Trust. It’s something we hardly ever talk about in BBYO. Yet it impacts every aspect and level of the organization. Think for a moment about all of the places where trust comes into play:

  • Chapters trust their board members to do their jobs
  • Members trust other members to be kind and friendly (fraternal)
  • Chapter leaders trust members to meet their commitments (planning events, doing jobs they commit to)
  • Parents, members and staff trust advisors to keep members safe and to interpret policy wisely (a lot of trust that, when you think about it)
  • Advisors trust the chapter (more on this in a moment), and trust regional staff/international to support them in their work.

That a chapter should trust their advisor is sort of obvious, but it’s the other side of the coin, the advisor trusting the chapter, that is critical and not often discussed. Think about it – BBYO is youth led, which means that the youth are making the decisions and implementing them. Yet some key responsibilities – particularly for the safety of participants – lies with the advisor (that’s just the way the law works). This is what makes being an advisor a lot scarier than most members realize.
If you’re a BBYO member, I encourage you to discuss this with your advisor. If you’re an advisor, I encourage you to discuss this with your chapter – I truly believe that the issue of trust between chapter and advisor is one that should be made explicit and not just assumed.
Where Does Trust Come From?
Now, it’s all very nice to talk about trust, but talk is cheap. Where does trust come from?
Or put another way, is it enough for someone to just come up to you and say “trust us, we’ll do the right thing?” Should you trust someone just because they have a title such as Aleph Godol or N’siah or advisor?
Good question. The answer is no.. and yes.
It’s a fundamental choice that each of us faces – do you choose to see people as trustworthy, knowing that nobody is perfect so even the best people will sometimes fail to live up to that trust, and knowing that some people will prove to be just plain evil and not deserving of trust in the first place?
Or do you choose to doubt everyone, assume that everyone is suspect until they’ve proven themselves over and over again, and when they fail (as everyone does on occasion) what trust they’ve built up with is lost and must be built up from scratch (or you just give up on them completely in a sort of zero-tolerance policy)?
I hate to say it, but our society has largely chosen the latter. Everywhere you turn you find zero-tolerance is the policy for all sorts of things, some truly deserving of it, but also including many innocent and honest mistakes.
Choosing to suspect rather than doubt is easy, and easy to write into policy as I discuss in my previous post “Take These Keys and…
I prefer to take the trusting approach. As an advisor, I trust the Alephs in my chapter even though I know that at times individuals will break that trust. That’s ok – when they do I talk it over with them and trust them again. I hope they’ll do the same for me when I make mistakes. And you know what? it’s true that in life you tend to find what you’re looking for, because the guys in my chapter are truly trustworthy.
However, that trust is not blind – not by a long shot. They’ve earned it, both as individuals and as a chapter.
Earning Trust
How do you earn trust? This is a critical question whether you are a member, a chapter or regional leader, an advisor, or any other position both in and out of BBYO.
I promise you this – you do not earn trust by demanding it on the basis of your title or position. I’ve never expected people to trust me just because I’m an advisor. I expect people to trust me because I work hard to be trustworthy.
It’s not really that hard.

  • You do your absolute best to keep any promises you make.
  • You strive to be honest in all your dealings.
  • You communicate openly with people on issues that will impact them and explain the reasoning behind your decisions (especially in a leadership role).

In my time as an advisor, I’ve rarely asked a member to trust me. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever asked that. What I have asked for is a chance to prove myself worthy of trust. I’ve always worked to earn trust and be judged trustworthy, and then trusted others to figure out on their own to what degree I’ve succeeded.
So how about it?
Will you choose to trust others by default, or to suspect them?
Will you demand trust, or earn it?
What you choose will have a huge influence on you, your chapter, BBYO and every individual and organization you interact with.
What is it going to be?