The Importance of Trust

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”  I love this question and have often asked it of myself and others. It delves into a basic concept--Do you trust yourself?  If you trust yourself, you’re only as old as you’re feeling that day. If you don’t trust yourself, you’re as old as the calendar says.

So what does this have to do with the bottom line?  Actually, a lot. Trust is the cornerstone of all relationships and since in one way or another, we are all in the people business, it affects all that we do.  What is trust? According to, trust is “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.” (Jackie—Should this be in quotes?)  You know what it feels like to trust someone and you know what it feels like when you don’t.

Stephen M.R. Covey has studied trust and in his book The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything he says that trust always affects speed and cost. When trust is low, speed is low and costs are high; when trust is high, speed is high and costs are low. Take the example of making a major purchase.  We just recently bought a new dishwasher. My tendency would be to research all the models on the market, talk to other people and make a decision – taking lots of time and since I get paid for my time, costing lots of money.  My husband, on the other hand, knows which brand he trusts from past experiences and could make a choice quickly – taking less time and money.

Then take the example of performing a task in your workplace. If you trust your leaders, you’ll feel empowered to do your work, try new things and give it your all, taking less time and money. If you don’t trust them, you are less engaged in your work, costing more money and time. In a 2014/15 Building Workplace Trust: Trends and High Performance report by Interaction Associates, 82 percent of workers say that trusting their managers is key to their performance and sadly only 40 percent of U.S. employees report a high level of trust in their supervisors.  The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer even found that trust in institutions has now reached the lows of the 2009 Great Recession. And maybe this may come as no surprise to you, but for four years now, government is the least trusted institution, with trust levels below 50 percent in 19 out of 27 countries, including the U.S. at 41 percent.

This can all feel overwhelming, but we can do something to change these statistics. And as with most things, it all starts with you. Covey describes a ripple effect model of 5 Waves of Trust that flow from the inside out.  

  • The First Wave: Self Trust – How well do we trust ourselves and consequently inspire others to trust us?  Children are great teachers in this area. They trust what they’re feeling and act on it. And do you do what you say you’re going to do?  This is all a part of trusting yourself.

  • The Second Wave: Relationship Trust - Is our behavior consistent so others can trust us?  This also has to do with authenticity – as Parker Palmer would say, are your role and soul one?

  • The Third Wave: Organizational Trust – Do the organization’s leaders generate trust?  The Building Workplace Trust 2014/15 report found the top five ways employers can increase their trust among employees are:

    • Ask for employee input on decisions that affect them.

    • Give employees background information to help them understand decisions.  

    • Provide employees with learning and resources to promote their success.

    • Admit mistakes to employees.  

    • Don’t punish employees for raising issues.  

  • The Fourth Wave: Market Trust – Is your brand and reputation trusted in the marketplace?  If your organization no longer existed, what would people miss?

  • The Fifth Wave: Societal Trust – How do you contribute to society as a whole?  Do you try to make the world a better place?

I’m sure we’ve all been hurt by trusting someone or something that we later learned was not trustworthy.  We can learn from that and make different choices the next time. Trust involves risk taking and courage, but as the Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast once said, “The aliveness of aliveness is trust.  The religious word is faith, but that means courageous trust, trust in life, cosmic courage.  But that courage implies taking risks.  To live is to take risks.  It’s absolutely central.”   I wish you all the feeling of being alive! Not sure we need this last sentence—I rather like it when it ends with the quote. What do you think?

This article originally appeared in Centered Magazine