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some rambling about trust
My Saturday routine for the past few months typically starts with me sitting on the couch with Terra (my dog) curled up next to me while I (attempt to) write a blog post.
This morning, the dog and I looked over my draft ideas and we decided that none of them were anything I felt like writing about today. After spending most of the morning browsing Reddit for inspiration (and not surprisingly, failing), we went for a walk.
And, as it usually happens when I walk, I think…or I don’t think, I let my mind wander and see where my thoughts take me. Most of the time, it doesn’t go too far - but that’s sort of the plan. This morning, my mind couldn’t figure out what to focus on, but given time, some fresh air, and some self-reflection, I realized that I want/need to write a bit about trust.
Trust and Getting Shit Done
In Pat Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he says that you can’t achieve results as a team unless there is shared accountability, and that only comes if everyone is committed, and you can’t get that unless teams feel safe with debate and conflict, and that you can’t even get that far if you don’t have trust.
In The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey (not that Stephen Covey, it’s written by his son - more on that later), Covey says,
“Low trust creates hidden agendas, politics, interpersonal conflict, interdepartmental rivalries, win-lose thinking, defensive and protective communication—all of which reduce the speed of trust. Low trust slows everything—every decision, every communication, and every relationship.”
When I think about some of the most important things that are common on awesome teams, they all require high trust. Take collaboration, for example - whether it’s pair/mob programming, or just working together - it doesn’t work without trust. More importantly, trust increases innovation. One of my favorite quotes is from Linus Pauling (probably paraphrased).
“The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away”
How can you get good ideas if people don’t have enough trust to share all of their ideas?
We build trust through thousands of small actions over a long period of time. Start with honesty and transparency - more than you think is enough, be vulnerable, show empathy, and be consistent. These are all things I care (deeply) about, and I’ve talked about a lot of these in previous posts (which I’m not linking to, since substack wants to make a huge deal about links to previous posts, and I don’t want to fight with it today).
The Hard Part
Warren Buffet said,
It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.
The same, of course, is true with trust in an organization. What you build over years can be lost in a moment - it’s like falling down a ladder. When trust is broken, it can feel like you've fallen and can’t get to the next step. To rebuild trust we have to climb back up the ladder, rung by rung. It takes time and effort, but it’s possible.
To “climb the ladder” when trust in your organization takes a tumble, we start by acknowledging the harm that was done and the impact it has had on the organization. Trust starts with vulnerability and accountability, and the best way I know of to start rebuilding trust is to lean into whatever caused the loss in the first place even if…or especially if it’s difficult or uncomfortable. Otherwise, how will your organization know you are committed to rebuilding trust?
From there, it’s an ongoing effort based on transparency and empathy - probably even hyper-focused on listening to the team, soliciting their feedback, and acting on any culture or trust issues as quickly as possible.
Well worth mentioning is in The Speed of Trust, Covey says that the most important person to trust is yourself - and he’s completely correct. We have to start with ourselves and the four cores of credibility and character:
Integrity - being honest and transparent and keeping our commitments
Intent - focusing on meaningful work
Capabilities - developing skills and learning
Results - being accountable and responsible for results
Terra has moved from the couch to her bed next to the fireplace, and it’s time for me to post this and trust that some of you will find some value. Thanks for reading (and subscribing to my series of brain dumps).
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