01 Dec Who do You Trust?
For 25 years of my life, being in a sport team environment where winning was the only purpose, I learned a lot of the lessons of team trust. And then for 20 years after that, coaching kids, boys and girls, different ages and different skill sets, I was always learning and teaching. One of the big lessons the kids needed to take away, is how do you trust people? How do you trust your teammates and trust yourself as you explore and learn, fail and improve?
In a business context, Can I trust you? What is trust?
Trust: Truth, Lies and Myths
Trust in business is not the same as your experience with a high school sweetheart or other personal relationship.
Trust is a word/concept that is pounded in our heads relating to business and team performance. I’ve lead large teams through chaotic M&A transformations 5 times over the past couple decades. Many lessons were learned, concepts challenged and happily, some amazing results happened. I also experienced the volatility and fluidity of trust in business. So many lives and careers get effected during times of great change – and we know how people respond to disruption & change…Fear.
Use the right word: Trust or Expectation?
Let’s not confuse trust with expectation. One critical mistake is to assume a definition. Trust means something different to every person based on their life experiences. Too often we say “trust” when we mean “expect.” Here are some statement examples where “expect” is more correct than “trust:”
· I do expect you to be honest
· I do expect you to operate with integrity
· I expect you to show up
· I expect you to do your job
Too often we say trust. And that throws off the value of real trust. As an employee, I don’t “trust” that the company deposits my paycheck, I “expect” the money to hit my account. I “expect” my colleague to show up at the meeting prepared and engaged. It’s not “trust.”
Patrick Lencioni’s advantage model is a highly valuable teaching on team dynamics and performance.
The challenge is that the model is dependent on trust being established in a mature model as a foundation before the “advantage” can be realized. This is simply not practical. Trust is a living principle, fluid and fleeting – it ebbs and flows through experience and trials. It is dynamic and is altered with personnel changes, new people and new conditions. If we wait for trust to become a mature, foundation element of a team, the business will stand still for an extended period, and you’ve heard me say before; “standing still in business is dying and dying is not a good condition for business.”
Can I trust you with all of me – for who I am, when I’m fully exposed, pushing the limits and trying new approaches to solve problems?
When I am fully engaged and open, there is no posturing. My skills are my skills my weaknesses are my weaknesses and in the heat of conducting daily business, in front of an audience speaking, or plowing through ambiguity, there is no way to hide those skill gaps and flaws. They are fully exposed.
Covey’s, Speed of Trust is a wonderful teaching on identifying and working through these truths:
Practice trust – it isn’t a singular or simple thing. It is not a possession or personality trait – it is a practice.
Vulnerability, eloquently proposed by Brene Brown, is a far better concept of team trust. It is our choice. I can choose to be vulnerable, therefore trusting of my team mates, yet I must be prepared to forgive in equal measure as I trust, because we’re dealing with humans and mistakes are made.
The word trust is biased by the value of trust in all the other areas of life, our experiences, and our morality. We trust our neighbor to return the shovel, trust the judicial system to be fair and equal. We would love to trust that people around us will be motivated for the greater good. Yet, these are not always our experiences.
A quarterback drops back in the pocket trusting the lineman to block, to protect his blindside – and then bam – he is face planted into the turf. Trust is broken. Yet on the very next play, the QB drops back into the pocket, relying on that same broken trust to move forward against the objective.
A baseball outfielder is trusted to catch a fly ball. It’s his job. Occasionally, the ball is dropped, and the trust is broken. The reaction is not to immediately remove the player from the field and revoke his contract – he is not chastised and excluded from the dugout – he is trusted to catch the next ball.
Point is that the word trust has a value, which is determined by where it is applied. So, in our business environment, we must understand the parameters and definition of trust as it relates to the value of the team, our goals, the “arena” of our profession. We must understand the external factors and internal factors that exist, and those factors which are not in our control. What is absolute and what is acceptable, conditional and relevant? What do we expect within the “Arena of business” and outside of our personal bias?
· Trust is not earned. It is a gift that is given.
· You can only give it, not take it.
· You can only control your side of the equation.
· This is an active element, it must be consciously practiced.
· Be mindful of acceptance of other’s level of trust.
· Have empathy because you don’t know their life’s journey and you cannot impose your will.
To fully bring the definition of trust in an active and living element in business, we need to entwine it with respect and empathy.
How many have said, “you have to earn my trust or earn my respect?” That old mindset needs to be flushed. In a team and business environment, you don’t get to set your own rules or have your own measures. There are many variable levels of trust. It is a whole concept and must be granted to each member of team, unconditionally.
They will break it and you will have disappointment. You’ll need to become resilient. The ability to get past the past is a fundamental condition of emotional intelligence and mental toughness – each required to grow personally, perform as a team and succeed in business.