I recently started reading a new book called Trust. Written by Pete Buttigieg, it argues that a loss of trust in each other and in our institutions is causing severe harm in many developed countries, including America. I am not here to do a political analysis. If you want that, read Pete’s book. It’s very good. But I do want to say just a few things about trust.
When I was in college, kind of way back in the day, a wise professor, the elder statesmen in my organizational behavior program, Dr. Richard Price, conducted exit interviews with all the graduating seniors. In mine, he said Brad, I hope you learned a lot in the past four years. But remember, more important than any theory is trust. Trust is the key.
Organizational behavior is interested in the principles that make groups run efficiently. None is more important than trust. If you trust the people around you—be it your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, coaches, you name it—you do not have to manage them or waste time and energy looking over your shoulder. You can focus on being in the present moment and moving forward.
Just think about so many of the things we loathe. Status-check meetings. Legal contracts. Micro-managing. Being micro-managed. At the heart of all these is a lack of trust. If you had full trust, you wouldn’t need nearly as much of this stuff.
The same theme is true at the individual level. The more fully you trust yourself, the less time you spend second-guessing, worrying, and feeling the need to prove (to yourself) that you belong. All of that time and mental energy could instead be devoted to other, more fulfilling, endeavors. This is why a key mantra I use with coaching clients, especially when self-doubt and nerves creep in, is trust your training.
Within that mantra is an important lesson on how to build trust—your training. Trust doesn’t come out of thin air. It comes from evidence. As an anonymous Zen teacher put it: “Faith is the confidence born from realizing the fruits of practice.”
Faith → confidence → practice. Very different than wishful thinking → arrogance → talk.
Another way to develop trust is through vulnerability, both with oneself and others. As the researcher Brene Brown so eloquently puts it, “we think that vulnerability comes from trust, but it’s the other way around; trust comes from vulnerability.” The more we confront our own fears and weaknesses and, when appropriate, share them with those around us, the more trust we’ll gain.
In the final analysis, if we want to build trust—with ourselves, with others, with our organizations, even amongst entire societies—we’ve got to give ourselves and those around us evidence. And we’ve got to be willing to be vulnerable. Back to where I started and Pete’s book. Just imagine a government that was a bit more transparent and a bit more vulnerable. Given it’s October of an election year, you can vote to make it happen.