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Trust and Growth Mindset

On a very fundamental level, trust is a bonding mechanism in social interactions. Without it we would not have exchanged any products with each other, let states protect us, be socially proactive, or fall in love. Trust is such an important feeling that makes us open up our vulnerabilities and weaknesses to people whom we have no control over.

On an evolutionary timeline, once shifting from nomad bands to agrarian settlements we started to bond together with the same group of people over long-term. Protecting the settlements, cultivating food, hunting, and trading cross-settlements required trust among these civilizations. As we have been betrayed a lot throughout history, we also have built up the self-defense mechanism that keeps the trust at a smart level. The hormone called oxytocin (OT) motivates us to be trustworthy by boosting our empathy for others. Basically, if you treat me well, I will have oxytocin in my brain extracted and synthesized, combined with the impact on my central and peripheral nervous system as well, I will be motivated to reciprocate voluntarily.

Trust is the core and foremost trait of cooperation.

In our modern world, trust is becoming ever more important in work environment and organisational development. Trust cultivates the growth mindset in organisations that bring them to the leading position in competitions. Individuals who believe they can develop their talents and learn constantly have a growth mindset and they tend to be extra motivated to achieve more. When the whole organisation embraces this mindset as its culture, the result can be a tribe of beasts who are empowered and committed to continuously innovate and go extra mile in their output. In growth cultures people acknowledge their insecurities and shortcomings, spend less effort on playing on defense and keeping it safe, and instead focus on creating extra value-added. Once the necessary environment for growth mindset is established, individuals never hesitate to push their potentials for the overall organisational vision.

Although it is a no-brainer to promote the growth culture, it is not easy to attain this mindset. One main reason is that we are usually afraid to come across challenges, receive criticism, or think that we are performing less than other people and we may lose our jobs if we try something new in an uncertain environment and fail at it, or even worse bring a damage to the company. Thus we tend to minimize, rationalize, cover up or deny the mistakes and failures. Even if we try to change this psychology of ours, there are many people around us who are still in this fixed-mindset that makes it difficult to collaborate, innovate and seek feedback.

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts.”

Bertrand Russel

To adopt the growth-mindset, we as individuals, as well as the organisations should bolster certain environmental factors to serve as a backbone and support for this mindset.

  1. We should feel psychologically safe to try new things without being afraid to face punishment when failed, namely be trusted by the people around us, especially the leaders in the organisation.
  2. Learning should be the core outcome of any efforts through curiosity and transparency. Instead of focusing on short-term material outputs, organisations should give more attention to and create an open environment for experimentation and learning.
  3. Organisation’s vision is the only thing people need to route their direction all the time. If the vision is understood well and adopted by the members of the organisation, any commitment will focus on to reach the same destination.
  4. Continuous feedback and appraisal of the achievements are necessary rewards to keep the motivation momentum stable and upward trending. When given a candid feedback, it generates a signal of trust and appreciation.

Both in personal life and in career, we are seeking continuous improvement. In this path, we are not independent, neither we rely on quantifiable measures. Moreover, some achievements require more power than we individually can exert. We have to collaborate with other people and rely on them on certain matters. It requires trust and the result of giving this trust to others can be gratifying or devastating. We should provide some trust to others, however at the same time be comfortable with any outcome that may be perceived as negative. Self-reflection and a calm attitude towards outcomes makes trusting easier and more beneficial.

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