“Trust is good, control is better.” There are still many bosses in this view. On the other hand, I hear from employees that they can no longer trust their closest colleagues. They tell me about nasty power games and deceitful bad behavior. Do we prefer to distrust rather than trust each other? Do men trust each other differently than women? What can bosses and colleagues do to strengthen mutual trust in the team? For this, I spoke with the business psychologist and business coach Eva Schulte-Austum, who has been dealing with “trust” for years. She has conducted 350 interviews worldwide and has studied trust research. In her book “Trust Anyone” she gives 9 recipes for more confidence and fulfilling life.
Eva, what is trust?
Eva Schulte-Austum: Trust is the willingness to give up control and accept insecurity. At the same time, we assume that our counterpart does not take advantage of it. So we imply a positive intention.
Is there a difference between trust in the private and professional context?
Eva Schulte-Austum: Basically, building trust in private and professional contexts works according to the same mechanisms of action. We assess the character and competence of a person and then decide if we trust him.
The character includes qualities such as honesty, respect, support or secrecy. We are more easily trusted by those who are well-disposed to us and act with integrity. Competence, on the other hand, includes aspects such as knowledge, experience, and results. They serve as an indication of whether someone has the skills to meet our expectations.
Interestingly, if someone disappoints us because he does not know better or if he lacks the necessary experience, we forgive him relatively quickly. However, our counterpart disappointed us for selfish reasons, let’s not forget that so fast. The characteristic strength is, therefore, more important for building and maintaining trust, such as professional competence. This applies both in the private and in the professional context.
Why is a trusting relationship between colleagues so important?
Eva Schulte-Austum: Where trust prevails, a team wins something that can neither be demanded nor enforced: loyalty. Fidelity to a person, especially when it gets difficult. The support of the colleague who is going to work. Stand up for each other, if someone from the team is in trouble. Commitment even to tasks that are outside his own area of responsibility.
Research also shows that teams in which they have a trusting relationship work more productively. The employees are healthier, more relaxed and happier. They are significantly less ill, less likely to suffer from stress and happier with their job. This benefits not only every single employee but the entire team.
New employees are often skeptical of the team. Do we distrust job rather than trust?
Eva Schulte-Austum: In Germany that is indeed the case. In this country, people have a more pronounced need for security than in other countries, such as in Sweden, Switzerland or Vietnam. In Germany, one is generally more skeptical than elsewhere – even compared to new colleagues.
One of the main reasons for this is trust myths, so-called half-truths about trust, which persistently stick in our heads. The top 3 in the job are: “Trust is good. Control is better. “,” Mistrust protects me from bad experiences. “And” trust must first make my counterpart. “Who believes these half-truths, is only once skeptical and therefore less willing to trust people he has not yet known.
The world of work is getting faster and faster. Do we still have the time in the future to build trust in our colleagues?
Eva Schulte-Austum: In the future, we will have less and less time to build the necessary confidence slowly over time. Our working environment is constantly changing. In order to face these challenges with confidence, we need trust. Because only then are we ready to go new ways, to contribute to changes and to take risks. And that is essential to be successful in the future.
The good news: Contrary to the assumption that “you have to earn your trust” and “trust takes time”, confidence can very quickly build up. The research shows: Whether we trust or not, is above all a personal decision. This turns trust into incompetence that can be learned and trained.
Especially for executives whose main task is to manage good relationships in the future – to customers, colleagues, and employees – trust thus becomes the necessary core competence. Because this ability affects not only their own but also the success of the team and thus of the entire company.
But how do you manage to build trust quickly?
Eva Schulte-Austum: The quickest and most effective way to build trust is to go even in advance: the leap of faith. To consciously decide to trust one’s counterpart first – at least until he teaches us a better one.
The skeptics among us may now shake their heads and think, “Well, if I basically trust other people first, then I’ll be quite disappointed more often.” In fact, the opposite is the case, as the research shows: who gives away thoughtfully, will in most cases make positive experiences.
The reason: Committed to trust, because it starts in a very sensitive place: our honor. It does not matter if we want to win the trust of customers, colleagues or the boss. The fastest and most effective way to gain confidence is to give it away from yourself.
Honesty is very important to many employees. What does she have to do with trust?
Eva Schulte-Austum: Honesty is one of the most important characteristics in judging whether we can trust someone. It shows itself in the fact that someone is ready, to tell the truth, even if he has to fear negative consequences. However, those who deliberately deceive, lie, dramatize, or downplay others are distrustful of us and generally question what we can possibly believe.
Honesty, however, is not equal to honesty: the sound makes the music. Respectfully formulated feedback, for example in the form of honest and constructive criticism, can inspire trust. On the other hand, if honesty is used as a weapon, for example, to hurt or expose others, it will do the opposite.
Is trust really a question of sex? Do women trust each other differently than men do?
Eva Schulte-Austum: Actually there is a small but measurable difference scientifically. Men base their trust in other people more on competence. They pay more attention to whether someone has the necessary experience, expertise, and results.
Women, on the other hand, attach particular importance to characters, such as helpfulness, honesty, respect, and secrecy. But for trust to really grow and develop, it takes both: character and competence. And in that, the sexes are in agreement again.
Many bosses say, “Trust is good, control is better.” What do you tell them?
Eva Schulte-Austum: Neither trust nor control is good per se. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. We should therefore always ask how much trust and how much control is appropriate in each situation. An “either-or-thinking” does not do justice to a differentiated view.
Rather, it is about rethinking the right balance between trust and control, because only the right balance makes both effective. As a rule of thumb: Weak trust thrives in a controlled framework better. Deep trust needs control only at certain points.
What are the most important recipes for trust and what can leaders and colleagues do in day-to-day business to build trust?
Eva Schulte-Austum: Whether we want to gain trust or even trust – both are based on the same recipes. In my book, I present a total of nine prerequisites that ensure that we have successful and trusting relationships – professionally and privately. Here are my three most important trust tips for successful relationships:
Transparency – Make your own actions comprehensible and clarify mutual expectations. This makes it easy to avoid misunderstandings.
Reliability – Permanently reliable. Only promise things that you really can and want to hold. Blank promises permanently harm each relationship.
Sincerity – To behave loyally and with integrity. Strengthen others when it matters. Follow your own principles and values instead of just talking about them.