What is trust?

Trust is a willingness to make yourself vulnerable to another party, when you can’t completely predict how they will act and you have a choice about what you do.  There are three core critical elemnts here, choice, uncertainty, and vulnerability.  Unless all three are present then trust is not an appropriate construct to consider.  Without choice we can have faith in another party or not but trust doesn’t enter the equation.  Without uncertainty there is no need for trust.  Without vulnerability then we are more likely to experience indifference.

Why does trust matter?

Trust acts as a social lubricant allowing us to interact and societies to function more efficiently.  Our world doesn’t actually work all that well without at least some level of trust.  We trust other people to obey the rules of the road when we travel, to act appropriately (or at least not dangerously) when we are out in public, and to obey the generally accepted rules of our society when they are with those we care about.

A number of studies have shown that higher trust levels lead to significant increases in productivity, profitability and performance.  Higher trust levels increase efficienty, allow to you more effectively get and retain customers and increase your ability to lead others.

Is trust always good?

No, since trust is a decision to make yourself vulnerable then doing so inappropriately is unwise.  Some of the largest scandels we’ve seen have been as a result of trust being placed inappropriately in individuals or organizations unworthy of it.  While there are many benefits attributed to higher levels of trust care must still be taken to trust appropriately.

Is more trust always better?

No, as noted above people can really be hurt if they trust inappropriately.  What I try to do is help people close the gap between how much they should be trusted and how much they are actually trusted.  Being trusted more than we should inevitably leads to disappointment and harm being done to those that have trusted us.  It also means we often find ourselves trying to make up for things that have gone wrong.

How do I know if someone trusts me?

I often ask executives who trusts you, the response is often how would I know?  Given that the definition for trust is a willingness to make yourself vulnerable we can evaluate who trusts us by asking, how could they make themselves vulnerabal?  Once we understand how they can make themselves vulnerable the question is do they?  In financial services clients can make themselves vulnerable to you by investing a larger portion of their wealth with you are referring their friends and colleagues to you.  As a leader others can make themselves vulnerable to you by revealing their true development needs, taking appropriate risks, giving honest feedback, or telling you when things are going wrong.

Can trust be built quickly or does it always take a long time?

Trust can be built quickly with the appropriate awareness of where the gaps are.  We can quickly come to trust others if the right circumstances present themselves or if the right actions are taken at the right time.  Trust often occurs swiftly with those we know little about.  We trust doctors, waiters, cab drivers and pilots even though we know little or nothing about them as people.

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