Understanding Trust and its importance in the post pandemic times

In the latest book ‘Learning Factory’ by Arun Maira, who worked for Tata Administrative Services and at several senior positions within the Tata Group, recalls several incidences of how the Tata group enjoyed the trust of the workers and the common people. At one occasion, a Tata employee’s baggage is spared being checked at the airport simply because the officials feel if he’s working for the Tatas, he is worth trusting. Such is the importance and significance of trust in the corporate life. It is said that in the business world, one needs to earn respect and trust every day, afresh. You cannot bank on previous good deeds and enjoy trust forever. A single incident can mar the trust earned over a lifetime.

What is trust?

Psychology defines trust as a set of behavior. It is a belief that a person will behave in a certain way under any circumstance. It is dependability as perceived by others. So trust is something seen in others’ perspective and not by the person in question. How much ever I say I am trustworthy, my trustworthiness is actually dependent on how much others trust me. And their trust on me is shaped every minute by my behavior in varied circumstances. Trust is closely related to certain personality traits like

  • Truth
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Dependability
  • Transparency
  • Ethics
  • Consistency

When a person has a confluence of the above traits, naturally he/she is deemed trustworthy in the eyes of those who interact with them.

Trust is a very strict and tricky preposition- it is either present or absent. There cannot be anything in between. Which means it is seen in black or white. Tons of documents to ensure a person does not betray may be wasted if the person acts in connivance against someone. In some other cases, there could be major transactions done based merely on a person’s words, without any signatures or documents. People, companies, organizations, groups, political parties all consider trust as the foundation of their existence. Tacit and implicit trust is deemed to exist until it is broken by a misdeed by either of the parties.

How Trust matters

In personal life and in the corporate world, it is people who earn and lose trust through their behavior. A 2019 article in the Harvard Business Review by Jack Zegner and Joseph Folkman lists three key elements of Trust in the corporate settings. They studied a whopping 87000 leaders and came out with the three elements:

  1. Positive Relationships
  2. Good judgment or expertise
  3. Consistency

They also found that the three are interdependent meaning one is impacted with the presence or absence of the other two. However, very surprisingly, they found that it was good relationships that matter the most and impacted the most when not present.
Why does this happen so? That’s because human beings invest in and understand emotions better than any other transactions. Emotions are the primal instincts of human beings and they decide a person is trustworthy based on the relationship with that person. This factor is so dynamic and volatile that the person in question has to be aware of the pitfalls in case he/she loses trust of others. Leaders, especially, mustbe always careful in their behavior.

Companies today incorporate highest standards of trust into their DNA and expect utmost trustworthiness from all its stakeholders. If you cannot be good and trustworthy, you will soon be sidelined from the system.

Trust also impacts an individual or the organization in several other ways

  1. A company that exemplifies trust is often considered a dream company towork for by potential employees
  2. A trustworthy company almost always performs way ahead than the others in terms of value creation for shareholders (the Top 10 Trustworthy companies have outperformed others on the S&P500 )
  • Companies that enjoy utmost trust develop a culture of trust within its DNA. Trust always develops top down, which means that it is the leaders who must exemplify trust without exception, and then those below will follow suit.
  1. Companies that have a very low threshold for tolerance against misdeeds or misbehavior are seen as benchmarks by the industry.
  2. When company culture, leadership and purpose align with each other, the company can definitely flourish.

Is it easy to build trust? Well, yes, very easy, but extremely difficult to maintain it. Consistency plays a key role in developing trust in the long run.

How to develop trust

  1. Be genuine. A person’s genuineness in his approach and behavior with other plays is seen through all facades.
  2. Show utmost honesty, transparency and ethical behavior in all dealings- big and trivial
  • Keep an open attitude towards suggestions and change. A person who can positively adapt to change without compromising on ethics, can stay afloat in competition with head held high
  1. Encourage interactions and expression of diverse ideas. That ensures no one feels boxed up or under-recognized.
  2. Subject yourself and your company to the most stringent scrutiny. That makes sure you’re always above speculation.
  3. Never indulge in gossip or speak behind the back of a person. Maintain respect that ensures people feel confident to approach you and speak their minds.
  • Appreciate, reward consistent trustworthy behavior by all stakeholders.

Trust is the bedrock of success in today’s world, for individuals, and resultantly, for companies. Being extremely fragile, it needs to be cared for at all times. Building a strong reputation for trust may not give you monetary benefits in the short term, but it will give you huge rewards and satisfaction in the long term. Examples are galore of people who were the subject of a small slight or giving in to momentary temptation and losing trust earned over the years, forever. One may never want such a situation for oneself. Trust and all its associate traits must be ingrained so that one doesn’t have to consciously show them in behavior. It is just the way you are, at all times, at all places, with everybody. Trust me, it is indeed much simpler than one can ever imagine.

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