Trust – Orienteering To Results, Profit, and Values

07 Mar

The success of teams that I have led has been built on a foundation of trusted relationships.  While these teams might have gained success by their pure functional and consulting skills, integrating the power of trust has assured success and created a challenging and delightful environment for everyone to take risks to power up their careers and develop long-term relationships.

Me at Outward Bound – Trust?

I define Trust as two key components, personal integrity and competence.  Integrity is being authentic and honest in our relationships, and competence embodies the skills and intelligence to deliver results.  Both are required for dramatic and extraordinary outcomes.  

Being honest without competence makes for a nice relationship that can’t be counted on to deliver.  Competence without integrity drives to an “ends justifying the means” process, potentially getting one result that is not repeatable and eroding organizational trust along the way. 

Many times over recent years, the market has declined when investors lost trust in government or financial leaders.  We have seen the market gain strength when actions have been taken to remove or indict those that betrayed the public or investor trust.  I want to believe that this investor backlash is creating a global renaissance of Trust. Thinking through this, if the market gains strength by convicting distrust in leadership,  can we leverage markedly improved financial performance by focusing on enhancing Trust in an organization? 

Take a moment and think about someone who you Trust.  How easy is it to work with this person?  How fast can decisions be made?  How confident are you that commitments will be met?  Even if your communication is imprecise, they will still get your meaning.  Now consider working with someone of low Trust, or worst yet, mistrust.  How many cycles, how much more thorough must the communication be to increase the odds of successful results?  At its worst, even your best communications will be misinterpreted. 

Now reverse the process and think about who Trusts you?  Would you be described as someone who “Does the Right Thing and Gets the Right Thing Done?” by your peers, your manager, or most importantly by your clients?  You expect Trust to be extended to you.  The challenge is – how often do you extend Trust to others?  Some of us may take the “Earn My Trust” paradigm.  While blind Trust in a brand new situation could get you burned for being gullible, extending Trust to those you are somewhat connected to should be a risk tolerant process given the character of those you would consider friends and colleagues or future colleagues.

I recall an experiential Trust exercise I organized many years ago with a team that had never worked together, maybe like some of the teams you may have been on. This team was challenged to craft a business plan and operating model for a new business subsidiary for a major corporation, and the effort was time boxed to 12 weeks.  There was no time in the schedule to get to know one another since this project needed to be a sprint from beginning to end.  This team needed to Trust one another to get results fast.

I took the team to an old forested area strewn with branches, rocks, and thick undergrowth where the floor of the forest contained a layering of fallen leaves and pine needles. I assured the team that the most dangerous part of the day was now over – their commute to the forest. I further assured them that no serious harm would come about during the day with the Trust exercises I had planned. 

The participants were broken into pairs and given a blind fold.  One member of the pair was to be blindfolded and the sighted member was to create “an experience” for the one with the blind fold.  The range of Trust extended by the blindfolded member was astounding, from one pair at a complete standstill afraid to move, to another pair running at close to full speed.  When asked what went through the runner’s head, he replied that he implicitly Trusted the framework of the exercise to not harm him, and further believed that anyone on the team deserved to be Trusted, at least at the outset.  Think about the euphoria on his face from being able to run as a child while blindfolded with the freedom of not feeling threatened by harm. Now extend that freedom to your business or personal project to craft results with full confidence that risks taken would not cause professional harm. 

This exercise is symbolic of my leadership style that many of my colleagues will recognize.  I have a responsibility to create an environment where extending Trust enables creative and startling results, much like the runner felt in the Trust exercise.  I extend that Trust to my teams and clients to reap the benefits of thinking and crafting solutions outside of the norm that become differentiated solutions that delight my clients and create employee engagement. 

This paradigm is illustrated in the Velocity of Trust graphic.  The pivot point and frame for the gyroscope is my style of leadership, extending Trust upwards and inwards to my team and my clients.  

The rotational velocity of this Trust Gyroscope is a function of how tightly we Trust each other, close in or at arm’s length.  Extending Trust and bringing us closer together allows for a tighter and more streamlined gyroscope, much like the finale of an Olympic figure skater’s routine, creating a higher velocity, more stability, and ultimately more fulfillment in the velocity of Trust we generate. 

Just as a real gyroscope can be used to maintain orientation, the Trust equivalent keeps us oriented to our principles, values and ethics.  To borrow further from the laws of physics, Trust in Motion tends to Stay in Motion, resisting the forces of Distrust.  But this Trust Law can only work if we actively contribute to the Trust Rotation by extending Trust to each other. 

Orienteering is a running sport using a compass.  An organization running with Trust using the Trust Gyroscope for orientation will produce faster results, greater profit, and most importantly, active contribution to our collective Values, Principles, and Ethics.

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Posted by on March 7, 2011 in LinkedIn, Trust


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