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I learnt a very long time ago that trust was vital to our well-being.

Trust is about accepting you and what you say and trusting me and what I say.

If we trust each other, it brings out the best in us. I don’t have to like you nor you me, but we trust each other.

If I am going to take risks, knowing this about you is vital. What we say and what we do match. I will feel safer with you as a result.


Essentially no institution is fully trusted in Australia. Our previous ‘bubble’ of trust seems to have burst.


We learnt to trust each other sometime during the Pliocene era, some two million years ago. It helped us support larger and more cooperative communities. Understanding evolution and how it serves us daily is crucial.

Now think for a moment about how many people don’t believe in evolution. So, trust might divide us. I will trust your ‘facts’ over someone else’s (even if they don’t add up). Some people (i.e., creationists) trust their faith (and those they share this with) more.

Fact and belief are confabulated. We might think this is at the extremes of our collaboration, but it isn’t. Trust which has helped us evolve now sits at the centre of our pulling apart. We all see it almost every day from the meta issues (i.e., Russia’s war on Ukraine) to micro issues (i.e., giving ourselves license to say things online we would never say face to face). Edelman (a global comms and social research company) has been measuring trust – in leaders and the institutions they lead – for 22 years. This year tells a grim story globally about trust, in Australia as much as in any other country. 28 countries, 36,000+ responses, most countries were involved in this year’s data set.

The report is titled The Cycle of Distrust. Australia is amongst the biggest losers (meaning people trust leaders and institutions significantly less than a year ago. There is a massive discrepancy between high (more trusting) and low-income earners (significantly less trusting.) Essentially no institution is fully trusted in Australia. Our previous ‘bubble’ of trust seems to have burst. It is largely across generations. Trust in most industry sectors has declined. Government and media are seen as divisive.

Persistent fears undermine trust across the board – job loss, hackers, climate change, losing my freedoms, experiencing racism or prejudice. So, with this (let’s face it) awful picture, what can we do? To our business leaders – be aware that a lot of us think you are better positioned to solve some of our society’s most wicked problems than the Government or Not For Profit organisations.

It’s still not great but we can do something here:

  1. Listen – brilliantly – to everyone who’s not you and especially the front line of your own organisations
  2. Be calm, kind, and present – our default setting is distrust; it doesn’t make for peaceful debate – help people have those passionate, differentiated, and complex discussions; upskill quickly
  3. CEOs you must get out of your offices, go meet the people where they are, make it a daily ritual to listen and synthesise what you hear
  4. Advocate for the right things – the sustainable environmentally responsible things – investors and talent will come to you because of how deeply important these are
  5. Be the face of change – the right change reflected in the wisdom of the crowds (which you know because you are out listening) – don’t change structures, systems, and processes before you’ve changed yourself and helped other leaders evolve
  6. People want a lot more from leaders in business – pay attention to the facts around our struggling planet, value diversity and inclusion like you value oxygen, and build ways of connecting to humans that build trust – consistent, face-to-face, down to-earth, generous, kind and calm
  7. Make sure policy supports culture – don’t become political – it’s the issues, not the person
  8. CEOs and executives need to be stabilising forces – be well-informed, share information, and seek high-quality information.
  9. Align people to purpose and values always knowing that visibility without these is ‘simply vanity’

We are on the knife edge. Own it, and be grateful to be part of the solution, not the problem.

If you need support to re-build or strengthen trust in your organisation or team reach out to see how we can assist.

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