Extending Trust is Hard but Essential

I wonder if you’re struggling with trusting someone right now. It comes to all of us. Other people’s trustworthiness influences us tremendously and can lead us to turning away and refusing to trust them. Onora O’Neill has a thoughtful and wonderful TED talk on this idea. We may lack trust in others, but are we trustworthy ourselves?

Photo Credit: a little ingenuity(: via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: a little ingenuity(: via Compfight cc

Over the last few years, I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking about trust and how to build it as a leader. Trust is a foundational element in all the work we do. Trust is a combination of character and competence: “Character includes your integrity, motive, and intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, skills, results, and track record”.  I agree with Steven M. R. Covey that these two elements are essential. But I am as flawed as the next human being, so I’m far from perfect when it comes to my trustworthiness. But it’s important for me to keep working on.

Despite my fumbles and mistakes when it comes to trust, I still want people to extend trust to me. I want them to believe that I can do it. I also appreciate if people have the courage to (gently and compassionately) let me know that I have let them down somehow. That can be hard to hear, but how else will I learn?

In turn, I need to extend trust to those who I don’t always feel very safe with. I gave this a try recently by thinking about what I wanted to say beforehand and preparing myself for it perhaps not going so well. I approached it with an open heart, and I think that made a difference. It went OK and a small bridge was created.

The risk was worth it.


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