The Importance of Trust

With your indulgence, here is an excerpt on trust from a book I wrote two years ago.

“The root of all effective human relationships is trust. All relationships have trust in some form or another or else the bond will not last. Trust is so pivotal to all human interaction and is a business imperative. Those who scoff at building and maintaining trust in a business or other setting do so at their own peril. Productivity and creativity are higher when trust is valued. If trust is not important, productivity and creativity will become sluggish and eventually disappear.

Most people know that treating others with trust and respect will bring very positive outcomes and yet how many of us struggle to do just this? Many of us could make an impassioned argument for the importance of great communication (to include deep listening) only to find ourselves moving too quickly past a conversation with a spouse, child or co-worker. What did she say? What did he mean? These and other questions are all important to process carefully in the moment.

Why is trust important to leadership and healthy cultures? Without trust, individuals are not open with each other. They hide behind a façade for personal protection. In spite of outward bravado, most people gravitate toward those they can enjoy on some level in a two-way exchange. In any healthy human relationship there is a basic question under the surface that says, “How much do you care about me?” Most people will not maintain a long-term friendship with someone who belittles them, tears them down or devalues them. We have all worked at some point for a boss who was impossible to please. You can be sure there was some sort of negative reaction going on first internally and then sometimes externally.

Think back to that boss who was always unreasonable and treated you poorly. What if he or she would have approached you asking for input on an upcoming project? If you knew your ideas were consistently not valued or used, how likely would you have been to contribute openly? You might have made some helpful comments depending on your personal values but probably stopped short of full input.

On the other hand, think back to working for a boss who brought the best out of you. This person consistently appreciated participation and implemented at least some of your thoughts into a final solution. Now, how likely would you be to offer thoughts on an upcoming task? It was probably hard to shut you up! Why the difference between the two scenarios? In one word: trust. Over time, most healthy people do not gladly go where uninvited in relationships.” (Friesen, 2008)

Here are some ideas for application.

  • Think of an individual you highly respect. What specific things does or did this person do to increase your respect? If you had a problem and took it to this person, what was the response? How do you see this linking to trust? Choose one behavior or principle you would like to model from your example.
  • List the top five to ten people in your life. In the course of daily life, practice deeply listening to each of the individuals on the list with any of your normal interactions with them (eyes off the computer screen or Blackberry, phone down, etc.). What do you learn? How does this build trust?
  • Choose one person with whom you would like to re-build trust. Without any defensiveness, apologize if needed with no strings attached. Give forgiveness without the other needing to request it. Now, start to extend small, consistent kindnesses over time. How does this repair the relationship weeks and months? Who’s next?

Reference

Friesen, Mike (2008). Expected End: What Culture Is, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It. Chehalis, WA. Lulu Press.

Michael Friesen is the owner of Leading Strategies, a firm dedicated to coaching concierge medical groups and other service organizations build high performance teams (www.LeadingStrategies.net). Mike is a retired military officer, fighter pilot, former CFO, and holds a M.B.A. with Strategic Leadership emphasis. Michael is also the author of “Expected End: What Culture Is, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It.” You are invited to follow Leading Strategies on Twitter at twitter.com/LSTeams.

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