May 2014

A Matter of Trust

Trust, as a word, I find is more misused in today’s workplace than most.  More often than not it is ambiguously used to mean, “You should let me do what I want to do without questioning me regardless of its affect on you or the team as a whole.”  Given our move to ever changing, project oriented teams, trust is quickly becoming a major currency in how we operate.  By truly understanding trust, how to seek it out, and how to let it organically develop, we can position ourselves to be better colleagues and ultimately better leaders.

We must first admit to ourselves that the expectation of blind trust is not realistic.  "To trust," is defined as a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.  When you expect someone to trust you, you are asking them to believe strongly in your own reliability, your own truth, and your own ability or strength.  That can be a tall order when you may be an unknown to them, or worse, someone with a history of missed deadlines or even lies.  Before you can ask for trust, you have to shine a light on yourself and ask the question, “Am I trustworthy?”

Reliability in the workplace is huge.  Knowing that you can depend on someone to do the “right” thing can make all the difference.  What is the “right” thing?  In the workplace, we can define it as an action that is in line with a shared set of core values.  When you value the same things, you can begin to trust each other.  When your values are not expressed or they run counter to each other, then trust is much harder to come by.

Truth that tends to be relative as opposed to absolute can interfere with allowing trust to grow.  You have to ask yourself the question, “What is my truth?”  When we fully understand what defines us, what our motivations are, and what our goals are, we can more fully be present and aware with our colleagues.  They begin to know us and consequently they begin to trust us.

We are all able, to some degree to do our jobs.  We were hired based upon a particular skill set in a discipline and the accumulation of experience successfully using that skill set in the past.  Colleagues will want to know how you’ve used your skills in the past and they will look to see how you plan to use them with your shared present.  Will you endeavor to do something for the common good, or will you focus your abilities and your strengths on personal gain?  Your co-workers are going to want to know that they can count on you to take care of an issue with expertise.  Seeing you do this time and again begins to allow the trust between you and them grow.

There has to be a directly link between what we say and what we actually do for trust to take hold.  Even when this has been proven out at the colleague level, in order to lead it must be proven out again.  Even though you might trust someone to take a bullet for you — will you follow them into battle without having seen previous outcomes?  Building trust as a leader starts over with the same self assessment, just phrased a little differently, “Am I trustworthy as a leader?”  

When you are present and trustworthy, the trust will flow.

Manage Imagination

Imagination for us as humans can be almost limitless. We use imagination to see a future that we desire. We add detail, we change outcomes, we create beauty. Imagination is a powerful tool that inspires us to greatness, but it can also be a distraction. We must learn to manage our imagination and harness its power so that we can create what we strive to be, but can remain rooted and grounded in the present.

When we stay too connected to our imagined future the present can become a minefield of frustration as we work to change what is before us to force it into the model of our future. We begin to see only what we think our life should be and not what it is. It is so important that we step away from the beautiful and wonderful life we have imagined so that we can take joy in and celebrate where we are. It is only the understanding of where we are that we can understand the path and the journey before us to our imagined future. The imperfect present will guide us to the perfect future.

We should also be careful not to constrain our imagination. Imagine. Imagine freely and often, but don’t let it rule and control. We lose our own power when we succumb to the powerful image of our future. So, go ahead. Create your perfect future, but relax into your present so that the path before you will unfold. The present will reveal to you the first step and subsequently a series of steps. Our perfect future becomes more achievable as a series of small steps as opposed to a leap across a chasm.

Let go of the past, manage your imagined future, and take joy in being.