How far does trust go?

Jane Winter

I saw an advert this week for a new research report analysing the levels of trust in an organisation. The argument goes that there are 5 levels of trust which all need to function well for the organisation to be healthy and flourishing. All well and good, but a quick search identified that the report is not publically available, it’s free to members, and membership? – well I did look, it was costly.

However I did notice that others have also researched levels of trust, some opt for four, some for six. Here is an example how levels may be defined, the definitions of the levels are my own:
  • Trust yourself – your own ideas, abilities and the contribution you make to your community
  • Trust the team around you – to deliver together for the benefit of the community, to meet deadlines, to disagree, to support one another
  • Trust your leaders – to give direction and support, advice and encouragement
  • Trust the importance of the work – the work in itself has value and benefit to society
  • Leaders, trust the team – to get on with what has been agreed and to do a good job
  • The collective whole – we all trust each other because our roles are clear and we know what we achieve together.
So that has a nice feel good factor about it, but what happens when trust is tested? It has been my experience that you never really know how good trust is until it is broken or ‘under test conditions’. It is then we realise there must be more to trust than a few levels.
Bearing that in mind perhaps there are no levels of trust at all, perhaps a better metaphor is a tapestry where beautiful images or patterns are created by the interweaving of threads. Trust emerges as we learn to live and work together, in which case we might use more emotional words in our definitions like laughing together, forgiving each other, being vulnerable, asking for help and celebrating what we achieve.
We’ve probably all played trust exercises at a training event at some point, they are good fun and far more relational than trust levels may appear.  They teach us a lot about ourselves and each other. And therein lies the answer to the question: how far does trust go? Answer: As far as you and I are prepared to take it, battered and bruised on the way but all the stronger for being tested in real life experiences.
Jane Winter 11/05/12