We need trust – and to be generally disposed to think positively about the other person – if we are going to take risks, innovate and act without needing to know every fine detail first.
Stop right there. Actually, that statement only applies to one kind of trust. Trust means we can rely on predicting someone's behaviour in a given situation. I can trust some really horrible people - because I know they will always be horrible in a certain type of situation. I can act on that belief with a high degree of certainty. And that kind of person is much easier to deal with than the person whose behaviour I cannot predict.
However, as we carry on, I'm going to assume we're talking about the positive kind of trust.
Well placed trust means risk-taking is a really positive experience, and when things go wrong (as they always will at some point when we take risks), we don’t immediately shift into ‘shift-the-blame’ or ‘told you so’ modes.
Misplaced trust is dangerous. Risk-taking based on that trust is a reckless act. I've done it. It hurt. It still hurts 10 years on.
How do I know in advance whether my trust is well placed or misplaced?
- Look at the past. Has the person or organisation been transparent, reliable and competent? Do they steal ideas, pass the blame buck or talk better than they deliver? Or do they have a track record that makes me believe I can trust them?
- Look at the present. Do others trust them? Sometimes we need to trust against other people’s opinions. But crowdsourcing trust is always a good idea.
- Look to the future. Are there outside pressures that are going to compromise a trustworthy person/organisation's ability to be trustworthy in the future?
Trust isn’t about trusting someone’s position in a hierarchy, their status, training or job title.
Trust isn’t about the wealth or power of an organisation.
Well placed trust is built on track record and careful observation of behaviour.
So look out, I’m watching you!