As the fifth child in a family of seven children, I can tell you that my grandmother played an essential role in my life. When I was five years old, on a day full of excitement, my grandmother took me to a local shoemaker to make me a brand new pair of shoes before the school season started. In those days, everything had to be custom made – not much was made in China except expensive silk and porcelain. After few minutes of haggling, a price was settled on and the shoemaker took measurements of my feet. When he was done, no money was exchanged and off we went.
On the way home, I asked why we did not pay for the shoes. She looked at me with her warm smile and said: “Don’t worry! He knows us and he knows that we’ll pay him when we get the shoes” There was no deposit, no contract, no business case, no independent review, no complicated bureaucracy…nothing. Just basic human trust … what a concept! My grandmother was so good , she always get the best price with a smile, a skill I am afraid I did not learn well from her, but apparently I did inherent her warm smile, a much more valuable gift. 🙂
Many years and many wars later, on a trip back to the old country to visit my grandmother, family and friends who lived in Gaza City, I ran into my childhood friend Khalil, who is now a well-established doctor. Khalil asked me to go with him across the occupied territories to a nearby town where we had to cross Israeli Army check points, soldiers with guns… We finally arrived at Ashddod, where the purpose of our trip had us standing before a Jewish tailor who clearly knew Khalil. After the usual Middle Eastern pleasantries which included checks kissing and hugging (stuff you don’t see on the news), the tailor offered us Arabic coffee (expresso-like), took Khalil’s measurements for two suits, and told my friend to come back in two weeks. There was no payment, no contract, nothing.
With a level of amazement, and with a touch of tongue in cheek, I asked the Jewish tailor, “do you trust this Khalil fellow who is a Palestinian, a Moslem Arab from Gaza?” I hardly finished my sentence before his big smile filled the shop and lectured me “We lived together in peace for thousands of years and we will live together again in peace for thousands more – I trust Khalil with my life.” Wow! It’s that word again TRUST.
I walked out of the shop full of hope, optimism, and energy. Not only feeling hope about the Middle East, but hope for the greater world. Such is the Power of Trust! A power we all seem to get instinctively but reluctant to embrace. The reluctance may come from the fact that life throws at us many challenges causing our guards to rise, our trust to drop and our resolve to harden. And with that comes distrust and the associated high cost – emotional, professional and otherwise.
These days, the need to be efficient is at an all time high and much has been written about “performance at speed of trust”. It highlights that on the bridge of trust travels high speed solutions, agility, efficiency and effectiveness. Conversely, distrust is painful, costly and seems to be at the root of poor performance.
I do agree that if you totally distrust someone, no amount of logic, business case, or documentation will do. I also believe that no amount of process or control can ever replace trust. Simply put, distrust is a high cost, period!
In my view, it’s naive to think that you can hammer trust into people. Winning hearts and minds, is unquestionably hard work, but your secret weapon is your authenticity, care for others and softening of your heart. As the saying goes: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. More than ever, individuals, organizations and modern societies, cannot afford the high cost of distrust.
Although poor behaviour and low quality work is a major feeder to distrust, nothing feeds distrust as much as distrust itself. The Bottom line is Distrust creates distrust the great news is trust creates trust!
My grandma was guided by raw human instinct stripped from all the layers that today’s complex world seem to demand. I say take a moment and look back at your grandmother and recall how these basic human values that grandmothers seem to share. See how these values of trust, decency, honesty, generosity, and above all unconditional love served you. Living these values can guide you to build your trust and the power that trust unleashes…