Discovering Your Trust Mindset
By Carl Daeche, Leadership Coach and Trainer of SARGIA Partners
Becoming a better leader by challenging your trust mindset
What makes people trust you? Have you ever stopped to think from their perspective? In business we focus on the trust we have for others.
We all know what trust is and we all know of its benefits to life and business. So, what do we do to establish insight into our trust mindset? Do we ever stop to think about how trustworthy we are? How we can grow our trust mindset to work for us and not against us?
If I trust you, what’s in it for me? Is this your approach. Why should I trust that person? I don’t really know them? How can I trust them? Why should I? Why shouldn’t you?
It is our trust mindset that defines the who, how, when, where and why we trust. If we dedicate some time to reflect on our trust mindset, we will become more aware of how it is we have the relationships we do.
What is your default trust mindset?
We have all worked for leaders keen to demonstrate their starting position on trust. “You have to earn my trust”. This normally goes hand in hand with. “You must earn my respect”. What is your default position on trust?
What influences your trust mindset? The short answer is life. A new born fear only two things, being dropped or being subjected to loud noises. As we live, it is our experiences and created fears that influence and shape our trust mindset.
Our negative experiences together with created fears and prejudices come from everywhere: as consumers, lovers, friends, husbands and wives, work environments, company brands, crime, alcohol, actors, writers, politicians, regional accents, colour of skin, religion, sports teams, history, medicines, surgery, media, everywhere and everything can affect our trust mindset.
As humans we are influenced by the “sound advice” of experience and fears for two reasons. The reptilian brain needs us to survive and the need for the conscious brain to filter and simplify life wherever it can. Our neo-cortex then applies reason to justify our trust mindset to ourselves.
What is the result of your trust mindset and how does it impact your reality? If we trust everyone and everything all of the time, we become gullible, weak and a poor judge of character. This extreme is not healthy for survival, but it is where we all started. It is why we “don’t talk to strangers”.
Our trust mindset is in constant flux and it is vulnerable to instant polar changes. It can take years to create but such is its fragility, that in an instant it can be irreparably damaged by one experience.
There can be fewer better work environments to examine trust and its impact than that of the Police Service. In 1983, as a 20-year-old, newly qualified Police Officer posted to a busy team in the centre of London, I remember sitting alone on a table away from the rest of the team for a number of weeks during meal breaks. After a while I was invited to join the table, to join the team. It took me a while to realise that I was being tested for trust. The level of trust necessary was of the highest echelon. Officers needed to trust each other with their lives. To be secure that their back was covered and there would be someone there to protect them if they fell.
A decade later I witnessed the destruction of this trust at the highest level. A team of officers refusing to work under the leadership of the inspector they were assigned. Such was their level of distrust of the leader that the feeling of safety and security had gone, it was irreparably damaged.
It took time to build the trust between myself and my colleagues yet in an instant the leader can lose this trust, never to be able to regain it. Without trust this leader could not function. This leader had not taken the time to challenge his trust mindset. It had become static, he failed to take responsibility for it and blamed those around him. The amount of time and effort required to build trust into relationships and to recognise how easy it is to slip up and lose that position in an instant. He never led a team again.
Challenge your own trust mindset
It is time to challenge our own trust mindset? Is it serving you well currently? How trusted are you by others? Where and when do you trust others?
Have you asked yourself “What do I need to do to trust this person or be trusted by them?”
We also need to decide to what level we need trust, a scalar of trust.
Consider your work colleagues, peers, friends or even partners. On a scale of 0-10 with 0 equalling no trust and 10 meaning 100% trust in everything. Where would you score them?
We have colleagues who we can confide in, in the safe knowledge that they will remain discreet. However, would you trust the same person to meet that tight deadline? So now we apply situational trust. What is it that defines the scores we give on this trust scalar? Should we trust ourselves to correctly judge trust?
We trust people on the advice of others. Consider this scenario. Your gas boiler has a fault. Though you can fix many things this is outside of your expertise and you do not trust yourself due to the potential safety risk associated with gas related equipment. You speak with a close and trusted friend who you know has just had their central heating system updated. They recommend the company. What do you do? My question here is why are they a close and trusted friend? What experiences led you to trust them? Are the experiences connected with the situation you are in now? It maybe that the friend is in a similar trade, or the last person they recommended worked out very well, or it might be that you trust their judgement in all areas. Where are they in the scalar and your trust mindset?
You book the same company, but they arrive late to fix the gas boiler. The worker damages the housing cupboard. Six weeks after the work is completed the boiler breaks down again. Where on the scalar is your trusted friend now? What has happened to your trust mindset? Does your friend scores lower? Yet they could not have influenced the outcome. Will you ask your friend to recommend anything else to you in the future? You have let your trust mindset to be negatively impacted.
Ernest Hemingway suggests “the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them”. Would you take the risk? When we offer our trust, we suddenly become vulnerable, weaker and somehow naked. It’s within this level of nakedness that we can start to measure our trust mindset. If we offer our trust, how do we know that the recipient will respond positively. Will they take advantage of you? Will they prove themselves worthy of your trust?
The risk to trust for all or nothing leaders
Are you an all or nothing person? When you trust someone, do you give your all? Do you offer a place in your inner sanctum and welcome them to share in your vulnerability? But what happens when that person slips up? What happens when the trust is dented or cracked? Well if you are an all or nothing person there is no such thing as a dent or crack. Trust for you is either a perfectly formed Ming vase or is smashed beyond repair, laying on the ground in a million pieces. If you are an all or nothing leader is that healthy? Do you see a greater turnover of staff than others?
How does your trust mindset influence your own leadership opportunity? Those with a low trust mindset are prone to become risk averse. They cannot trust the risk of failure or disappointment. And how closely do you manage your team? Low trust mindset results in micromanagement and the restriction of the innovation and capability of the team.
What is your current starting place? Do you distrust a person until they “prove” themselves to you, will you ask them to eat alone as I remember it? Or do you trust them from the get-go and let the person confirm your trust or disappoint you? Which option should the leader apply? Imagine being the colleague whose boss does not trust you, how can we ensure the best from that person? Until that person feels trusted and belongs how can they operate to their full potential.
Discovering our trust mindset is the key to the success of relationships both in and outside of business. How we decide to apply our trust mindset defines how we will interact and build those relationships. It is better that we love and risk losing that love than to never love at all.
So, when you ask, “why should I trust this person” ask yourself “what happens if I don’t”.
It is time to step back and reflect on your trust mindset. For although those around you will regularly try to influence your trust level it is you that determines your trust mindset.
Be the leader that seeks to be trusted. You choose how naked you want to be.