Trust: Better To Give Than Receive

January 20, 2016
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller

To get trust, you have to freely give it.

This is a tough concept for many people. It’s the opposite of what we normally think. We think of trust as something to be earned. We’ll trust someone when they give us proof that they can be trusted.

And maybe that’s because trust is such an essential human attribute and virtue. Being both trusting and trustworthy are central to what it means to be a human being. When we feel it is violated, it can be devastating. After all, as Frank Sonnenberg says, “Trust is like blood pressure. It’s silent, vital to good health, and if abused it can be deadly.”

But being a leader often means going against conventional thought and reaching out to give when others would grab.

If you missed this episode of the Everybody Matters podcast, I encourage you to make time to listen as it offers a deep, rich discussion on building trust, a critical component of a people-centric organization. It’s one of the most important and sought-after concepts we teach through Barry-Wehmiller University and our BW Leadership Institute (now Chapman & Co. Leadership Instituteread more here.)

We at Barry-Wehmiller believe establishing a vision is the most important step in cultural transformation of an organization, and trust is an essential part. This is a process in which some very important questions are asked: What does your organization stand for? How do you aspire to act together? What will drive you collectively toward a common goal?

The BW Leadership Institute has facilitated visioning sessions for a number of large companies. In one such session, a leader arrived with the vision completely written – in first person. Now, we believe that leaders are called to be visionary, but in creating your organization’s vision—that ideal future state toward which you strive daily – thoughtful engagement is absolutely essential. Maybe that leader thought he was doing what he was supposed to, but he left out a very important element: his people.

The leader of another company the BW Leadership Institute worked with did something similar. Although not written in first person, he had carefully and thoughtfully created a vision on his own, albeit with the best intentions.

And when it was pointed out that the leader had failed to give trust to his people in the process, he understood and left it in the hands of his team.

When their work was complete, the vision came back even better than the leader originally saw it. When he empowered his people to craft their own vision, when he trusted them, they overwhelmingly rewarded that trust. And because they were trusted, the experience was more validating and fulfilling for all.

If you only trust your people with a competency you think they have, you’ll never give them the opportunity to show you something extraordinary.

At Barry-Wehmiller, we refer to empowerment as responsible freedom, something I’ve written about before on this blog. Responsible freedom encapsulates two ideas: freedom, the opportunity to exercise personal choice, to have ownership of the work that you do and the decisions you make; and responsibility, ensuring that personal choice is exercised with care and concern for other people and the requirements of the organization. Whatever you call this concept— empowerment or responsible freedom— it is fundamental to driving fulfillment in any organization, and it requires two-way trust.

Leaders at Barry-Wehmiller have to create a trusting environment as a prerequisite to creating the opportunity for responsible freedom for their team members.

At Barry-Wehmiller, we use an approach for building trust called CCCI: compassion, competence, consistency and integrity. It also facilitates the understanding that we all value different aspects of trust.

Compassion: We care about the concerns of others, and we demonstrate that care through our ability to listen, to take others’ perceptions into account, and to have empathy.

Competence: We can perform the tasks that we are asked to complete. This not only refers to having the technical ability to perform the task, but in leadership, are we in alignment with the values of our culture?

Consistency: People feel they will receive a consistent reaction whether they come with a question today or tomorrow.

Integrity: We do what we say will do, and it’s in alignment with the stated values, vision, and direction of our organization.

The CCCI approach is particularly useful in how we form and think about teams. Trust is essential for team development. For a team to continue to develop, the trust must not just be between the leader and the associates, it needs to be between every individual on the team.

When we as leaders rethink our view of trust, it may be a step back from conventional thinking, but it’ll be a step toward creating an environment that is much more productive and, ultimately, fulfilling for everyone.


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