The Foundation – Three Things I’ve Learned about Trust

According to the Oxford Dictionary trust is defined as a “firm belief in the reliability, truth or strength etc. of a person or thing”. When teams struggle, very often there is a breakdown in trust. A breakdown in the reliability of each other, the confidence in each other.

When I was in high school, I had a social studies teacher that started off the year proclaiming to the entire class that everyone, at this very moment, has a “A” in this class. For someone who never really achieved high marks, I was pretty stoked to say the least. Until the teacher then went on to say that it was now my job to maintain that “A”.  He had given us the benefit of the doubt, he started off with trust and it was up to us to keep it.

What do you think? Is trust only earned and built over time, thereby we start off with little to no trust? Or can trust be given generously and then it is up to the involved parties to hold it vigilantly? It’s the chicken and egg debate. I believe there is no right or wrong answer here. Both work, both are right and in fact, most people likely find the middle point.

No matter if you are in an organization, a friendship, a relationship, or a community – trust is the foundation. Like a house, it has to be solid for anything to be built on it. When I work with teams, if I see there is little trust, that is my starting point for helping them.

While there are so many important elements to trust, here are three basic things I’ve learned about trust in all aspects of my life. I’m betting none of these are new to you, but hopefully a good reminder:

  • Be impeccable with your word – this is one of the Four Agreements written by Don Miguel Ruiz (read this book, it is so powerful and timeless). Speak with a positive intention. Don’t gossip. Hold people’s information with care – do not share people’s private information. One of the quickest ways to erode trust is to gossip, share information that is not yours and to speak unkindly of others. Additionally, it is okay to admit to mistakes – we are human after all and will all inevitably make mistakes along the way. I have a lot of admiration for people who stand up and say, “Yikes, I made that mistake and I am taking responsibility for it”.
  • Do what you said you would do – this one is simple, but quite often I’ve had my own experience of over-committing and then finding myself scrambling to finish what I promised. The trick here is to find the balance – the balance of committing to what you know you can follow through with and the balance of knowing when you might need to ask for help. A big part of this is consistency. Being consistent in your commitments and follow through is a key part of building trust.
  • Meet in the middle – while trust may be blindly given at the beginning, it takes work and effort to build on and maintain it – to maintain that proverbial “A”. It takes both or all parties to support trust. It cannot be one-sided and be truly trusting. I see this as a meeting in the middle – we are all committed to coming to the trust centre together. I can count on you. You can count on me.

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships. ~ Stephen Covey

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