The Trust Protocol | Book Review

How much do you trust an institution to do what is right? Not much, according to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer.

“The U.S. is enduring the worst collapse ever recorded in the history of the [report],” writes Daniel Edelman. “This is led by a decline in trust in government, which is down 30 points among the informed public and 14 points among the general population, while for the informed public trust in each of the other institutions sank by 20 or more points.” The “other institutions” are business, media and nongovernmental organizations (such as charities and churches).

Though Edelman fingers “fake news” as a chief culprit in the decline of trust in U.S. institutions — and it certainly is a problem — the simpler explanation is that we distrust institutions because they have become untrustworthy. One need only read the morning newspaper to see institutions acting badly, and it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about politics, business, media or nonprofit institutions. Those institutional bad acts would be distressing news leading to increasing distrust even if “fake news” didn’t enter the picture.

There’s only one way for institutions to regain trust, and that’s by acting in a trustworthy manner. Or, to make things more personal, the only way you and I as leaders within those institutions can make them more trustworthy is to act trustworthily ourselves. How to do that is what Mac Richard’s The Trust Protocol is about.

Richard is the pastor of Lake Hills Church in Austin, Texas. He writes from an explicitly Christian point of view. And while some of the examples he cites are drawn from church life, the principles he enumerates have broader application. As his book’s subtitle puts it, trust is “the key to building stronger families, teams, and businesses.”

So, what is this Trust Protocol? A protocol is a “predetermined procedure or set of rules.” For Richards, the Trust Protocol entails “forging credibility through integrity and action” (emphasis in original). Later in the book, he writes, “Building trust happens on two parallel tracks: character and competency.” These are the inward (integrity, character) and outward (action, competence) dimensions of trustworthiness, respectively. Leaders need to develop these dimensions in tandem.

From the outset of the book, Richard states then reiterates four themes:

  1. The Trust Protocol works.
  2. The Trust Protocol is hard work.
  3. The Trust Protocol will get messy.
  4. The work, the mess, the pain and uncertainty along the way — all of it — is absolutely worth it.

In short, becoming trustworthy, whether as an individual or as an institution, is not easy work that proceeds smoothly. But it is nonetheless worth the effort. “No matter where you are right now,” Richard writes, “You have a choice to make … the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, today, right now.”

The Trust Protocol is a short, simple but radical book — radical in the sense of going to the root (Latin, radix) of a matter. We in the U.S. suffer from a deficit of trust in our institutions. This has many causes and many negative effects. But in each case, that deficit can be reversed by leaders — whether in politics, business, media or the church — who earn credibility with their followers through the combination of character and competence.

Are we the kind of leaders who can restore trust in a distrustful era in our nation’s history?

Book Reviewed
Mac Richard, The Trust Protocol: The Key to Building Stronger Families, Teams, and Businesses (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017).

P.S. I wrote this review for It appears here by permission.

P.P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my review page.


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