Trusting people is the only way

Trusting people Ernest Hemingway Quote

Trusting people is the only way for any government to get through the pandemic, to “dance” as a society and as an economy through to the other side, whatever that may look like.

Control is not the answer. Trust is.

The “hammer” phase was all about simple messaging and enforcement. Despite media looking for “bad news” stories, the empirical reality is that the massive majority of people have followed the rules, hence curves have been flattened. The challenge now is to allow people to apply “common sense” and to allow them to be responsible.

Some time ago, with a context of #OpenLeadership, I wrote: “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them“, in which I gave several examples of leaders finding success by trusting their people.

The problem (using the UK as an example) is that the government doesn’t trust their people, hence the people don’t trust them, as I wrote about yesterday in: “Trust your people to be responsible“. Today I expand on the message about trust with a current specific example around UK Government messaging on rules and behaviour around the pandemic spread.

We are not being trusted to be responsible in visiting others

A current example of lack of trust is that the UK Government will not (for at least several more weeks) allow families and close friends to see each other within their homes.

Further, at the time of writing this on Monday, you can meet up (as of Wednesday, not yet) with one family member at a time in a park at a distance of two meters. One, not too. Grandma can meet the grandkids (but not closer than two meters), but Grandpa has to wait at home or in the car, then perhaps they can switch (it is unclear).

For both examples, being rational, if we have all followed the “Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives” messages and related rules, we are free of the virus.

Now, could we therefore rationally visit family and close friends in their homes without risking spread of the virus? Yes. Will we, should a change in the rules allow?

Hmm. Likely only if we trust them, that they, like us, have truly followed all the rules. I would only visit a friend or family member if I trusted them that they would not place me or others (through me) at risk.

As individuals, you see, the vast majority of us apply trust, apply common sense all the time. By now everyone knows the threat and what to do to minimise risk.

Now, each of us will have to constantly make such trust choices, taking calculated risks around what we do and who we see for months and month to come as we learn to live with this.

To start this off, though, we need our government to trust us.

Right now they don’t, they are focussed on worst case scenarios. You can’t allow kids to meet both grandparents in the park, only one. Why? Perhaps they are worried about people having wild parties in public parks. You know what? First hand visits to parks that have been highlighted as problems in the UK media have shown me that yes, they are busy, but no, nobody is crowding each other or not using “common sense”.

As to visiting in homes, again, are the government so distrusting that they think anyone but a tiny, tiny minority will have house parties etc? It would appear so. I believe the vast majority will apply common sense. They will allow family members, partners, friend into their homes only when risks are minimised and they trust each other.

Again, the only way to know if you can trust people.. is to trust them.

With the back and forth ambiguity as we “dance” with emerging from the lockdown, eventually the government will have to choose to trust us. There is no other way.

Control is not the answer. Trust is.


Also published on Medium.