Trust is a Must: Some initial thoughts…

Mark Upton
Oct 26, 2015

Recently I have been pursuing as much content and conversation on culture and leadership as possible, adding to my experiences and observations over the past 15 years in performance sport. I’m really enjoying marinating in the complexity inherent in the topic (and therefore absence of “best practice”).

I’m particularly attuned to any mention of accountability and trust as it seems these are almost mutually exclusive – I rarely hear both mentioned in the same breath. My thoughts are beginning to stabilise around the benefits of trust. Mostly, accountability is a proxy for blame and hence fear is usually lurking in the shadows (with its toxic buddy “metrics” close by). These are not the conditions for learning, growth and sustainable success. However, I don’t want to write-off accountability altogether so was considering where it is useful. My immediate conclusion is it can work for short-term performance impact in some situations.

Accountability is predominant in management and leadership rhetoric. Yet if we desire a learning culture – arguably a necessity in the coming years – we need trust as our starting point.

“The best way to gain trust is to SHOW trust. An authority who trusts no one exhibits insecurity”

— @3DCoaches

“leadership should be all about enabling learning”

Harold Jarche & Kenneth Mikkelsen

The first thing I need to trust is purpose. If we can trust each other in terms of common purpose (for us involved with myfastestmile this is to help people be their best) then many possibilities open up – not least the ability to introduce a diverse range of people into a group/team/business and allow them to self-organise. This diversity and self-organisation has the potential for significant gains in problem solving and decision making quality, with such elements key to high performing teams on AND off the pitch.

“Game day is my day off, we’ve done our bit, the coaches. The players, they run the show. I’m not making a judgement on the decision the captain makes. My judgement came when I picked the captain and said ‘right I trust you to do whatever you need to do.’”

— Michael Cheika


A team is not a group of people that work together. A team is a group of people that trust each other”

Simon Sinek

Plenty more to come on this topic!