Trust is foundational to everything, both at home and at work. When trust is high, people communicate with ease, information flows, and high quality decisions are made. On the other hand, where trust is low, people shy away from conversation, information flow retracts, and decision making is stifled. Although trust is an intangible concept, we all intrinsically know when the erosion of it begins to disrupt our desired result.
As we said, trust is an intangible concept. It revolves around how we feel in a given situation. Yet we do measure trust. We can all identify times where we have high trust and other times when trust is low. Let’s attempt to define this concept by examining trustworthiness. According to Webster, trust is, “(1) a charge or duty imposed in faith or confidence or as a condition of some relationship (2): something committed or entrusted to one to be used or cared for in the interest of another.” In simple terms, trust is a measure of the degree to which a person can believe, depend upon, and rely on something or someone. Trust is built upon experiences of faithfulness, goodness, and integrity.*
Some people trust more easily than others. In general, though, trust is not an automatic response in every situation. Trust is built upon experiences. Bonds of trust develop over time and deepen as we encounter reliability and faithfulness in relationship. Just think about the last time you got a new manager at work. Most of us take a “wait and see” attitude during that kind of change. It isn’t that we don’t trust the new manager; we just don’t have any good, neutral, or bad experiences from which we could build trust. If the new manager approaches their role with respect for us, our competence, and our experience — our trust level grows. Of course the opposite approach diminishes our trust.
Sometimes we think about trustworthiness as being purely about someone’s heart—do they mean well? But trustworthiness is more comprehensive than that. Trustworthiness has to do with character and results. Character reflects who we are. Results reflect what we do.
In the chart below, we generated some target questions to help you determine your trustworthiness. Now, take the pressure off yourself by realizing that no one is perfectly trustworthy. We all fall short of the mark. Yet, this is a great exercise in determining where we can focus to enhance our trustworthiness, and therefore our success.
It is important to realize that trustworthiness is not binary—it falls into a continuum. The more experiences we accumulate of trustworthiness, the more solid our trust bond becomes. The good news is this is completely in our control! In establishing trust bonds, minor infractions are endured (and sometimes even strengthen the bond, if handled properly). In some situations, when a major infraction occurs, we can fracture trust. Fortunately, relationships built on accumulated experiences of trustworthiness hold resilient power. Speaking from personal experience, major infractions can be restored with time, effort, and forgiveness.
It is important to note that trust is the foundation of collaboration, engagement, cohesion, fulfillment, and success at work and at home. Powerful people create powerful relationships. Successful organizations and families are built when powerful people form powerful relationships coalesced around a cohesive mission or purpose.
This building process takes time and it takes trust. Are you taking the time to build trust?
Worldwide Copyright TJ Associates, LLC Diane Kucala
* Merriam-Webster.com. Trust. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trust?show=0&t=1340292171. Accessed June 21, 2012.