When we don’t trust the people we work for, it can be very difficult to lead. When trust is lacking we are more likely to try to figure out what “they” want and how we can play it safe than we are to speak up, step up or stand up in any noticeable way.
When we don’t trust our peers we are likely to build a virtual fortress around our particular silo of responsibilities. Once again the focus is on protecting ourselves and our turf.
When trust is lacking, fear is present.
Protection is the typical strategy for dealing with people and situations in which our trust is weak. We may not even feel particularly afraid. In fact the better we are at protecting ourselves, our people and/or our turf we may just experience an illusion of safety rather than the fear that is pressing on us to take protective action. We may even experience the satisfaction of winning every time our protective maneuvers pay off.
Consider the real value of trust, however, is not ultimately that we feel safe to be where we are.
Effectively protecting ourselves from those we don’t trust can create the same effect, except in this circumstance fear is driving us to mitigate the perceived risks. I use the qualifier “perceived” because whether real or imagined, the feeling of fear is very real.
The real value of being able to trust others is this: trust creates a condition in which you are more likely to choose to face your fear to do something that matters even if it does scare you.
Mistrust puts our focus on mitigating risks. Trust fortifies our courage to risk leading the way.
I was reminded recently of this when I had to choose whether to back down on an issue or continue to press on the the face of the resistance of someone with whom I was working. I could have chosen keeping the peace over ensuring my concerns were fully addressed.
Everything inside of me wanted to back down and take the path of least resistance to keep everyone happy. Yet it was because I trust this person and believe they trust me that the discomfort of the moment was less important than the achieving the best possible outcome. It was difficult. It was uncomfortable. There were moments when I felt frustrated.
It was even a little scary since I seem to have been wired from a young age to keep the peace. To this day challenging someone for any reason feels uncomfortable. So far there is no amount of trust in anyone that has ever changed the way it feels for me. The degree of trust, however, makes the difference in just how willing I am to press on to forward my commitments despite the discomfort.
I also had to choose to trust myself. I had to make sure in the process I was being trustworthy.
In this case it meant I had to check in with myself a few times along the way to make sure I was keeping my attention on doing what was best for the team rather than reacting when I was triggered or getting caught up in the all too human need to being right.
There were a lot of times along the way in this exchange where it didn’t feel very good. There is a myth that when we work with people we trust it is always going to be easy and comfortable.
That may be true if we want to stay right where we are, but if we aspire to anything together there will be times we put our trust to the test.
And every time we do and we succeed, our foundation of trust grows that much stronger and ensures we will be ready for the next even bigger test. Of course, sometimes we may fail. In the wake of that failure we may have misunderstandings. It may take some honest conversations to reestablish trust. Yet this is not an indication that trust is permanently lost or broken, but rather an indication that we have more work to do to build the foundation of trust necessary to fulfill on our aspirations.
When we know someone has our back we are more likely to speak up, step up, and stand up for something that matters to us.
We are more likely to challenge the status quo for the sake a future possibility. When we are surrounded by people we trust we actually believe the future we want is possible and that our willingness to take a risk serves more than just ourselves.
When we choose to trust the people around us, we are willing to risk feeling uncomfortable for the sake of a higher purpose.
What about you: Do you have sufficient trust in your relationships to face your fears for the sake of doing something remarkable?