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Trust Is Like Energy

I was reading an article in the Business Chicks magazine by Rachel Botsman, author of ‘Who Can You Trust – how technology brought us together and why it could drive us apart’.

A key point I took from the article was that ‘trust is like energy’. Rachel talks about the trust gap and that we keep hearing the narrative that trust is in crisis. Her thought about it was that trust can’t collapse – it has to go somewhere. Trust that used to flow upwards (for example: to leadership, to government, to religious organisations) is now flowing sideways to shared economies like Airbnb and Uber.

I love the thinking that trust, like energy, can’t disappear, it just moves somewhere else. In my work with leaders and teams, trust is often raised as an area that needs work as it is lacking (you may hear the term ‘there’s no trust in the team!’) with the belief that it is gone and replaced with mistrust or distrust.

If trust doesn’t disappear and goes somewhere else, I’m curious how this relates to teams and individuals. If trust doesn’t exist, or has disappeared due to conflict, where has it gone and how can it be brought back.

Can colleagues who no longer trust one another, repair and rebuild their relationships and re-form levels of trust with each other?

My presupposition about people is that ‘we all want to be the best we can be, no-one comes to work to do a bad job and our actions are made with a positive intent’.

Can the relationships be reframed and rebuilt, and a new trust relationship formed?

I use a metaphor of a ‘trust account’ like a bank account when talking about trust. We have to keep depositing acts of trust to build relationships with others to a healthy level. However, withdrawals can also occur when trust is broken, and the trust account balance becomes depleted (or goes somewhere else). If the balance is too low and another incident occurs creating a withdrawal, it can be the ‘final straw that breaks the camel’s back’. The relationship is fractured and, without any effort to fix it, doomed to stay that way.

What are your relationships like and where do you think your trust is flowing? Is it still with leadership, or has that diminished and maybe you are building different trust accounts?

If trust is like energy and can’t disappear, where has your trust moved to and can you move it back to rebuild relationships?

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