RSPA Recommended Read: Radical Trust

“RSPA Recommended Read” is a series of articles in which RSPA staff members share details from books we think would be helpful to leaders and aspiring leaders at VAR, ISV, and vendor member organizations.

By: Jim Roddy, President & CEO at the RSPA

You know those television shows where they sort through junk and then stumble upon a valuable antique? I experienced that feeling recently when our team was cleaning out desks and filing cabinets at the former RSPA headquarters in Charlotte. (RSPA is now an all-virtual work environment with employees across five states.)

No, I didn’t unearth a Ming dynasty three-hole punch. I found a book that will help make me (and you!) a better leader: Radical Trust: How Today’s Great Leaders Convert People To Partners by Joe Healey.

The book was buried among old files, Post-it notes, and what’s-this-plastic-thing-for items in an abandoned, dust-covered desk. Resisting the urge to pitch whatever we didn’t need to keep, I dropped the book into my briefcase to leaf through after I returned home. Just eight pages in I was hooked, captivated by a title and author I’d never heard of before. When I was finished reading, I shared my notes with the RSPA Leadership Team and added Radical Trust to the “Highly Recommended” list on the 2023 edition of Roddy’s Recommended Reading for SMB Executives.

Let’s dive into key passages from the book before I offer a few more thoughts:

  1. Greater freedom to make economic choices is causing younger generations to be very intolerant of bad bosses. Many misconstrue this as a poor work ethic, when in reality it is a sign that old management practices are not adapting to today’s market conditions that demand more trust.
  2. Trust has switched from being a moral choice of more upstanding leaders to an economic necessity in the way managers lead.
  3. While strategy and innovation may be important, success comes much faster when you create a platform of trust on which people can stand and build.
  4. Organizations are being forced to embrace the idea of being a partner instead of a boss. Trust is the primary currency of a partnership.
  5. Often a lack of trust comes not from intentional wrongs, but because managers are out of touch with the ramifications of what they say and do.

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  1. The question is not: “How do you manage your time to allow you to be effective with feedback?” The question is: “How can you get anything done if you don’t provide immediate and ongoing feedback to your people?”
  2. It is better to fumble through feedback than it is to delay it in most cases.
  3. “We have learned to foster people – not drive them.”
  4. When people don’t have to “put on airs” or be “guarded” they have a lot more energy and creativity to dedicate to their work.
  5. If we lose emotional control, we reduce our ability to be trusted. That is why you will see consistency in attitude listed as an important character/EQ trait.
  6. Many of the problems managers have are a direct result of emotional immaturity.
  7. Hire for character: Ensure your formal hiring process includes screening for character traits that are important for your business. Not only is the interview process about screening a candidate, it also sets the expectations about what you want from associates.
  8. “Keep tension on character.” The key to keeping some of your character flaws from undermining the trust you build is to be open about them and continually willing to place tension on them.
  9. Managers who learn how to let their character naturally drive their communication find that communication becomes far easier and more successful.
  10. High-trust leaders have no problem saying: “You have a valid point” or “I don’t know and I will get back to you.”
  11. Personal rapport is the kind of rapport that comes from caring about people and their future.
  12. How and why people trust has not changed in thousands of years. The only thing that has changed is that more people have the economic freedom to act on the trust.

RSPA Recommended Read Rating: 9.75/10

Among the reasons I’m smitten with Radical Trust is because trust is the foundation to an organization that can be outwardly successful, internally functional, and intrinsically satisfying for everyone on the team. If you don’t have all three of those, well, that’s where “work sucks” comes from. Let’s break down some of the key elements of establishing two-way trust in an organization:

Stay in Touch with Your People: That’s the positive way of saying don’t lose touch with your people and their reality. I recall botching this many years ago early in my tenure as President of Jameson Publishing/Business Solutions Magazine. Our two operations leaders were very capable, so I pretty much left them alone to do their job. I didn’t realize the core of my job was to stay close to them, understand their needs in detail, and align company resources appropriately. Because I was out of touch, when I presented to them what I thought was a reasonable idea, they slapped me with reality. To them, my idea was from out of left field, and suggesting a clear nonstarter broke my trust with them (i.e. they no longer trusted I prioritized their needs, they didn’t trust I knew what the business needed, etc.). Ever since then, I’ve made sure to plan weekly sit-downs with my direct reports to ensure we don’t drift apart.

Maintain Emotional Control: I attended a college basketball game recently in a small gymnasium and sat across from the two benches. One coach’s sideline demeanor exuded calmness, control, and confidence. She appeared to be more of a teacher and collaborator than a coach barking orders. The other coach, after her team committed an error late in the game, walked behind her bench and angrily smacked a clipboard and papers off a stool. Who would you rather play for? Who would you prefer to engage in a dialogue with? Who would you want to approach with an idea? Even if you don’t kick chairs around the office, understand your team members are reading your emotions, especially the negative ones. Losing your cool occasionally – even just one time – will damage the trust between you and your team.

Teaching is Required: I’m a fan of empowerment but not ignorant empowerment. You wouldn’t want your surgeon to toss their scalpel to the intern in the operating room and empower them to do their best on your appendix. You can’t just say, “I trust you” to your people and cross your fingers they’ll do the right thing. Healey stresses delegation being the key to building two-way trust between leaders and their people. This is probably a good time for me to share with you a link to the RSPA’s exclusive Delegate or Die eBook, featuring 5 Steps to Effective Delegation, the Maximum Delegation Formula, 10 Decisive Delegation Actions, and more.

Actually Care: Trust cannot be faked. You need to genuinely care about your people, what they have to say, and what they bring to the table. A manager was conversing with his direct report about a marketing piece, and they couldn’t agree on a key point. After several minutes of back-and-forth, the manager said, “Which one of us has an MBA?” – he knew he had one and his employee didn’t – and ended the conversation there. The manager might have won that battle but he lost the war. That employee left to join our company and was a key performer and trusted team member for many years.

To learn more, purchase your copy of Radical Trust here. Or pull open the drawers to an old desk and maybe you’ll get lucky like I did.

Don’t forget to visit the RSPA Solution Center – a web platform designed to connect VARs and ISVs to providers of innovative solutions

Jim Roddy is the President and CEO of the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). He has been active in the retail IT channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as an RSPA board member, one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board, and several years as a business coach for VARs, ISVs, and MSPs. Jim has been recognized as one of the world’s Top 100 Retail Influencers by RETHINK Retail, a Leading CannaTech Influencer by The CannaTech Group, and is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences on SMB best practices. He is author of two books – The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success and Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer – and is host of the award-winning RSPA Trusted Advisor podcast. For more information, contact