroding or has disappeared altogether.  How do we prevent further degradation? How do we rebuild this within our families, communities, nation, & world?

If we all followed the directions/examples of God and Jesus, the world would not have trust/integrity issues.  Unfortunately, we do not.  To improve the world, we must be leaders.  We must understand and be true to our core Christian values and expect the same of others.  We must practice fairness, compassion, honesty, kindness, & forgiveness.  We must have the courage to support what is right and to fight what is wrong.  We must hold ourselves and others accountable to these high standards.

Examples Discussed:

  1. The fall of G.E. under the leadership of Jeff Immelt and the apparent apathy of the G.E. Board (and it’s lack of accountability for this).
  2. The falls of Sears and K Marts as retail giants.

Bible Guidance Regarding Building/Maintaining Trust:

Be Humble:

Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. – Ephesians 4:2 (GNTD)

Offer Forgiveness:

Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ. – Ephesians 4:32 (GNTD)

Communicate Well:

Remember this, my dear friends! Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry. – James 1:19 (GNTD)

Have Patience:

Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. – Romans 12:12 (GNTD)

Birmingham Round Table

Q1: What are some business examples that have elements of trust?

  • Customer
  • Supplier
  • Employees
  • Referrals

Q2: Is trust to be expected, given freely, earned, and recieved?

  • You must attempt trust, guarded as it may be.
  • Without showing trust, you will not receive it in return.
  • Reagan – Trust, but verify.

Q3: When trust is broken, can it every be restored? How?

  • Remain patient and open to repair.
  • Don’t be disrespectful, but be cautious.

Q4: Is there a trust relationship that you must work on? What process can be followed?

  • Trust is a process – Follow yours.
  • Create a formal process upfront to get a agreement of trust.


  • Discipline yourself
  • Eliminate the negatives
  • Avoid those with early signs of issues/ problems
  • Trust people

Kalamazoo Round Table (Tuesday)


  • When trust is broken, it tends to punish others. If you lose trust in one employee, it may damage your trust in others.
  • It brings out insecurity in the work environment – from boss to employee and vice versa.
  • It is challenging to rebuild.
  • We often do not talk about trust until it has been broken.
  • Often trust has not been broken, but it was never established in the first place.
  • What constitutes broken trust?


  • Book: The Speed of Trust
    • Trust is the accelerator. It streamlines operations
  • Trust is necessary to any relationship.
  • Lack of trust may really be a lack of confidence in someone’s ability.
  • Give trust – Even though it is a risk and takes courage.
  • Know your employees. Understand what you can expect from people.
  • Example: Kalamazoo Air Zoo.
    • New CEO set the tone for people to fail. He wants them to be innovative and try new things. Failure is necessary to our improvement.
    • Since he took over, they have had massive growth each year.
  • We must be authentic. Masks can cause distrust.
  • Stages of team formation:
    • Forming (Coming together)
    • Storming (Learning. Who you are, your style, role etc).
      • Most people fall off in this phase.
    • Norming (Finding your normal)
    • Performing
  • Build trust right away.
  • Use the DISC personality tests to understand your team members and how they prefer to be communicated with.
  • Jack Welsh: “Before we’re a leader, it’s all about growing ourselves. After we’re a leaders, it’s all about growing others.”
  • How do we teach our managers to lead?
  • Must have crucial conversations to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.
    • Acknowledge their strengths before exposing their weakness.
    • Separate the task/failure from them as a person.
  • Communicate boundaries clearly for your employees.

Kalamazoo Round Table (Thursday)


  • Trust must be established at the first encounter.
  • Trust requires adequate communication.
  • Vulnerability – It is impossible to trust someone without knowing truly knowing them. Respect does not equal trust.
  • Trust piggy bank – you must deposit into the trust bank before you can take out.
  • In our society, we are used to trust being broken. This pattern is established by teachers, coaches, parents.


  • Establish your values and communicate them.
  • CEO of Airzoo:
    • Looks for an element of failure when hiring new employees.
    • Wants to see that people are taking risks and failing.
    • Instills the idea in his employees that failure is okay. We must fail in order to discover.
  • Give yourself and your employees permission to fail. It will protect against stress-induced mistakes.
  • Babe Ruth struck out more than he hit homeruns, but he is only remembered for his homeruns.
  • Encourage honesty / sharing bad news.
  • Trust is earned vs. Trust is given.
    • Slow vs. fast.
    • Trust is a fast currency.
  • We can only control our environment.
  • How do you recognize your employees?
    • Companies often wait to recognize their employees at the 5-10 year mark; however, an emphasis should be placed on the first year to encourage them to stay.
    • Ways to recognize: Additional PTO, gift card, salary raise, social media recognition, personalized gifts etc.
  • It starts with us first. We need to deal with our own issues, baggage, brokenness before we can trust others and expect them to trust us.
  • A leader is the thermostat and thermometer of their workplace culture. We set the tone.
  • How do you teach that to next gen of leaders?


  • Importance of Recognition.
  • You can extend trust, but cannot assume everyone has good discernment.
  • Share your war stories.

Grand Rapids Round Table (Tuesday)

Key Takeaways:

  • Radical candor
  • Bold vulnerability
  • Address issues promptly
  • Listen to your advisors.

Grand Rapids Round Table (Thursday)


  • Proceed carefully when assigning trust in the beginning because eventually you may find that you may have misjudged the offender from the start. Assuming that their character was good when indeed it was not.
  • Once trust has been broken, in order to go forward, transparency is a key element and a non-negotiable requirement for both parties.


Join us for our February Round Tables as we discuss “Effective Talent Planning to Build a Great Team” RSVP to info@thebusinessrt.org.