3 Pillars of Trust

The trust fall is a classic "trust building exercise".
The trust fall is a classic “trust building exercise”. Real trust is built in a 1,000 interactions.

When I read Stephen M.R. Covey’s The Speed of Trust several years ago, I experienced one of those delicious moments when you read something you have experienced but never seen articulated. The basic premise is that when trust is present it is possible to save time and money in business; and the lack of trust results in increased costs and lost opportunity. I have shared it with several teams I work with and we all agreed that one area where the Covey book falls down is in practical advice on how to build trust. There is a long list of behaviors that build trust, but it is difficult to remember 24 or more ideas.

Then I discovered Charles Feltman’s The Thin Book of Trust. It is all about practical advice for building and maintaining trust in the workplace.

 SincerityI mean what I say, say what I mean, and act accordingly.

ReliabilityYou can count on me to deliver what I promise!

CompetenceI know I can do this. I don’t know if I can do that.

CareWe are in this together.

There is an excellent chapter on making more effective requests and responding effectively to requests.

“When you make a request of someone, in addition to making sure you have all of the elements clear in your request, check to be sure you are fully committed to what you ask for. For example, if you ask someone to do something by the next day, when you really don’t need it until next week, or worse yet don’t need it at all, that person is likely to begin to distrust your competence, your sincerity or both.” (p28)

My favorite chapter is 7. Confronting Distrust. Feltman gives you good advice on how to prepare for a more effective conversation when someone has damaged trust and restore the relationship.

The Thin Book of Trust, at less than 70 pages, makes a great homework assignment for a team. There are discussion questions.

As to the behaviors that destroy trust, I rely on a book on marriage. It may seem unlikely to have any transferable application. John Gottman’s book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work details the “Four Horseman” that destroy respect and trust: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.

These three books make up the 3 pillars of trust literature.

Leaders Repair Relationships

Warning: If you keep Jon Stewart on a pedestal and only like reading high praise for the man, stop reading now.

Jon Stewart is filming his last show today and a lot of journalists (Fresh Air, NY Times, etc.) are covering this event. I have a routine of watching the previous day’s show on the internet over lunch and Jon Stewart is the only anchor I have known on The Daily Show. I miss the Colbert Report because it went away entirely. I hope when Trevor Noah takes over I will remain enthusiastic about watching it over lunch.

I marvel at his intelligence and wit, but I have occasionally witnessed his thin skin showing through when he interviews guests or is parrying attacks from Fox News and others. And then I listened to Marc Maron’s podcast interview with former Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac. He tells his story about the incident that ultimately led to his leaving the Daily Show. He expressed a difference of opinion to Jon Stewart about how Stewart chose to respond to an event. Cenac’s opinion was informed by his experience with race as a black man in America and unfortunately Stewart took it personally and responded in anger (perhaps rage).

And then Stewart did not repair with Cenac and so ultimately Wyatt Cenac found working at the Daily Show so uncomfortable he left the show.

First, I want to share that I have done the same thing (losing it to the point of screaming) to an employee of mine. And I eventually learned to feel truly sorry. It took about 4 months of executive coaching before I could recognize how damaging what I did was to the other person. By that time my employee had moved to the other side of the country for a new job and my team had gone through hours of team building using tools from John Gottman’s research. I never repaired with the individual though.

I am not proud of this fact. And having experienced this lapse in my leadership, I have compassion for Jon Stewart and have an idea of why he may not have been able to repair his relationship with Wyatt Cenac.

I also know that leaders repair relationships. It was a much longer journey to really learn this lesson. It was only when I had experienced CTI’s Co-Active Leadership Program that I locked in the learning about how to clear with people and keep relationships in good trim. It takes a lot of conscious effort and it means I have to deal with my own “stuff” (and by stuff I mean shit).

Maybe this is part of Jon Stewart’s decision to leave. Maybe he does not feel his current job gives him the bandwidth to deal with these personal issues. We have no way of really knowing; however, I can still learn from the WTF podcast interview. I do not think Jon Stewart is a racist or a rage machine, just as I am not the sum of my episode with my employee. And this is the same Jon Stewart who did the delightful interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates. I wish him all the best and I will still miss him.