Trust is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy and civilization throughout the world – it’s a thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, and the deepest love.
On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, trust has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time.
Trust impacts us 24×7, 365 days a year. It undergirds and affects the quality of every relationship, every communication, every work project, and every business venture, every effort in which we are engaged. It changes the quality of every present moment and alters the trajectory and outcome of every future moment of our lives- both personally and professionally.
Low trust causes friction, whether it is caused by unethical behavior or by ethical but incompetent behavior (because even good intentions can never take the place of bad judgement). Low trust is the greatest cost in life and in organizations, including families. Low trust creates hidden agendas, politics, interpersonal conflict, interdepartmental rivalries, win-lose thinking, defensive and protective communications – all of which reduce the speed of trust.
Trust produces speed. Trust is like the aquifer – the huge water pool under the earth that feeds all the subsurface wells.
Edward Marshall said – “speed happens when people… truly trust each other.”
What is trust? Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric says – “You know it when you feel it”
Trust means confidence. The opposite of trust – distrust is suspicion. When you trust people, you have confidence in them, in their integrity and in their abilities. When you distrust people, you are suspicious of them, of their integrity, their agenda, their capabilities or their track record.
We have all had experiences that validate the difference between relationships that are built on trust and those that are not. These experiences clearly tell us that the difference is not small, it’s dramatically significant.
Think about a high trust relationship that you have with your friend, your spouse, your boss, your colleague, your teacher, your supplier, your vendor, your client. Describe that relationship, how does it feel? How well do you communicate? How quickly can you get things done? How much do you enjoy this relationship?
Now think of a person with whom you have a low-trust relationship. Again, this person could be anyone at work or at home. Describe this relationship. What’s it like? How does it feel? How is the communication? Does it flow quickly and freely, or do you feel like you’re constantly walking on land mines and being misunderstood? Do you work together to get things done quickly, or does it take a disproportionate amount of time and energy to finally reach agreement and execution? Do you enjoy this relationship, or do you find it tedious, cumbersome, and draining? The difference between high and low trust relationship is palpable!
Communication in low and high trust relationships is also qualitatively different, in a high-trust relationship, you can say the wrong thing, and people will still get your meaning. In a low trust relationship, you can be very measured, even precise, and they’ll still misinterpret you.
Jim Burke, former chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson talking about trust says, – “You can’t have success without trust. The word trust embodies almost everything you can strive for that will help you to succeed. You tell me any human relationship that works without trust, whether it is a marriage or a friendship or a social interaction; in the long run, the same thing is true about business, especially businesses that deal with the public.”
Relationships of all kinds are built on and sustained by trust. They can also be broken and destroyed by lack of trust. One of the fastest ways to restore trust is to make and keep commitments – even very small commitments – to ourselves and to others.
Stephen MR Covey, in his book “The Speed of Trust” gave an interesting equation associating trust, speed and cost.
Trust is directly proportional to Speed and inversely to Cost, when trust goes up, speed goes up and costs come down, and when trust goes down, speed comes down and cost goes up.
↓ Trust = ↓ Speed ↑ Cost
↑ Trust = ↑ Speed ↓ Cost
To appreciate this concept just think about the time it used to take at the airports for checking in, prior to 9/11 and now, with increased terrorism and possibility of anyone being a potential terror suspect, there is huge deployment of security personnel and scanners and X-Ray machines at the airport and other public places like railway stations, malls etc.. prior to 1993 Mumbai terror attacks darshan was so convenient and hassle free in temples like Kashi Vishwanth in Varanasi, but post attacks due to suspicion and loss of trust crores of rupees every year is spent on maintaining the security of the temple and the bhakts have to undergo stringent security checks.
American essayist, lecturer, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson rightly stated – “Our distrust is very expensive”
In my organization there is a particular furniture supplier, who is associated with the company since its inception, when we built our campus and were purchasing the furniture, as the order was huge, he asked us to send someone to examine the consignment before it is dispatched; my boss asked me to do the job. I went to his factory, and he took me to the shop floor where the consignment was being readied for packing and dispatch, he had a huge and professional setup, while walking through the rows of large piles of table tops, he suddenly stopped, felt the surface of one table top and asked his man to remove it from the pile, I didn’t find anything unusual with the table top, so when I was sitting in his office, I asked the reason for rejection, he took me to the shop floor again and asked me to feel the surface and said it has a small bubble so in some time the ply might peel off. I appreciated his keen observation and on my return narrated the instance to my boss. This act of his reinforced our trust in him with the result the time gap between order placement and supply has reduced significantly, and the cost of physical checking and audit has also reduced for us as we trust his quality checking standards. Professor John Whitney of Columbia Business School rightly said – “Mistrust doubles the cost of doing business.”
Thomas Friedman observes in the “The World is Flat”, this new “flat” economy revolves around partnering and relationships. No partnering and relationship can work without the element of trust. He says – “Without trust, there is no open society, because there are not enough police to patrol every opening in an open society. Without trust, there can also be no flat world, because it is trust that allows us to take down walls, remove barriers, and eliminate friction at borders. Trust is essential for a flat world…”
Trust is not always visible; we need to put on “Trust Glasses” to be able to see it. The “Trust Glasses” will make things look brighter, clearer and sharper whereas “Mistrust Glasses” make things clouded, hazy and unclear. For most people, trust is hidden from view. They have no idea how present and pervasive the impact of trust is in every relationship, in every organization, in every interaction, in every moment of life. Trust is inbuilt in nature, just consider simple act of eating, when we eat, the body trusts at a small leaf like organ called epiglottis to save us from chocking to death from the food that we are eating that would normally obstruct the airway. Epiglottis is a flexible flap at the superior end of the larynx in the throat. It acts as a switch between the larynx and the esophagus to permit air to enter the airway to the lungs and food to pass into the gastrointestinal tract. The epiglottis never betrays the trust of the body.
Have you ever been in a situation where someone believed in you and trusted you when no one else did? How did it make you feel? What kind of difference did it make in your life? You must have felt great and grateful and the best way to express your gratitude is by extending this trust to others. Chances of being cheated are far less when you trust someone rather than when you mistrust him. Because when you trust someone he has something to lose if he betrays you. Trust is hard wired into our system, as we grow old the trust wanes gradually and we start losing our faith on the power of trust, but it’s worth making effort to reinstate our trust in trust. Trust is an attitude, before trusting others you need to trust yourself. Trust has enormous strength; it’s an attitude worth inculcating.
Shri K.K. Bajpai
School of Management Sciences, Varanasi