Whether tackling a project, building a business, or creating a family, collaborating with trustworthy people makes all the difference. Reinforced by positive outcomes, our bias is to trust. Still, breaches of trust are inevitable. Even the good-hearted and best-intentioned may fail to deliver, whether due to external pressures, poor judgment, or lack of authority. Then, there are those who manipulate others’ trust to their own advantage.
Joel Peterson, chairman of JetBlue, professor, business leader, father of seven, and spouse of forty-four years, is a firm believer in the value of trust and a testament to its power. He’s also no stranger to betrayal. In his new book, THE 10 LAWS OF TRUST (AMACOM; May 10, 2016), Peterson shares steps for restoring a relationship after trust has been breached or betrayed:
Accept some responsibility. While the blame lies with the betrayer, the betrayed almost always plays a role in being duped. As painful as this realization is, it can be the first step to recovery.
Recognize you’re not alone. Think of all the people who trusted Bernie Madoff. Think of all the people who trusted Lance Armstrong. Many others have been duped or manipulated into trusting the untrustworthy. So, don’t feel ashamed.
Consider the seriousness of the breach. Any chance of restoring trust in a relationship begins with diagnosing the severity of the damage. Repairing once-healthy relationships may simply be a matter of clearing up misunderstandings. Or it may be as daunting as restoring full mobility after a severed spinal cord.
Fix quickly what can be fixed. When a betrayal can be explained as a one-off stumble, perhaps with mitigating factors, it may well make sense to give the betrayer another chance. If the betrayal cuts deeper, the relationship may still be worth the effort to fix if the stakes are high—like a marriage where children are involved.
Be realistic about the potential. The process for restoring broken trust is different from building it. Recovering from betrayal is harder, more costly—and, worst of all, less likely to succeed—than securing trust at the outset.
Forgive. “Vengeance is rarely sweet,” Peterson asserts. Rather than focus on revenge, he advocates mourning the loss—and then reflecting on what went wrong. Were the flaws structural (bad hiring, bad oversight) or personal (inattention to the core components of trust—character, competency, authority—or just plain naïveté)? Correct those flaws and forgive—yourself and the betrayer.
Adapted from THE 10 LAWS OF TRUST: Building the Bonds That Make a Business Great by Joel Peterson (AMACOM; May 10, 2016; $15.95 Hardcover; ISBN: 978-0-8144-3745-2).
Joel Peterson is the Chairman of JetBlue Airways and the Founding Partner of Peterson Partners, a Salt Lake City-based investment management firm. Joel is on the faculty at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University and has been since 1992, teaching courses in real estate investment, entrepreneurship, and leadership. Joel formerly served as Chief Executive Officer of Trammell Crow Company, then the world’s largest private commercial real estate development firm. Joel earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and received his Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University. He is the author of The 10 Laws of Trust: Building the Bonds That Make a Business Great. For more information, please visit http://www.