What is the most important question we can ask ourselves?


To TRUST, or NOT to TRUST, that is the question.


This may seem to be an irreverent misquote of Shakespeare’s immortal line but the question really is important because of the implications it has for us, our organisations and wider society.


WITHOUT TRUST we live lives of paranoid isolation and organisations rely on increased centralised control and bureaucracy – and how do people react to this? We tend to resist, management respond by pushing and monitoring performance and we end up being disengaged and looking for another job – like the vast majority of us are apparently doing right now.


But WITH TRUST we can have lives full of satisfying relationships, and organisations don’t need to exert centralised control over its people – they are trusted to do the right thing. All management need to do is ensure that the organisation’s direction is clear and that culture, structure and processes are aligned with that direction.


But if it’s so simple why doesn’t everyone PICK TRUST?


Well for a start it’s often not a simple conscious decision. The way we relate to people and the rest of the world is typically established in early life – if our key early relationships were caring and consistent we end up trusting the people and world around us. And if not then we struggle to trust.


Since we tend to receive what we give out, our early experiences are often reinforced during the rest of our lives – “A man reaps what he sows” or to continue the misquoting: Whether you think you CAN TRUST, or you think you CAN’T TRUST — you’re right.


But it doesn’t mean we can’t change. We can spend time exploring why we struggle to trust, possibly with the support of others, and we can try some reality checking – TRUST people and see what happens.


If you’re doing this in a leadership role and want to fundamentally change the dynamics of your team, some thought will need to be put into mechanisms to make this possible. And you’re not alone there: Frederic Laloux’s “Reinventing Organisations” and approaches such as Holacracy provide lots of useful ideas.


But remember this is your unique journey so have confidence in and take notice of your emotional and intellectual responses – and enlist the support of those around you.


And remember….


To TRUST, or NOT to TRUST, that is the question.


What do you think? If you have any thoughts or comments, please share below or send me a LinkedIn connection request. Alternatively, you can see me speak at the Hauser Forum, Entrepreneurship Centre, Cambridge, UK on Thursday 26th January.

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