Getting To Trust

1 Apr

There are many forms of trust and many ways that we extend and receive trust. Some forms of trust are extended based on credentials alone (like trust extended to an ER doctor) and some forms take years of personal investment to earn the desired level of trust (like extending trust to someone who has wronged you).


The form of trust I would like to discuss here is a form that Patrick Lencioni (author of ‘5 Dysfunctions of a Team’) refers to as ‘vulnerability trust’. Vulnerability trust is characterized by a sense of security that you can bare your soul to those you trust without fear of rejection or judgement. This is quite a personal and deep form of trust, but it is characteristic of nearly all exceptional work teams.

Although rare, most of us have experienced vulnerability trust at some time in our life. It’s that person or group that you feel you could tell anything to and they would remain supportive. You have most likely experienced this with a spouse, close friend or co-worker. Fundamentally we know what it feels like to be at the point of being comfortable trusting someone, but how did we get ourselves there? How do we get to trust?

The key to understanding how to get to trust is wrapped up in the word ‘vulnerability’. What it takes for two or more people to be vulnerable with one another is the path to trust. This path will be different for everyone. For some people who are naturally an ‘open book’, this may not be a daunting task. For others, however, especially those with insecurities, the path may be very challenging. Every life event experienced to that moment is in play with each individual involved in forming the trust relationship. Before this level of soul-baring can occur, significant reassurances need to be established. A set of rules needs to be established if trust is to be possible. In the context of a work group, I call these rules, ‘team culture’. These rules form a covenant (or binding promise) of expected behaviours. The cultural rules are a covenant, rather than guidelines, because a single infraction of these rules can mean the sudden and permanent dissolving of the trust.

So, what are the expected behaviours that make up a healthy team culture? They will vary depending on the team, but essentially we are talking about mutual respect, a constructive environment (free of judgement and malice), positive attitudes, honesty and confidentiality. Certainly there can be others, but these will likely remain. There is a quality of authenticity that must emerge from this culture that equates to a feeling of safety among its members. Real trust can grow in this type of environment. You can get to trust in this environment.

Robert Ferguson

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