Twice in the last couple of weeks, senior leaders have asked me for examples of trust-building exercises, or instructions for running trust facilitations, as a way to create trust among a group of people who don’t know each other or don’t already trust each other.

But as I said to them, please don’t ask your employees to trust you, or their other managers. Likewise, don’t ask your leadership team to ensure that employees trust their managers or senior leaders — or assume your leaders will trust each other.

There’s no two-hour exercise that can ensure comfort in the moment and also have that trust carry over to the everyday exigencies of being on the job. The idea that you can ask people for their trust and get it is lovely and romantic, but the real world doesn’t work that way.

Trust can only be given, and if it’s manipulated, you’ll end up losing it. People may understand that they have to behave in compliant ways, but that doesn’t naturally translate to feelings of trust.

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