The Trifecta of Trust by Joe Folkman

Last week’s post, How to Build and Restore Trust, was a review of, and key points from, Joe Folkman’s new book, The Trifecta of Trust: The Proven Formula for Building and Restoring Trust. My copy is full of yellow highlights. Here are a few of the most notable ones:

After years of analysis, I discovered that the atom of leadership is trust. Trust is a very small issue. Most people think they know if they are trusted (but they are often wrong). They know who they trust and who they do not trust, but this one small issue can positively or negatively affect everything else you do.

If trust is low, business slows down, people want more assurances, both parties are suspicious of the other party, and ultimately, prosperity is also low. Trust is the atom of leadership because it impacts everything.

Becoming an effective leader requires trust. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how revolutionary your ideas are but it does matter if your people do not trust you.

Trust reaches in and changes the way other people respond to a leader. It identifies and validates the leader’s motivation for all other behaviors. It appears to impact all other behaviors because it tells an employee whether their boss is acting out of self-interest. It assures them that they are not being hoodwinked or taken advantage of.

Leaders who are trusted have significantly higher levels of leadership effectiveness and inspire greater discretionary effort from their direct reports. Organizations with trust have less burnout and more energy. Trust is the glue that holds teams together, and its lack is the toxicity that tears them apart. Encouraging trust from your team is worth your time and effort.

My research shows that an individual does not need to have all the expertise but, rather, the willingness to be a sponsor and showcase the expertise of others. They need to know enough and to be open to seek help from others to complement their own expertise. In other words, a person can be just as effective with limited knowledge, as long as they are humble enough to ask for advice or knowledge from others who are experts.

A handful of specific behaviors are statistically significantly linked to each other. Leaders who got high scores on one behavior got high scores on the other behaviors; the ones that got low scores got low scores on those same behaviors. In some cases, the link between behaviors was obvious and reasonable. In other cases, it was rather surprising and unintuitive.

When I considered which of the three pillars was most critical, intuitively I thought that the pillar of demonstrating consistency would be most important. Saying one thing and doing another seems as if it would really hurt trust the most. Surprisingly, it was relationships that had the most substantial impact.

If people don’t like you, it doesn’t matter how consistent you are or how much of an expert you are in any field. They will choose someone they are more comfortable working


Trust makes challenging decisions easier. Trust makes adopting new processes and procedures faster. Trust makes collaboration among team members smoother. If you’re going to devote a third of your life to your job, then it is worth it to focus on the one trait that will significantly increase your speed.

Perhaps we imagine the more youthful person as being erratic or trying unproven approaches, while the older person is more stable and consistent. However, the data showed that younger leaders have significantly higher effectiveness ratings for trust that dissipate as they age.

(During the COVID pandemic) leaders who quickly became knowledgeable about important issues and then identified others who had additional expertise were viewed in a more positive way by their direct reports. Leaders who demanded that they control decisions with no knowledge or insight were not trusted.

We continued to gather data in the pandemic on leaders, and by the end of 2020 we discovered that trust had improved 5 points and relationships had improved 3 points, with expertise improving 4 points along with consistency. A big surprise from almost everyone in the pandemic is that employee engagement, which was predicted to go down, actually showed a significant improvement.

On teams with below-average trust, 64 percent of the team members are thinking about quitting, and only 19 percent are willing to put extra effort into their work.

Improving trust in a team can significantly improve not only the engagement of team members and their willingness to stay on the team but also the team’s ability to achieve goals, find new solutions to problems, and make a real difference in the broader organization.

Leaders who have lost trust need to start the restoration process by making a public and sincere acknowledgement of their faults. Letting others know that you feel sorry for past mistakes allows them to reset their expectations.

Learn more about Joe’s new book, trust assessments, and watch a video of Joe telling “Bill’s Story” at You can also watch a 3-minute video with Joe explaining how Trust Changes Everything. On June 22, you can join a webinar on The Trifecta of Trust. Click here for info and complimentary registration.