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The Value of Trust

If I may be so bold, I would like to make a big deal about TRUST as I really feel it is the key to a brilliant team, individual fulfilment and personal success.

So here are some thoughts I’ve gathered on Trust that I hope shed some light on the value of trust.

Trust is the fabric that binds us together, creating an orderly, civilized society from chaos and anarchy. Trust is not an abstract, theoretical, idealistic goal forever beyond our reach. Trust –– or lack of it –– is inherent in every action that we take and affects everything that we do. Trust is the cement that binds relationships, keeping spouses together, business deals intact, and political systems stable. Without trust, marriages fails, voters become apathetic, and organizations flounder. Without trust, no company can ever hope for excellence.

Understanding the meaning of trust allows you to work toward being a trusted and trusting person. The truth is that trust is never guaranteed, and it can’t be won overnight. Trust must be carefully constructed, vigorously nurtured, and constantly reinforced. Trust is established over time, gradually, through a long chain of successful experiences. In the early stages of relationships, whether personal or business, we extend ourselves in small ways and observe the responses to our actions. Then we take appropriate action, withdrawing, maintaining our behaviour, or extending ourselves a bit further each time until trust is established. Although trust takes a long time to develop, it can be destroyed by a single action. Moreover, once lost, it is very difficult to re-establish. Building trusting relationships is a process that can best be described as stacking layers on a foundation one at a time in such a way that each layer bonds on top of the prior one before another layer is added.

In a world where time is a precious resource, where we must often move without having the time to explore all the options, we use shortcuts to circumvent the process. For this reason, an individual’s or organization’s history or track record is often evaluated to gauge how we may be treated in a relationship.

Winning Trust: A Step-By-Step Guide

To expand on what constitutes the building of trust and how each of us wins the trust of others, the following simple four-stage diagram and subsequent explanations should provide you with a clearer picture of not just the value of trust, but the critical components that take time to build upon and enable a truly trusting relationship between you and others, within the team itself, throughout the business and critically with your customers, clients of stakeholders.

It is important I stress that each and every building block is important for the establishment of trust and that there are no quick fixes to achieve lasting trust, but with mindfulness and constant attention to your behaviours, predictability ultimately results and with that faith amongst all participants. It is this faith that would be the ultimate measure for the successful achievement of trust.

Trust: First stage

FoundationTrust Leadership

The foundation, or first stage, represents the beginning of a relationship and depicts the history of those involved. We generally start off with some preconceived notion about others. We meet and develop first impressions about people through the friends we have in common; watching how they treat others; the things they talk about in meetings, while commuting, at parties; and general observations during work. We develop first impressions of companies by seeing an advertisement, getting references from people, or reading articles about them on the Internet.

Trust: Second stage

Support structure | The values on which trust restsTrust Leadership

The second stage represents values that lead to trusting relationships, such as integrity, reliability, and openness. Once these characteristics are demonstrated, they form the support structure of a trusting relationship. When these actions are repeated time and time again, the relationship is strengthened and becomes part of the framework of the next phase.

Trust: Third stage

ConsistencyTrust Leadership

The third stage, consistency, enables us to anticipate probable actions. It provides a certain degree of comfort that helps us to maintain the relationship even through difficult times.

Trust: Fourth stage

From predictability to faithTrust Leadership

The fourth stage is faith. As these layers are stacked on top of the other three stages, everything that came before them strengthens the framework. This is the stage at which actions are so predictable that we don’t consciously have to think about the relationship. At this phase, trust has become so integral a part of the relationship that we expect it to work. At their peak, relationships imbued with trust are bonded together by a faith so strong that it is very difficult to destroy the relationship. It is at this stage that people allow themselves to become entirely vulnerable to others.

To conclude this insight into Trust, I would like to share a short blog post by Ted Colne which talks of why trust is so important for a leader like you in the long run:

Why is trust so important for a leader in the long run?

In a word, faith.

A leader whose people trust her, is someone whose people have faith in her; people who will give her the benefit of the doubt when things go wrong; people who stick with her when she stumbles, or when the group fails as a unit. That faith, that trust, is like money in the bank saved for a rainy day. Without it, a leader’s people will desert her at the first sign of trouble.

This could be physically, as in quitting the team, the business unit, or the company. It could also be emotional, and this may actually be worse. When people come to work disgruntled, they won’t put in their best effort. They’ll infect newcomers with their negative attitudes. Their customers will catch the vibe. So will potential customers, and potential employees. How do you measure sales that don’t happen, or talent that doesn’t come aboard? Yet these immeasurables can spell the slow, painful death of an organization.

On the other hand, it is trust that provides the opportunity to lead the team out of danger when trouble strikes – as it always will, no matter how amazing a leader one is.

For instance…

  • Edison resisted moving from Direct Current to Alternating Current for far too long; had his investors not trusted him, he would have lost control of his company and might have died a failure
  • The people of South Africa trusted Nelson Mandela to lead them out of white rule and into democracy peacefully, rather than through bloody revolution; trust made all the difference to the entire nation

How about you, Mr. or Ms Leader?

Do your people trust you? When you stumble, do they forgive you and remain by your side, or do they roll their eyes at each other and say, “Here she goes again?”

Chances are very high you cannot answer this question properly yourself.

The higher we get on the org chart, the less in-touch most of us are with our people – and most leaders compound this tendency, of isolation-through-position, by surrounding themselves with yes-men or with like-minded individuals.  That means few leaders can trust someone to tell them when their people have lost trust in them.

Who tells you when your baby is ugly? And what is the price of not knowing?

Peter Buckley

I coach and develop individuals and businesses, in the private and public sector, Internationally and in the UK at board C-Suite and operational levels. Acknowledged outstanding results delivered through bespoke individual and team coaching, mentoring and leadership development to enable performance and productivity improvement with positive team dynamics and sustainable enhanced morale.


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