Everyone has their own definition of trust. Every leader, every entrepreneur, every team member or family member. And they are all somewhat true, because they are passed through individual life filters, colored by specific painful teachings or happy life moments. But what is trust really? The answer, seemingly independent, can be sought by asking good questions. If we ask the question: “Why is trust important to you?”, We will get answers in which values are woven. And again, the answer will be colored by different life experiences.
The question: “Who are you when you have trust?” penetrates even deeper, into identity. Again, through the prism of diverse experience, we will gain a whole range of different experiences of trust.
And maybe we shouldn’t look for an answer to the question what is trust?
What we can certainly define more precisely, and even measure, are the consequences of people’s behavior in an environment in which trust is at a high level, or in which there is a lack of it.
As used and cliché as it may sound, the statement “Everything is about people” makes more sense today than ever. Trust is woven into the core of the human being, but it is also a thin, invisible thread that we are all connected to. Another paradox is that no matter how thin these threads are, they are unbreakable where there is trust. Where it is just a letter on paper, interpersonal relationships are at a very low level.
When we look at trust sociologically, three levels are clearly profiled.
The first, basic level, is self-confidence. Very often, individuals think that they cannot achieve a goal because they do not have enough competencies, others are better, they do not have the conditions and the like. There are many excuses and good reasons why something cannot be done. On the other hand, the Internet is full of videos that “boost” trust or self-confidence and have millions of views. Obviously, this basic level is quite shaken by today’s way of life, the abundance of information and misinformation.
The second level of trust is the team level. This level stems from man’s prehistoric need to live in community with other, self-similar beings. Life in the community ensured bare survival. The members of the community necessarily had to trust each other, because only together could they fight wild beasts or other warlike tribes. Evolutionarily, this need is perhaps more pronounced today than ever. Leaders are most responsible for creating a team environment in which trust is an unbreakable link that connects all team members.
Company culture is the third level of trust. As much as an individual believes in himself, is in a team in which trust is at its maximum, a bad atmosphere in the company can create pressure that will simply lead to the breaking of the team or each individual. On the other hand, when a company and its management have the credibility and trust of employees, it can be a great, invisible glue that connects teams and individuals and gives them a higher purpose.
In practice, it is difficult to distinguish between these levels. Trust at different levels has different effects and they are constantly intertwined. Additional complexity is introduced by the social component, ie. the environment and society in whose context these levels are located.
The impact of trust on a company’s business has never been more obvious than at the time of the Covid 19 pandemic. Recent human history does not remember the threat to human lives as it was at the time of the pandemic. Therefore, it is logical that then people go where they feel safer and where their survival (both material and intellectual) is not endangered. The highest quality staff, those who have confidence in themselves, are looking for similar ones in whom they can trust. And what is it but the human need for security? If a company provides them with such an environment, they take care of it as it takes care of them.
It is no wonder that young, innovative companies have increased the number of employees, but also the profit, because they have a different approach in building and nurturing trust. They have some new leaders who have the instinct for their people and the knowledge to react in an insecure environment. These firms focus on the value their employees bring to the customer, rather than merely measuring the performance of each individual or team. The pandemic “made” some companies trust people, and after the first shock and spasm of what the new way of working will look like, working from home, companies that accepted the new reality and learned something from it clearly profiled themselves. They list successes and count successful projects. Others, who could hardly wait for the pandemic to pass and for everything to return to normal, may again expect business uncertainty and the departure of talent.
No matter how much the civilization has progressed, trust has remained the foundation of the functioning of teams, companies, and society as a whole. It is something that is all around us. We feel it very much when it exists, and even more when it is absent. It is certainly a key ingredient in effective communication and great interpersonal relationships.