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Fagerlin provides 10 steps to increasing trust in relationships with family, employees

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

To improve trust in our organizations and across the agriculture sector, we have to stop seeing trust as a feeling and instead as a verb, says Richard Fagerlin, founder of Peak Solutions and author of Trustology. 

Fagerlin suggests replacing the word trust with confidence, and instead of saying we don’t trust someone, saying our confidence is low in their competency. 

A continuum  

He explains the trust model consists of integrity, competency and compassion and the trust factor is where all three of these meet. 

“We can view trust as a chair with three legs,” Fagerlin says. “If one leg is deficient, the entire chair will be wobbly.” 

“When we think about people we don’t trust, we need to ask ourselves which of these three legs is short,” says Fagerlin. “We usually don’t question our trust in that person as much as we question one of the three legs.” 

“We have to accept that trust is a verb not an emotion,” he says. “Think of it like love. We don’t fall out of love. We stop loving someone for some reason.” 

He comments one of the most quoted scriptures in a wedding ceremony says love does not keep a record of right and wrong. He notes this should apply in all relationships to increase trust. 

The trust model

Fagerlin explained there are 10 steps involved in applying the trust model to our own relationships. These steps range from personal responsibilities to how we relate with others. 

“We can’t be facing away from each other and expect trust to grow,” Fagerlin says. “We have to face each other to communicate and understand where the other is coming from.” 

“The most important move is letting someone lead us and putting ourselves in a vulnerable place,” Fagerlin stresses. “Trust exists in a vulnerable environment.”

Personal steps 

“The first step is to understand whatever happens to us we either caused, participated in or allowed to happen,” Fagerlin explains. “We live in the most offended society in history, and when things go wrong, we look for someone else to blame.” 

He notes learning accountability for our own actions builds trust with those around us. 

“We have to understand we can’t change other peoples’ finish lines,” Fagerlin says. “Everyone has a reason for their behavior. We will never win battles of who’s had the worst time.” 

“Step three is understanding words are like toothpaste – once it’s out it will never be the same again,” Fagerlin explains. “We can’t take back the things we say to people, so we need to make sure we mean it.” 

Fagerlin describes step four as taking the “Chick-fil-A approach.” Instead of worrying what his competition was doing, S. Truett Cathy, founder of the chain, focused on getting better, which ultimately made the chain bigger.

“Chick-fil-A has been successful because they focused on what they were good at, chicken, instead of trying to do what their competition was doing,” says Fagerlin. 

Step five lies in losing rights and gaining responsibilities by taking on a servant leader outlook. 

“We have to take on responsibilities and be a servant to others because we willingly want to do so,” Fagerlin comments. 

“Have self-worth not self-esteem,” Fagerlin says of step six. “Self-esteem relies on others to determine whether we are okay. Self-worth puts this in our own hands.” 

He continues, “Having self-esteem allows us to be self-reliant and not rely on others to determine our worth.” 

Relationship steps 

Step seven lies in assuming positive intent from others. Fagerlin uses mothers who blindly advocate for non-GMO foods as not wanting to hurt traditional farmers but instead striving to protecting the health interests of her children. 

“I challenge everyone to assume positive intent for 10 days,” says Fagerlin. “This shows us how unnatural it really is.” 

“We don’t give people the benefit of the doubt enough,” Fagerlin stresses. 

“The next step is learning to be offensive,” Fagerlin notes. “We have to be willing to have those difficult conversations that may hurt feelings.” 

“It’s better to tell someone their zipper is down and them be embarrassed than letting them do an entire speech with it down,” he jokes.  

“The ninth step serves to balance learning how to be offensive,” Fagerlin says. “We must candor with care.” 

He explains step 10 as treating people differently beyond everyone getting a participation trophy. 

“When one individual outperforms the others but is rewarded the same, there is no reason to perform well,” he says. 

Fagerlin spoke of meeting with German farmers who once resided in communist East Germany. 

The farmers told him they had no motivation to produce a higher quality or quantity of product because the government treated them all in the same mediocre way, which didn’t incentivize anyone to perform to a higher standard.

Fagerlin was a featured speaker at the Beef Improvement Federation Young Producers Conference held in Loveland, Colo. June 20-23. 

Callie Hanson is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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