This article is the first part of my ‘Decision to Trust’ blog series.

“He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted.” – Lao Tzu

So where do we start?

Well, even though everyone speaks about trust, we don’t seem to be doing much around building it in organizations.

And this is when I’ll ask you to be a brave leader and a rebel, starting today.

Often, the thoughts are that trust is gained with time. But if trust is achieved step by step, who takes the first one?

Is it you? Is it your team members? Is it someone external? Let’s say, a consultant?
So ultimately, when you’re in business, for example, a certain level of trust is transferred.
In a recruitment process for instance, just by thinking: “You know what? Our recruiters knew exactly the profile we needed when hiring this person. They know what they are doing.”

If you really want to be a rebel, you need to change your mindset.
I have already shared many tips and insights on how to do that in my previous blog piece, Put Life First: The New Frontiers of Work, but when it comes to trust, some foundations need to be laid in the first place.

Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.” – Stephen R. Covey

We know that most people can be trusted. Otherwise, the world wouldn’t be where it is today and we individually wouldn’t have achieved many of the great things we have.
I dare say, most people make it a massive generalization that people can’t be trusted whenever they feel betrayed or deceived by someone.

We all know some people in our lives we believe can’t be trusted. But is it truly so?
There are people I trust deeply that other people don’t.

So where did their relationship go wrong? Was it influenced by their environment and context? Is it connected to the first impression they had of each other? It would make sense, wouldn’t it?
If trust is gained, maybe individuals have trust in me because it is reciprocal, because I first approached them on a basis of trust.

“Because you believed I was capable of behaving decently, I did.” – Paulo Coelho

They might trust me as a colleague but might not trust my colleague, whom I trust.

So let’s study this triangle for a second: say I know John and Jenny. And I trust John, and I trust Jenny. But John doesn’t trust Jenny and vice-versa.
Am I wrong, am I being naive for trusting both of them? Am I trusting someone who’s not trustworthy?
The truth is both of them, individually, trust me. However, they don’t trust each other.

Shall we go away from the notion of trust as genetic? Which, from my personal experience, isn’t valid.
Let’s just make the assumption that trust is not something we genetically acquire. But that it is something earned or transferred/influenced through behavior.

If that is the case, why not just flip the script and start trusting people from the get-go?
If people end up being untrustworthy, then, we can actually detract it.

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway

You can tell by now that trust is a topic that I’m very passionate about.

One of the reasons I’m very certain about this new way of building trust comes from my coaching experience in different organizations. And I would say that 70 to 80% of the issues that we identified when I started working with organizations are connected to trust, at every level of the organization.
If you observe the top managers, you realize they don’t trust each other. When you look at the middle managers, the front liners – they don’t trust each other. We look at the relationships between supervisors and staff and it’s clear that they don’t trust each other.

And, ironically, if we question an organization: is trust important? Up to 99% of the time, the answer I get is yes.
So here you understand the antagonism between people’s beliefs and what happens in reality. Everyone thinks trust is important but no one commits to it.
Trust is not up to anyone, not something anyone can do. Or perhaps people don’t have the time to invest in building it.

And in an environment with no trust, how do you expect to retain and attract talent? Chances are you lose the ongoing and escalating War for Talent.

I say: wake up.
If you don’t have the time, no one else will. If you don’t work on trust, no one else will – it’s as simple as that.

You might get lucky and occasionally work in an organization where trust was built. But it may not be the case, in most situations, it actually isn’t.

In either situation, there needs to be an investment on your part in building trust, and it can be done in many different ways.

I personally like Frances Frei’s model of building trust: the triangle of trust. According to her, the key values for building, maintaining, and rebuilding trust are empathy, logic, and authenticity.

And again, when we talk about leadership, every time I make a decision, I can make it in a way that will actually increase trust in the organization:

  • By adopting a customer service approach with each member of the team, truly being there for them, and listening (empathy)
  • Always explain your point and reasoning in a way that the other person understands or is able to question. Make sure you highlight the most important and impactful aspects of your decision/idea for other members (logic)
  • In short, quoting Frances: “Pay less attention to what you think people want to hear from you and far more attention to what your authentic awesome self needs to say.” Lose the fear of being yourself, as long as you respect the organization’s handbook and other people, showing your true colors is the best bridge towards trust-building (authenticity)

Let’s take a simple example from home life: when we ask our kids, parents, or partner to do something. In a healthy home environment, there is a “spider web” of trust already built organically where empathy, logic, and authenticity are present.

So whether the answer or information exchange is what we want to hear or not, that is not the point. The central piece is the connection there is with the other person and how comfortable you are communicating with no expectations and judgment but with openness and understanding.

Could you picture yourself in a similar situation when asking a colleague to complete an important task? Do you hold true to these three key values? And is this how it usually happens at your organization overall?

I say chances to trust are everywhere. And it is something we can build.
So make yourself uncomfortable – be a rebel, start trusting people and start fostering trust.

Are you ready for this challenge?
(To be continued…)