Why trust matters more than ever

Giulio Rusciano
5 min readMay 22, 2023

Trust is not only the bedrock of healthy relationships, but also essential for the smooth functioning of any workplace.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
— Stephen Covey

As Stephen Covey eloquently stated, trust serves as the vital element that enables effective communication and strengthens all types of relationships. However, in today’s evolving work landscape, building and sustaining trust has become increasingly challenging.

With the rise of remote work, the traditional ways of cultivating trust through daily interactions have been disrupted. Colleagues who once sat side by side now have limited face-to-face contact, making it harder to establish rapport and gauge trustworthiness. In this new paradigm, where physical proximity is replaced by virtual connections, trust must be fostered through intentional efforts to bridge the gap.

Furthermore, as teams become more diverse and global, cultural differences can inadvertently erode trust, resulting in detrimental consequences for businesses. These cultural clashes can occur without individuals even realizing it, making it imperative to cultivate cultural awareness and inclusivity to maintain trust within teams.

In light of these challenges, prioritizing trust-building efforts is crucial in fostering strong and successful working relationships in this dynamic environment. Investing in activities that promote open communication, transparency, and empathy, organizations can create an environment where trust can thrive, ultimately leading to enhanced collaboration, productivity, and overall business success.

Photo by Redd F on Unsplash

Competency, empathy and authenticity

Trust serves as the foundation for productive collaborations, acknowledging the inherent risk involved. It requires individuals to extend belief and hope to others while actively assessing their trustworthiness. Embracing trust and fostering a culture of reliability and integrity, we unlock the potential for collective achievements that surpass what we can accomplish alone.

Trust is the essence of hope, acknowledging the absence of a 100% guarantee that others will not intentionally or unintentionally cause harm. It emerges when we choose to believe in someone’s promises or efforts, even when our credibility is at stake. Trusting, for instance, a teammate to complete their part of a project on time or believing in the dedication of remote workers, despite physical separation. All requires extending trust.

Trust is a belief we willingly offer to others, with the hope that they reciprocate. It inherently involves risk, as there’s always the possibility of disappointment or betrayal.

However, the pursuit of important goals and aspirations in life requires collaboration. Recognizing that we cannot accomplish everything on our own, we accept the risk of trusting others. Why take this risk? Because collaboration fuels innovation, creativity and progress. Bringing different perspectives, skills and experiences together, new possibilities open up that exceed individual capabilities. Trust enables people to leverage each other’s strengths, collectively tackle challenges and achieve better results.

Although trust involves vulnerability, an attent assessment based on observing behaviors, evaluating past actions, and looking for people’s integrity and trustworthiness helps establish a foundation of trust that minimizes uncertainty.

Trustworthiness can be assessed based on three key criteria: competency, empathy, and authenticity. Each of these factors plays a crucial role in influencing trust, although the emphasis on specific drivers may vary depending on the context and situation.

Competency, the first criterion, refers to the skills, knowledge, and abilities that enable individuals to fulfill their responsibilities effectively. Demonstrating expertise, consistently delivering high-quality work, and showcasing a track record of successful outcomes contribute to establishing trust in one’s competence.

Empathy, the second criterion, involves the ability to understand and connect with others’ emotions, experiences, and perspectives. Showing genuine care, actively listening, and demonstrating a willingness to support and consider others’ needs fosters trust through empathy.

Authenticity, the third criterion, encompasses being true to oneself and demonstrating consistency between words, actions, and values. Acting with integrity, being transparent about intentions, and honoring commitments build trust in one’s authenticity.

While all three criteria are essential, it is crucial to recognize that different situations may call for emphasizing specific trust drivers. Easy to understand, for example, that in a project where technical expertise is critical, competency may be the primary focus for establishing trust. In contrast, during team conflicts or when dealing with sensitive matters, empathy and authenticity become more influential in building trust.

Adapting the emphasis on trust drivers based on the context ensures that trust is built effectively and meaningfully. Understanding the specific needs and expectations of each situation enables individuals to prioritize the relevant criteria, thereby enhancing trustworthiness and fostering stronger relationships.

When seeking to earn someone’s trust, an additional factor to consider is the individual’s country of origin or cultural background. Different cultures place varying importance on trust drivers, and being mindful of these cultural nuances can enhance trust-building efforts.

For instance, in North America and European countries, authenticity is highly valued. Being transparent about business information, openly sharing relevant details, and demonstrating honesty in your interactions can contribute to building trust in these contexts.

On the other hand, East Asian cultures tend to prioritize competency. Establishing trust based on expertise and reputation is crucial. Seeking trusted third-party introductions, showcasing concrete examples of your past successes, and highlighting your professional capabilities can help instill confidence and earn trust in these cultural settings.

In Latin American cultures, empathy holds particular significance. Building trust with colleagues from these regions involves demonstrating warmth, personal connection, and genuine care. Taking the time to socialize, sharing information about yourself, your hobbies, and showing interest in their families can help foster trust and strengthen relationships.

While considering cultural influences on trust drivers is valuable, it is important to remember that individuals are multifaceted, and cultural generalizations may not apply universally. It is advisable to approach each person as an individual, being sensitive to their unique background and preferences.

Summing up

In conclusion, trust matters more than ever in today’s evolving work landscape. It serves as the glue that holds relationships together and enables effective communication. Recognizing its significance and actively working to cultivate trust, organizations can build the foundation for healthy relationships and ensure the smooth functioning of their workplaces.

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Giulio Rusciano

20+ yrs in technology leadership, design, development & entrepreneurship, I'm a creative technologist who blends design & tech to bring innovative ideas to life