The Crisis of Trust in Organizations

Blog Post A Culture that Fuels Our Strategy

In over 100 interviews I have conducted with executives across a wide spectrum of industries, one of the most common issues they talk about is the lack of trust in organizations. Blamed as one of the reasons things do not get done or move as fast as they should, trust is an aspect of teamwork that cannot be ignored.

Trust, or the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, strength of someone, or something, is one of the nonphysical aspects of teamwork that you can actually know whether it is present. Another definition of trust is the acceptance of the truth of a statement without evidence or investigation. What you normally see in a team that trusts one another is the belief, and the peace of mind that comes with it, that what the other person is saying, especially when it comes to deliverables or handling sensitive information, is true. If I tell you, I got your back: you either trust me that I do, or you do not. It would be very hard for me to provide physical evidence for a figure of speech.

Conversely, teams and organizations without trust spend a great deal of time dealing with the burden of proof. Why are we doing it this way? Are we doing it this way just to make it harder for me? This must be more advantageous for them than it is for us. It is about showing the rationale, the pathways, the alternatives, and the consideration for each other. That takes time.

Therefore, one of the main questions I have dealt with this year is, “how do you build trust?” If trust is the acceptance of a belief without proof, how do you create and reinforce it? It is either something you have, or you do not. In my work with teams, I have tried many things: start small, entrusting somebody with information and see what happens, explain to the other person, in a vulnerable way, why something is important to you, try to live from the other person’s point of view. All of these steps require some sort of vulnerability and I have found some teams reticent because of lack of trust. So the inquiry remains: how do you build trust if you need trust to build trust?

No transformation is possible without trust, without believing that the other person, supervisor, or leader understands us and has our back. The hardest part is that we have to do it without proof or with evidence that points the other direction. At the end of the day, trust is putting yourself out a figurative ledge, hoping the other person catches us. If they don’t, we will not trust them again. But, the caveat is, we have to choose that before jumping and risking the fall. My advice is working on trusting that others have our back and having other’s people’s backs is preferable. So jump, maybe two or three times, and see if they catch you. Life is so much easier once you get off the ledge.

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