Mutual Trust - a Vignette from Adventures in Attitudes

Bob Conklin, in this vignette ending the unit on Attitude Awareness, writes about mutual trust.  It is unfortunate that we allocate no time to discussing his vignettes in this program since they are usually quite powerful and thought-provoking.  And this one is no exception.

In his inimitable fashion, Bob Conklin simplifies mutual trust and takes us on a thought journey into honesty.  Honesty, he says, is the foundation for mutual trust.  His path to trust is short and elegant - “You need to be basically honest. Honesty crops out into sincerity.  And sincerity is the mold for mutual trust.”

He uses an example from sports history in which Arnold Palmer marked down a one stroke penalty for himself in a major golf tournament even though no one else saw the ball move slightly as he addressed it.  That behavior is rare in sports, as well as in business and personal relationships.  For Palmer, it enabled him to become a trusted spokesperson in the advertising world.  Bob uses this example as encouragement for us to “be like Palmer”.

Saying “I made a mistake” or, “I am wrong” is hard for many of us.  Especially so for me.  On top of the typical need to protect an ego, I am blest  with a behavioral style that has a strong need to be right, or, at least, not be caught being wrong.  This makes it hard to admit mistakes.  But, I must admit, when I do point out something I did that was an error it is a bit freeing.  So, it will be worth the effort to keep this idea in mind and become more aware of this propensity to not admit mistakes. 

The vignette includes a number of quotes.  Two are worth remembering in regard to honesty:

Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes. - Confucius 

Where is there dignity unless there is honesty - Cicero

Honesty leads to sincerity.  “Sincere people”, Bob says, “are those who have ideals, values, beliefs and conform to them.”  I know I have always been attracted to people like this and aspire to be one of them.  A favorite quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet seems to sum this one up:

This above all; to thine own self be true; and it need to follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.

So there is Bob Conklin’s formula for building mutual trust - Be Honest, Be Sincere.  And one more take away from the vignette - look for the good in others and begin by trusting them even when they don’t seem to deserve it.   In our work with teams we address this by encouraging team members to assume positive intentions when interpreting behaviors of other team members.  Not always easy to do.

How interesting to read this vignette once again, after a year of studying and working with Pat Lencioni's team model which puts vulnerability-based trust as the foundation to building cohesive teams.  This is exactly what this vignette seems to teaching.

The Act of Rigorous Forgiving -

As I read this op-ed I immediately related it to the problem of trust and betrayal in the workplace. This "Act of Rigorous Forgiving" is something that needs to be taught and practiced in work settings since they are, in the best sense, a community. We all do things which destroy trust from time to time. We are all in need of forgiveness. Spend a few moments pondering Brooks note on "re-trust" found at the end of his article - As Martin Luther King Jr. said, trust doesn’t have to be immediate, but the wrong act is no longer a barrier to a relationship. The offender endures his season of shame and is better for it. The offended are free from mean emotions like vengeance and are uplifted when they offer kindness. The social fabric is repaired. Community solidarity is strengthened by the reunion.

Click here to read the entire op-ed.

Where does trust come from?

Seth's Blog: Where does trust come from?.
Seth Godin is a thought leader who often finds a simple way to approach difficult topics.  Here he picks up on two of the behaviors I am researching regarding trust in the workplace: reliability and straightforwardness. What struck me was his emphasis on the importance of displaying these behaviors when it might have been easy not to. Seeing "Every tough time and every pressured project (as) another opportunity to earn the trust of someone you care about" is great advice and perhaps the way to rebuild trust when it has been damaged or lost.

Starting with Respect

“Friendship- my definition- is built on two things. Respect and trust. Both elements have to be there. And it has to be mutual. You can have respect for someone, but if you don't have trust, the friendship will crumble."

(Mikael Blomkvist)” 

Stieg Larsson, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I found this quote on the Goodreads website this morning and began to think about the relationship between respect and trust. I like what Stieg Larsson is saying here since we do a lot of work with teams using the DiSC Model of Behavior and always make the point that respecting the behavioral differences found in work teams is key to enhancing team performance. Is it possible that this is also a good place to start when helping teams build trust among the team members? Obvously he is separating the two elements in this quote but I think there is a relationship.

This quote also raises the question about having friends at work. How far should you go in developing workplace friendships? For example, a CNN article titled,"Are your friends at work hurting your career", suggests caution in this regard while a more recent Fortune article takes the oposite view:

Recent research finds that people who initiate office friendships, pick up slack for their co-workers, and organize workplace social activities are 40% more likely to get a promotion in the subsequent two years. "How much you give at work directly affects how much you get at work," says Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work.

In his research, Achor divides individuals into quartiles based on how much they provide this kind of social support to colleagues. Work altruists, the top 25%, give the most, while work isolators, the bottom 25%, provide the least. Work altruists report significantly higher job satisfaction and feel 10 times more engaged by work than people in the lowest quartile.

Even before the positive psychology movement picked up on this principle, Tom Rath, in Vital Friends, used extensive data to show that having a best friend at work is strongly correlated with increased productivity, positive engagement with customers, innovation and loyalty.

So, could there be a strong link between friendship at work and workplace trust? And, does it all begin with respecting the differences in others? If so, what is the best way to help people respect each other? Once again I believe using DiSC instruments can go a long way in this regard.