I’m working on a short ‘Trust Guidebook’, to accompany the launch of ‘The Trust Sketchbook’ next week. Today, i’m sharing the first two sections, as part of #WorkingOutLoud.
Trust is complex, perhaps best viewed as a dynamic landscape. From our respective vantage points, we can all see across it, but as we hike through the terrain, trying to find each other, we tread slightly different paths, experience different conditions underfoot, and take in unique views. Whilst unified within the same map, our personal experiences are deeply felt with every step, and utterly personal.
This interpretation forms the context of my work: if trust is a landscape, the best way for us to understand it, is to explore it, and to share our stories as we go. That’s why i describe this work as a ‘guided, reflective, journey’.
In ‘The Trust Sketchbook’, i have shared the 12 aspects of Trust that i think form waypoints along the route. In this accompanying ‘Trust Guidebook’, i’ll be sharing notes and observations built out of the research, and from the experience of accompanying groups on this journey.
But my work is my own journey: I cannot tell you what you will experience, see, or feel. I cannot tell you what trust is. I can only share what it means to me, outline the ways that others have described it, and listen to what it means for you.
And perhaps, in our shared stories, we can find how to lead, to engage, with trust.
The most important thing we can do is to hold each other safe as we go: where our views differ, we can hold those views with respect, and where they diverge, we can learn how those differences may shape our experience, our view, across the Landscape of Trust.
The Landscape of Trust research
Both ‘The Trust Sketchbook’, and this ‘Trust Guidebook’, are products of the Landscape of Trust research, a narrative study. It looks at the following:
What ‘trust’ means between two people.
How ‘trust’ flows within communities and teams and…
What ‘trust’ means in Organisations.
With these data, and through an evolving body of work, i have tried to build out models, abstractions really, of ‘how trust works’, and ‘what we can do about it’.
What is Trust?
We live within complex social systems, made up of myriad personal and structural, relationships. Trust is one of a number of forces that act upon these relationships, causing them to organise, to collapse, in unpredictable, but not totally random, ways, into tight tribal units.
Trust is an intangible, but keenly felt, judgement that we impose upon the relationships we hold within these structures.
Today, i trust you. Tomorrow, i may not. And you may never know.
Trust is not perceivable in the everyday interaction: we may work together for five years, but never truly trust each other. Or i may trust you, whilst you trust me less.
Trust appears to be both contextual, and multi dimensional, so i may trust you, right now, in this context, but trust you much less in a different one. I may say ‘if you wear your formal hat, i do not trust you, but as my friend, i do’. So it seems possible that we can both trust, and not trust, each other in the same moment.
There seem to be universal beliefs about trust: that it has the potential to form, and the potential to break, in every context. Trust can be found against the odds, and it can be lost, despite any cost. But beyond that, there is only loose consensus.
When asked to describe ‘what trust is’, some people talk about faith, others about love, some about consistency, others about transaction, or reciprocity, or hope. It seems unlikely we will find consensus, even on ‘what trust is’, but some things seems clear.
Most people believe that trust is important. Most of us believe that trust is valuable. And most of us would like to understand the landscape better, if only to ensure that none of us get lost along the way.
To lead with trust is not about finding something that you do not already have: most of us have trust, but within our pre-existing tribes. We live in networks of trust.
No, to lead with trust is to hold an ability to reach beyond this, to find trust in adverse spaces, even to find trust within shared differences. It’s to cross gaps that are hard to bridge, and to do so with humility.
What you need to know:
* Trust is complex and, when asked to describe it, people define it in different ways.
* There is no universal consensus, although we all know it when we feel it.
* When Trust is missing, we feel that gap: leadership will be stronger if we are able to build trust, and understand how it flows and fails.