“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” – Albert Einstein
In my work as a coach and organization development consultant, a common concern I encounter with my clients is a lack of trust among colleagues. This includes team members, peers, and even senior executives. A lack of trust means little progress can be made.
Author Patrick Lencioni discusses the absence of trust as a foundational aspect in any well-functioning team in his book The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. Without trust, there can be no progress as this serves as the basis for the psychological safety necessary for any group of people to collaborate well.
The previous President of this country reportedly told more than 30,000 false or misleading claims while in office. He was defeated when running for re-election, yet because of his continued lies as well as the misinformation of his backers, 70% of Republicans still don’t believe Joe Biden was the legitimate winner of the 2020 election.
When our Facebook and Twitter feeds contain false information, rumors presented as facts, and clear lies, we need to question the value of social media. When talking heads on cable TV spout misinformation simply to spike viewership, we should turn the channel. And when politicians lie, they need to be held accountable and voted out of office. If we normalize this lack of trust in the people we follow, tune in to, or vote for, we are doomed to be continually misinformed, misled, and swindled.
For some reason the search for truth no longer seems foundational in forming our own opinion. Have we gotten lazy and given up on the notion of thinking for ourselves?
This lack of trust is due to many factors, but perhaps began when we stopped paying for subscriptions to trusted news sources and allowed social media, cable news shows, and talk radio to tell us what we should and should not believe. We can certainly find confirming data on any given conspiracy theory on the internet. That doesn’t make the information true.
In our work lives as well as in our personal lives, it’s vital that we build and maintain trust in those around us. This is about integrity, and it is becoming all too rare.
To restore and build trust in our lives, we must begin by examining ourselves and see what sort of example we are showing to others:
Behaviors that Diminish Trust:
- Stating your opinion as if it’s a fact
- Accepting others’ opinions as fact
- Failing to evaluate your news source as reliable for honesty and fairness
- Retweeting unvetted things on social media
Behaviors that Build Trust:
- Walking your talk: Do what you say and say what you will do
- Being accountable and holding others accountable
- Questioning the reliability of what you see, hear, and read
- Choosing to be accurately informed and allowing to rethink what you believe
I choose to enter all my interactions both personal and professional with a trusting attitude. By extending trust first I know I could be taken advantage of, but I do so regardless because I want to expand rather than contract my world. And, in my experience, I have not been swindled often.
However, while I choose to trust first, this doesn’t mean I trust always. When someone proves to be untrustworthy by being unreliable, dishonest, or misinformed, I adjust my trust meter to no longer take them at their word. Their trust then needs to be restored.
I take this approach with people in my personal and professional life as well as those I don’t know but follow and look up to. This includes politicians, public officials, athletes, celebrities, and others in the media. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
We need to restore and build trust in order to make progress in our workplace as well as in our democracy. Nothing is more important than trust.