The Secret Behind Building Trust

The issue of trust is everywhere. Trust in our media, our leaders, our relationships. You can’t watch a nightly news broadcast that doesn’t mention how trust is permeating our daily lives. How does the issue of trust impact how we establish working relationships, get along on a Team[1], and (when you get right down to it) get our job done? What is the secret behind building trust? Read on and find out.

3Back - The Secret Behind Building Trust - Initializing the basic Trust Loop

Trust is Earned

Some fundamentally disagree with the statement that trust is earned and maintain that trust is given freely. People that follow this ‘given freely’ line of thinking, give their trust until such time as a person irrevocably betrays that trust. The betrayal of trust leads to a method of management that creates hostile, antagonistic workplaces rife with fear. A pattern of mistrust is established that causes others to be mistrustful; thus perpetuating a negative cycle of oppression.

I would agree that a betrayal of trust sets up a behavior pattern that is negative and learned. However, when I am asked to ‘just trust’ someone, this feels wrong to me. It’s not that I don’t trust them or do trust them, It is more that I have no reason to trust them. Trust is earned. Anything else is what I call faith. I avoid using faith (blind, intuitive leaps) for what should be an empirical approach.

For colleagues at work, I have evidence to suggest that they won’t attack me suddenly with a gun or knife. So I trust them not to do that. However, for a man who steps out suddenly from a darkened alcove in a lonely alley, I don’t trust him that far. Why? Because I have no data to suggest that pattern of behavior is appropriate in that context.

If someone says to me, ‘you just need to trust him/her,’ and I lack data to agree, then am I a distrustful, suspicious person? Or am I simply lacking empirical evidence? What is needed for me to successfully determine if I should trust him/her?

The answer is visibility.

Make It Visible

If we think of trust as a bank, where we can ‘deposit’ or ‘withdraw’ trust, then visibility is the means to which we can make frequent deposits into our trust bank. The more deposits in our Trust Bank, the more trust is built. Once I can see or experience working with someone, my trust grows. It takes time to know and grow a relationship. As the relationship grows, it becomes easier to work with that person and make bigger leaps of understanding based on previously established rapport. The greater the visibility, the greater it is to earn and build trust.

As Scrum practitioners, we value the importance of trust. This is why ‘Make it visible’ is one of the foundational legs upon which the Scrum framework rests. In fact, when we developed our Get To Done® Agile-based planning tool, it was this foundational concept of visibility that guided our every move.

The Trust Loop

We can visualize trust as a Trust Loop and Visibility as the key to seeding that Trust Loop. If Teams can seed this Trust Loop by making shared work and activities visible, then both understanding and rapport increase within the Team, adding deposits in our Trust Bank, and building trust.

Is your Team ready to uncover
the secret behind building trust?
We’ve got coaching for that.

As Always, Stay Agile.

Notes and Sources

  1. “The Well-Formed Team Scrum White paper.” 3Back. Accessed March 16, 2017.