I've recently returned from a trip to Argentina where I experienced first hand the impact on the business community of a country where there is no trust in the system, nor of government.
In every country I hear the usual grumbles about what the government did or didn't do, but here it seemed much more pervasive.
People told me of total unpredictability, and of politicians lining each others pockets. Sudden changes to taxes, to employment policy, to fiscal policy. Within this environment it was impossible to plan one's own enterprise with any rigour, and much harder to build a culture of trust within a company in a country where mistrust is embedded in the culture.
Sometimes organisations list trust as a value they want in their company. I see trust as an outcome, not a value. In Spanish the word 'confianza' means both trust and confidence. Trust cannot be mandated, but only earned through the confidence that is built through the signals someone sends through their behavior and their presence. It is possible, however, for you to create the conditions within the culture of your team which lead to an environment of trust. I've found three components of trust: Reliability, Competence and Intent.
1. Reliability. Do what you say you will do. Keep your word. Anticipate, acknowledge and apologize if you see a commitment at risk. Ask for commitments from others (which is different from telling them what to do). Hold them to those commitments once given. In short, set a standard that commitments matter.
2. Competence. Does this person have the skill to play this role? Can each person in the team be counted on to fulfill the responsibilities assigned to them? Are you providing the coaching required? Only the boss can remove someone who is not up to the job - if you leave people in roles who are not up to the job, you create mistrust.
3. Intent. The deepest and least tangible of the three. We make assessments of each others motives. Your colleague does not copy you on a memo you believe is critical. Do you see their action as an oversight, or a desire to cut you out of the discussion? Mistrust builds as you see a pattern in someone's past behavior which leads you to believe they do not have your best interests at heart. Like the Argentinean government.
In every case, the first step to re-building trust is to have that difficult conversation. A topic for another blog, or check out the classic book on this.
I leave you with another dimension to think about. Most of us incline to either over-trusting or under-trusting. If you mistrust almost everyone, this is probably a reflection of your own mental model of the world, rather than of the other people, this will actually encourage an 'everyone for themselves' culture. On the other hand, if you over-trust, you can lower standards and performance suffers. Knowing your own tendencies increases your ability to build the best culture.
Image via Creative Commons.