Building trust is a concept that can be difficult to grasp. What is trust, and how do you cultivate it in business? However, trust doesn’t have to be so elusive. It is possible to cultivate trust in all kinds of relationships. In this article, we’ll look at what trust actually means, the benefits of trust, and various strategies for building trust: in business, in relationships, and everywhere else.
Table of Contents
- Trust Definition: Getting on the Same Page
- Broken Trust: Barriers to Relationships
- The Effects of Lack of Trust in Teams
- How to Build Trust in a Relationship
- Brené Brown Anatomy of Trust
- Why Is Trust Important & How Trust Benefits Business Teams, Personal Relationships, and Yourself
Trust Definition: Getting on the Same Page
The first step toward talking about trust is similar to the first step of building trust itself: arriving at a shared definition of trust. To define trust, let’s recognize that it’s a dimension of every relationship, even the relationships we don’t necessarily prioritize or even enjoy. The simplest definition of trust: an expectation of reliability in a person or behavior over time. It’s even possible, in some sense, to “trust” your adversaries or your competition. You expect them to compete with you over time, and they are reliable in that! And in a business setting, you might “trust” someone on your team to have the shared goals of the team at heart, but that isn’t the same as “trusting” them to reliably complete their tasks.
Broken Trust: Barriers to Relationships
The importance of trust, even the kinds of trust we take for granted, is revealed most when some form of trust is broken. Broken trust can permanently damage or end relationships. Relationships without trust are mostly impossible to maintain, or at least extremely limited. Most people will naturally put some form of boundaries around relationships so they don’t have to be in situations where their trust may be broken. And building trust in the wake of broken trust can be a remarkably difficult process.
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The Effects of Lack of Trust in Teams
Because relationships without trust cannot flourish, a lack of trust in teams is detrimental to their success. A lack of trust keeps teams from surpassing anything more than a collection of individuals. Worse, being in a group setting without trust can lead to competition and discord. This inevitably prevents a team from achieving its goals. This is why any experienced manager or leader knows that building trust is essential to building a high-functioning team.
Imagine you are leading a team and you assign a task to a member of your team, but you don’t truly trust them to complete it. Because of the lack of trust, you may provide extremely specific guidance on what to do. You may follow up to ask about progress early and often. The lack of trust is likely to result in frustration – for you and the task owner. Even if the person delivers on the task, the lack of trust may cause both sides to experience stress and frustration. You can see why trust is essential to the short and long-term success of any team.
How to Build Trust in a Relationship
Now that we know how important trust is for functional relationships, let’s look at how to build and rebuild trust in a relationship. The first step in how to build trust is to acknowledge the basic formula of trust: the expectation of reliability over time. Try to accurately assess and communicate what the other person can expect from you. Likewise, use your ability to communicate to help you build an accurate expectation of what the other person/people you’re relating to will do. One of the most common mistakes people make is not communicating expectations. Most acts of broken trust don’t come from malice, but from misaligned expectations owing to inadequate communication.
Inevitably – and for ambitious people this is especially true – you will find yourself in situations where you are unable to fulfill an expectation for someone. In this case, try to distinguish whether you actually cannot/should not do what the other person expects, or whether it’s just inconvenient for you. If you really can’t do it, then you can maintain or even build trust by using proactive communication.
For instance, let’s say you’ve promised to meet someone at a certain time, but traffic means you’ll be 20 minutes late. You can text the person you’re meeting something evasive like “should be there in just a second!” Or you can not communicate at all. But if you want to build trust, you need to be honest and communicate what is happening: “sorry, but I don’t think I’ll be there for at least 20 minutes.” This latter piece of news may be unpleasant, but it will keep the person you’re meeting from having their trust in you broken.
It is possible to intentionally plan experiences that will lead to increases in trust. There is an entire corporate team-building industry that caters to this need. The efficacy of designed team-building experiences varies, but the insight is sound. By creating shared goals for people, you are creating an opportunity for negotiating expectations and building trust.
Brené Brown Anatomy of Trust
If you’ve had your mind opened to the importance of trust in recent years, there’s a chance it had something to do with a particular viral video. Brené Brown’s “The Anatomy of Trust” is a recording of a speech the renowned social scientist gave at UCLA. In this video, Brown breaks down her transformative mapping of the fundamentals of building trust. It’s worth watching for a deeper look at Brown’s remarkable system, which classifies as The Seven Elements of Trust: boundaries, reliability, accountability, vault (i.e., respected mutual privacy), integrity, non judgment, and generosity.
Why Is Trust Important & How Trust Benefits Business Teams, Personal Relationships, and Yourself
So, at the end of the day, for managers, business owners, and other professionals, why is trust important? Anyone who has worked in business for any amount of time knows that relationships are everything. Commerce is a form of relationship. And building trust is crucial to maintaining successful relationships. No matter what level of intensity you’re talking about, healthy relationships require trust.
Trust is necessary as a pre-condition for creating cohesive and productive teams. Just because team activity may occur in a professional environment doesn’t mean that the degree of group harmony doesn’t hinge on healthy personal relationships. And considering the benefits of trust in a team context helps illustrate how trust benefits us individually.
We make major life decisions in the name of trust, and yet most of us never stop to think about what trust is, why building trust is important, and how it can be cultivated. But it is true that trust can be intentionally created in relationships. In fact, most successful relationships rely in large part on giving conscious care to the dimension of trust. Being more intentional about cultivating trust in your professional life is a surefire way to improve all your professional relationships.
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