Trust Takes Time, but Time Doesn’t Build Trust: Are You Leading Wisely?

Today is my first full day back in the USA after spending a year in Europe, Africa, and South America with my family. When we were searching out places to invest our time, a friend told me, “The best amount of time to invest is either two months or two years.” I now know how wise his counsel was.

In my Trust Transformation Seminar I teach that there are five elements required to build trust intentionally. The last element is Time. Maybe it should be the first element because before you step into a relationship—professionally or personally—a decision is required:

Will I stick around long enough to build trust and grow trust?

Trust takes time, but time doesn't always build trust.

Trust takes time, but time doesn’t always build trust.

I find two temptations rather appealing:

  • Assume others will trust me just because I feel I’m trustworthy.
  • When the going gets tough, move on.

Both of these avoid the commitment that it takes to build trust: Time.

It’s dangerous to assume that Time will automatically build trust. It actually allows a lot of unperceived distrust to come into the relationship. That’s why you can have a great friend for a decade or more, have an argument, and the relationship ends. Or why leaders think they have many devoted followers but discover they have only a faithful few during a time of crisis or risk.

Time doesn’t automatically build trust, but trust requires Time: having the patience and perseverance to stick around long enough to build, grow, and enjoy trusted relationships and results.

So what can you do about it?

I sit here today realizing that I had a growing platform of trust in Paraguay just a few months old before I had to leave. That’s why two years is better than only one. It took most of a year to put a foundation in place. Two months ago I was just starting to get traction and also enjoy what we were working hard to learn and accomplish—not to mention being able to function at a higher level in the country and get around in the capital city without going down the wrong way on a one-way street. Oops, I still did that last week.

Years ago when my girls were two, one, and a newborn, my wife and I were under the pressure of having three children so quickly, combined with me working for a nonprofit organization and raising hardly enough money to buy groceries (with my wife’s debit card bouncing at the checkout counter more than once with a cartload of groceries and babies). I vividly remember standing in our living room looking Christina in the eyes saying, “It’s going to take me at least a year to build trust with you again.” I said it in exasperation, but also realistic expectation that I had a road ahead of me—and it was going to be longer and more challenging than going through a fast-food drive-through. Now wouldn’t that be nice!

Do you want more trust in your life?

If you are practically implementing the other four elements of trust…

  • Two months gets you in the door with some good memories and more Facebook friends.
  • One year provides deeper relationships and a trust platform from which you and others can begin to build.
  • Two years allows growth that you can see and enjoy, and it raises the likelihood that what you’ve built will be sustainable—continue to grow and produce fruit into the future.

Whether you are leading a business, a marriage, or a family, consider today making a long-term commitment to build trust intentionally.

Never assume that Time alone will build trust. But trust does take time, and those who devote time toward building trust intentionally will enjoy its benefits.

Question: How long do you think it takes to build trust? Leave your comment below.

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