Trust Begets Trust

When I started in my career (and earlier on in my personal life,) I did not give trust willingly or easily.

I felt that others had to earn my trust, and until they deserved it, I wasn’t going to give it. While this worked fine in general back then, it did require that I be on constant alert to determine who was deserving and who was not, and also be ready to shoulder any and all responsibility, heavy and light.

The problem was that in some circumstances, it became difficult (and just plain silly) to do everything myself because I simply did not have the time, skill, knowledge, or inclination to do everything that needed attention properly or in a timely manner.  When I didn’t get to something, it hung around like a ghostly badger–this is how clutter (or badgers) begins accumulating, either physical or mental.  And when I did do something but did it incorrectly or poorly, I kicked myself–this is how regrets pile up and self-confidence erodes.

Over time, as I tried different ways of going about my work and personal life, I found that giving trust was more effective, and made my life easier.  It took practice, certainly, but in trusting another person to hear my request, confirm his/her understanding, and then allowing the person to work on it and return with the results without my close supervision, second-guessing, or worrying about whether it will be accomplished properly, I served both that person and myself by:

  • Showing him/her not only in word, but in action, that I was placing confidence in his/her ability to do this work (or to figure out how to do this work.)  For most people, this confidence is the best compliment one could give, and a positive motivation to succeed.
  • Giving the person room to work as best as he/she could, and this includes taking risks or approaches that I might not have occurred to me.  In most cases, I could learn from these new perspectives, possibly be happily surprised by results that are different and/or better than what I had expected, and the person could take credit for and take pride in producing great results, and if any missteps happened, learn from them first hand.
  • Experiencing how the person thought and worked, and his/her ability to take on responsibility.
  • Practicing letting go of over-thinking about or hovering by a project or task that someone else is already doing.  Getting good at letting go helped me become more relaxed and ready to have fun.
  • Freeing up time and mental energy to work on my bucket of projects and tasks, and functioning more productively while doing so.
  • Lastly and most importantly, building a relationship with the person not based on positional authority, or his/her ability to anticipate my needs or cater to my ego, but based on the deeper bond of mutual reliance on each other to do our best and to support each other.

You may have the fear or worry that offering trust early to someone will prove you wrong–that the person will fail and the results will be disastrous.  However, I found from experience that suspending the fear or worry has usually yielded more benefits than not.  The worst that could happen is the person proves unreliable or untrustworthy and has put compromised you by association.  While this would be disappointing and may require that you rebuild trust with others, there are learning and growth opportunities in these circumstances, including open dialogue with the person to learn what could have been done differently, developing your own resilience in the face of adversity, and taking action to reinforce your personal sense of integrity.  In fact, facing challenges of this sort and doing it well could strengthen your character and trust in yourself.

At best, building mutual goodwill by extending your trust with others could potentially lead to strong and meaningful long-term work relationships and friendships.  Paradoxically, taking this road takes a lot less energy and friction compared to scanning for danger and constructing bullet-proof protective walls.

 / 2 Comments  / in Leadership, Long-term relationship, Outside Comfort Zone
About Selena Founder of O Positive Coaching & HR Services

2 Comments

  1. Frank Lio July 20, 2012 3:02 am - Reply

    Excellent points.
    The best managers manage by helping others manage themselves. Show that you have faith in others and they will go out of their way not to let you down.

    • Selena July 20, 2012 12:31 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Frank. I remember blossoming myself under this style of management–there’s nothing like being told, “I know you can do this, so go do it!”

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