First we trust, then we do everything else

Trust is no superstar in this world. It seldom takes center stage. Not in our professional life, and for many not in our private lives either. For most people in the business world, trust is a noun that can be defined as“a combination of firms or corporations formed by a legal agreement to reduce competition”.

The basis for collaboration is trust. Thus, trust is the cornerstone of civilization.The competitive nature of business does not naturally foster trust. Yet, trust is the most basic building block of success, of achieving our goals.

Our ability to collaborate is widely heralded as the trait that defines us as human beings. Collaboration has enabled us to develop, explore and innovate.

The basis for collaboration is trust. Thus, trust is the cornerstone of civilization.

Yet, we spend so little time talking about trust in the business world. By and large, we have tried to replace trust with legal agreements. Our contracts and agreements and waivers speak of what we must and must not do. But the truth of the matter is that a legal agreement does not create trust. It is, rather, a symptom of our fear of not being able to create a relationship based on mutual trust. A solid legal agreement does not guarantee a smooth and fruitful collaboration. Instead, it is our safety net for when a collaboration goes completely south.

Trust starts with all parties involved recognizing each other – our respective experiences, talents, limitations, resources and deficits. In a competitive situation, many find it hard to be candid about the less flattering characteristics of their organization. To build trust, this is absolutely necessary. If we do not show those who we want to collaborate with who we really are, they will not show us who they are, and we will get nowhere. Our organizations will just be actors acting out a fantasy.

Trust is to a large extent about predictability. But it’s not a boring predictability. It’s not locking yourself into a behavior, so that your counterpart can predict your every move. It’s showing who you are, what drives and motivates you, what your goals are, what your principles and red lines are.
Psychologists say that famous people have a hard time forming genuine relationships because their fame leads them to confusing their true self with the public persona they project. When two famous people meet, it can result in a persona meeting a persona, rather than a person meeting a person.

It is the same in business. First we need to show who we are – pimples, morning breath and all, and then, once we can look at each other and say “ok, you might not be perfect, but I trust you to be you, and do your best”, then we can get to the real work.
First we trust, then we do everything else.

/Rasmus Lehnér