The thin line of Trust

Do you trust people? Or do you not care about the results of their actions?

Dealing with people, whether in your job or in your social life, always implies managing trust at various levels. However, once in a while, things can go sideways, and trust can be (seen as), not caring. It is a very blurry line.

When you’re with friends or family, you can confide in them, trusting their advice. You can trust them with your kids, with reminding you of something, with being at a given place at a given time… The question is, how do you measure, as a “truster” (the one who trusts) or as a “trustee” (the one who is trusted), the degree of confidence and caring in the relationship?

For example, to trust some acquaintance with your son maximizes the caring about the subject being trusted. On the other end of the spectrum, trusting someone to be at a dinner with more than 20 people, reduces the caring to a minimum. You may not care at all.

I believe this care-trust balance is even trickier at work. If you are a team leader, how far will your trust go in your team? If you’re an employee, how do you trust your boss? And how much does your boss trusts you? Or maybe he doesn’t care at all…

From a leadership perspective, at the top of the pyramid, fully trusting someone in the team can easily be misunderstood as a lack of care. This is challenging. If you give all the freedom to your team, how far will they go before they start behaving erratically because they misjudge your actions (or lack thereof) as not caring about their work? Where will the motivation flow then?… However, “caring” too much can also be a sign of lack of trust, and can strangle your team…

Being at the bottom of the pyramid and looking up, if someone trusts you if your boss trusts your job and gives you the creative freedom to pursue (almost) anything, is it because he really trusts your or simply because he does not care whatever you do? How do you weight your boss’s signs? Is he really trusting you to make the right calls and proceed according to a higher plan or, in his mind, he’s not that into what you’re doing?

Even harder, position yourself in the middle of the pyramid, where you have to mangle trust from your boss and “move on” that trust to the people working with you. How far do you stretch the rope? Is having SCRUM meetings every morning a sign of lack of trust? Is having monthly meetings a sign of lack of care? I would say that this is the scenario where my current situation fits better. Where managing trust, expectations and actions is an ongoing daily struggle.

And you, how do you manage your trust levels?

Pedro Lopes
Aveiro, Portugal