What Rugby Can Teach You About Trust in the Workplace

As a young man, I played a lot of rugby. I first began playing in my teens while living in England and playing for the Ampthill Rugby Club and then played for another twenty years in the states for Severn River Rugby Club. When you watch a well conditioned and coordinated rugby team, you notice they are able to make blind passes, the equivalent of a no-look pass in basketball. Acting on a familiarity bred in practice and without looking, a talented rugby player will pass the ball to a spot on the field where his teammate will have instinctively moved, expecting the pass.

In a business setting, trust operates in a similar way. Imagine an entire organization moving at the pace of change while acting as one. Imagine a manager able to delegate a task or responsibility without hesitation. Imagine an employee able to focus solely on a project, customer, or business activity with complete trust that his contributions will be recognized and fairly rewarded. Moreover, imagine an environment where a manager doesn’t have to delegate because her team already anticipated the need. Imagine an employee getting a raise, bonus, or other reward without it being the “appropriate” time, just because a manager believes it’s right. This is the essence of trust in business.

Your corporate culture should be built on trust, and the only way to build trust is to be trustworthy first. Making and keeping commitments is essential to being viewed as trustworthy.

When we trust people, we rely on their honesty, integrity, and character. Trust is built over time as we make and keep commitments. You have to make commitments, and you have to keep them. It is no good to avoid making commitments in order to avoid breaking them. That’s a cop-out.  People in the organization need to hear that you are committed to teaching them about the business, that you are committed to rewarding them for their contributions to the success of the business, and that they are empowered to act on behalf of the organization. Make this commitment to everyone in the organization, and then never break it. This is the value proposition you offer your employees.

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