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The Power of Trust

Trust is largely an emotional act, based on an anticipation of reliance. It is fragile, and like an egg shell, one slip can cut it. It is...

Trust is largely an emotional act, based on an anticipation of reliance. It is fragile, and like an egg shell, one slip can cut it. It is fundamentally important in the healthy functioning of all of our relationships with others. It is even tied to our wealth: trust is among the strongest known predictors of a wealth –low levels tend to be poor. Low levels of trust are poor because the inhabitants undertake too few of the long-term investments that raise incomes. 

Oxytocin, a hormone and neurotransmitter, increases our propensity to trust others. When we are brought up in a safe, nurturing and caring environment, our brains release more oxytocin when someone trusts us. Experiences of stress, uncertainty and isolation interfere with the development of a trusting disposition and decrease oxytocin levels. 

Many leaders receive feedback that others don't find them trustworthy. But being trustworthy, in someone's eyes, is based on their own perceptions. Indeed, people don't automatically trust leaders these days. Trust needs to be earned through diligence, fidelity and effort.
If lack of trust is an issue which causes you concern, what can you do to manage perceptions of trust? Here are a few quick tips:
  • The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say 'I.' accept responsibility and don't sidestep down. This is what creates trust.
  • View promises you make as an unpaid debt.
  • Keep talking about what matters. “Tell three times is true."
  • Your reputation is like a brand. What you want to be known for. Brand is trust.
  • Be known as a truth teller in your organization. This preserves trust, as your people know that you did not lie, and, they understand that even though you have more information, strategic imperatives prevent you from sharing.
  • Earn the trust of your customers by insisting that everyone observes the "five pillars of trust":
  • Keep your promises.
  • Be willing to help.
  • Treat customers as individuals.
  • Make it easy for customers to do business with you.
  • Ensure that all physical aspects of your product or service give a favorable impression.
  • The more time you spend with people, the more the level of trust increases.

Organizations typically spend considerable energy and effort in team building initiatives, including workshops, retreats, and adventure type experiences. While all of these have their place, if organizations want to increase collaboration and enhance teamwork, they need to start with trust. It's the benchmark of healthy team relationships, it's a very simple process. It's all about individual behaviors. Do individuals behave in a trustworthy manner or not? There is only a pass or fail here. And what are these behaviors? We all instinctively know them, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves of what they are.

Trust is power. It's the power to inspire and influence. It's the glue that bonds us to each other, that strengthens relationships

George Washington said, "I can promise nothing but purity of intentions, and, in carrying these into effect, fidelity and diligence."