Why we should focus our efforts on building trust

Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.”
Stephen Covey

Someone once asked me in an interview a long time ago to provide an example of when I was outside my comfort zone.  I recalled a time abseiling in some old slate mines in Wales and 'free falling' into a dark space below me with no knowledge of where the ground was or who was down there (or what was down there!) and only two specks of light shone by the climbing leaders wearing head torches somewhere at the bottom.  The interviewer - I think he was taken aback at my choice of example - asked how I managed this challenging state of affairs and I replied "I trusted the person on the other end of the rope". (What I didn't say was that I also liked the experience and the adrenaline rush - I thought that might not be the right thing to add).

I have designed and delivered workshops in recent times on some interesting and very topical areas: remote and agile working, resilience, influencing and negotiating skills, mentoring skills, exemplar communication skills, customer focus.  One of the abiding themes that emerges in all of these learning events is that of what I call one of our "golden tickets for life" as humans.  That of the ability to build trust.  When you experience trust and know what it's like then you are able to give it.  Then you can do great things, build great relationships, get things done, master tough situations, get what you want without any manipulation or underhand actions.

This trust I experienced in an old mine was an unconditional trust on my part, but looking back it fell into all three forms of trust: contractual trust, competence trust and communication trust.  And trust is transactional - you have to give it to get it.

A good example is mentoring

The foundation of a good mentoring relationship is trust.  The mentee's trust in the mentor depends on the ability of that mentor to show empathy (that they care), has integrity and that they have competence, i.e. the skills, experience and ability through continuous learning.  Building trust is a prime aim of a mentor.  It brings open and honest communication and allows the mentor to challenge, provide feedback and actually get to what really needs addressing.

Giving someone else 100% of your trust


Here's me on the end of a rope trusting the person above me as I scramble up the Pinnacles on St Sunday Crag in the Lake District.

This form of 'scrambling trust' was based on trusting the competency and skills of the other person, but more so of myself.  Trusting myself to commit and climb to the top brought out my motivation to succeed.  Success depended on taking a risk and seeing the climb through to the finish.  Success was about doing it and being capable as well as getting to the top.  It was also about placing my trust in myself as well as others.  I don't think I would have attempted that scramble on my own the first time looking at it from the bottom up, but I know if I go back I can do it.

Back to Covey's quote.  If we want to build good relationships at work, or anywhere, start with building trust.  Every conversation you have with someone presents the potential to do so. 

Start with rapport, finding common ground

Show empathy and integrity 

Make every attempt to show understanding

Value their viewpoint