Mary's Blog

Trust Is Really the Heart of It All

By Mary Verstraete

From 2006 to 2014 Angela Ahrendts served as CEO of Burberry, a venerable British brand founded in 1856 known for its trench coats, cashmere scarves and iconic check. She was pivotal in Burberry's return to popularity. Angela is currently Apple's senior vice president of retail and online stores and is responsible for the operation and expansion of Apple retail and online stores, which have redefined the shopping experience for hundreds of millions of customers around the world.

One of keys to revitalizing Burberry was that she set her level of excellence high by creating the stage for connectivity, trust, and innovation. She states:


Trust is truly at the heart of it all. If trust is your core value, you hire accordingly. I interviewed a lot senior management people, and at this level, competence and experience are a given; trust is the difference maker. When I look them in the eye I'm asking myself: Do I trust them? Do I get the feeling they trust me? Do they get vision? This is the starting point for everything we do.


How was this level of excellence practically implemented? Ahrendts made a decision to create a conversational forum that included everyone in the company and encouraged people to communicate directly with her and others on the senior team, moving employees from the protect mode into a share and collaborate mode. She created a culture where everyone could talk what was on their minds. Angela says this about the Burberry culture:


You should feel a culture, and a brand. A culture is a living brand. We will build a brand by building the culture. What's right for the brand? It became a higher purpose. How could our employees help us create not only a great brand but also a great company?
When people trust people, you can share your insecurities and use them to build bridges. This openness and transparency connects us to each other in a totally new way. When you openly acknowledge you can't do it without the other person, ego gets replaced by the knowledge that we're all in this together.


What makes trust the heart of it all? Trust is the factor that generates a willingness to feel open enough to be inclusive, interactive, and intentional. Human beings have a need to belong and neuroscientists consider this to be even more powerful than the need for physical safety and security.

A fearful state of mind "alters" the way we see and experience reality, the way we interact with others, and how much we are willing to engage, innovate, and speak our minds.


When trust is absent we perceive reality through a threatened lense:

  • Experience the environment as threatening
  • Retreat to protect ourselves
  • Become sensitive to being wrong or embarrassed
  • Behave differently

The implications of perceiving through a threatened lense: 

  • Reveal less than what we know or what is helpful to move forward
  • Expect more than what is possible
  • Assume the worst of others
  • Look at situations with caution
  • Interpret communications with fear
  • Tell secrets we promise not to tell
  • Become yes people to avoid confronting truth

When trust is prominent we: 

  • Reveal more
  • Expect less and over deliver
  • Assume the best of others
  • Look at a situation with an open heart
  • Interpret communications through truth and facts
  • Tell the truth
  • Become yes people to confront truth

Bottom Line:

Trust is the glue that holds an organization together. 

Everything begins with a foundation of trust.

Trust is the core of effective conversation.

Mary's Approach to Leadership Consulting and Coaching

I believe that leaders want to become something larger than themselves and create a mark in the world. 

My coaching and consulting stems from 30+ years of leadership experience, research-based processes, and customized services for each client and organization. I’ve worked hard at building a reputation for proven results, delivering on my brand promise with a standard of excellence and follow-through. A main distinctive of my consulting and coaching is spending time on-site, immersing myself in the environment of the organization to experience the culture firsthand. This allows me to understand a leader’s unique leadership perspective as we collaborate to set precise, comprehensive leadership benchmarks and outcomes. 

Developing a Synergistic Team Culture

The more genuine the involvement of employees, the more sustained motivation they will have in the participation of analyzing and solving problems, resulting in the significant release of employee creativity and a commitment to what they create.

Interdependent teamwork decreases conflict, dissatisfaction, and employee turnover. Recent stats report that a record-high 55 percent of employees are dissatisfied with their jobs today. The Conference Board sited that one main reason for employee dissatisfaction was supervisors were “distant, distracted, disconnected, or demanding.” What were the main reasons for these conclusions? Conversations that fail to connect with the employees.

Why Leave a Legacy?

The reality is that those sorts of habits are unproductive. Humans are simply more efficient and effective when they concentrate. That is, you can do five things better and faster by doing them one at a time, with your mind focused on each single task.

Developing Strength-Based Teams

Don’t manage, empower! Teams that innovative, freely collaborate, and create have been empowered to exercise their strengths.

Effective leaders empower human potential. Moving your teams from lack of self-determination and underperformance because of organizational external pressures, to high intrinsic self-determination and engagement, empower teams to create and produce for your company.

Gallup’s 40-year study of human talent resulted in a Strengths-based development as a proven solution to build high performing teams. A recent Gallup study of 1.2 million employees in 7 industries and 45 countries measured the value of Strengths-based interventions on workgroup performance: results are proven.