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Without trust, nothing in society would work.

We go out in public among strangers because we trust we won’t be attacked. We give a loan, not because of a promissory note, but because we trust the person to repay it based on their word (and past behavior.) We travel in planes because we trust pilots to do their best and our fellow passengers to behave themselves.

All of our personal and professional agreements are based on people doing what they say they will do with competence, integrity and kindness.

So, if trust is so important, it would only follow that a lack of trust is the #1 contributing factor to a breakdown in relationships and teams.

Teams without trust don’t communicate well which hampers decision-making.

Teams without trust dodge accountability and point fingers.

Teams without trust don’t admit faults or problems so they don’t learn, improve and make progress.

Shane Snow, in his book “Dream Teams” lays out the case for trust and its fundamental pinnings. Snow says that people judge other people’s trustworthiness on three primary factors:

  • Ability – smarts and competence
  • Integrity – doing what you say you will
  • Benevolence – having other people’s best interests at heart

And the order they are listed above is important. The order is more of a pyramid than it is a ranking. Here’s why.

Ability is the most fixable. You can train, teach, learn and grow in knowledge and experience. Trust can still be maintained even if there is a lack of ability.

Integrity, or lack of keeping your word, can be rebuilt with contrition and proof in future actions. Humans let each other down constantly, but we can recover through genuine remorse and rehabilitation.

Without benevolence – the foundation of the pyramid – trust is impossible. Without warmth, kindness and sacrifice for others, the pyramid of trust crumbles.

The bottom line? If you want to earn people’s trust, you’ve got to show them that you care.

Instead of touting fancy degrees, big titles, and cold numbers, try focusing on the softer meta skills:

  • Be intellectually humble and curious.
  • Be warm and sincere.
  • Listen attentively and intentionally.
  • Apologize for bad behavior.
  • Smile and remember names.

Trust is like oxygen for high-performing teams.

Capture it, bottle it, and breathe it in deeply to get more creativity and innovation out of your teams – and yourself.

Have a great week.

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