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When people experience a failure of trust, they can easily develop a cynical perspective about humanity, never to trust again. This state of bitterness poisons many people’s efforts at leadership, causing them to crash after a few bad experiences. The more productive approach is to choose a life of trust.
On the other hand, we have the option of choosing to continue trusting as our primary mode of operation. In this way, though others have abused our trust, we are not poisoned by that abuse. I’m not talking about being blind to obvious warning signs of untrustworthy character; I’m talking about choosing trust as your primary mode of operation.
Since it goes against our nature: we have to reach deeply to make this choice. The natural reaction is to keep a log of the injustices we have suffered. We learn to play it safe and to avoid risk.
Many organizational benefits are linked to trust:
- Increased speed–It takes more time to check every detail and as trust decreases, bureaucracy increases.
- Lower costs–It costs more to put into place stringent controls.
- A more pleasant work environment, which translates into lower turnover and higher employee satisfaction.
- An engaging work environment–In a trusting environment, there are higher levels of energy, emotional passion, and engagement.
- Creativity–When people trust each other, they tend to generate higher levels of creativity and innovation.
In general, high trust organizations outperform low trust organizations. In his new book, Smart Trust, Steven Covey talks about a virtuous upward cycle that occurs when a company trusts its people and its customers. He says, “A 10% increase in trust has the same effect as a 30% increase in pay.”
I have to admit that there is within me a strong impulse to distrust; but I think that my drive to trust is stronger yet. Part of this is (as I mentioned above) a decision that I made some time ago that I would not allow those who have abused my trust to change me into someone I don’t want to be.
The tendency to distrust is powerful–it makes you feel superior in your self-preservation and judgment. But in reality, it leaves you in a weaker spot as it makes you incapable of responding with agility to opportunity.
Some of you have had terrible things happen to you. A friend of mine recently had a partner embezzle all the funds of the company and then disappear. What can you do when such things happen? How can you ever trust again?
When things like this happen, talk about trusting probably sounds like the naive advice of one who just has not had enough experience in the real world. The opposite is closer to the truth. People who have chosen to trust are usually people who have had their trust terribly abused on more than one occasion.
Trust is the foundation of development. People who do not trust cannot develop themselves nor can they develop others. This is true because, unless you have a degree of certainty about what is not yet seen, you will not be motivated to do what it takes to cultivate that hoped for reality.
- Count the risk of not trusting just as much as you do of trusting.
- Talk with someone about your experiences of having your trust abused.
- Make a conscious choice to trust as a way of life.
- Be trustworthy.
- Trust yourself. Make promises to yourself and keep them.
- Turn bitterness into betterness. Learn from your mistakes but don’t learn bitterness. Instead, look for the deeper lessons that can make you a better person in the future.
How has trust or its absence affected your organization?