123 DAYS

… about trust

I missed the 100 days deadline, but 123 days is much cooler, so here we go… 

It’s been 123 days in my new function. Reflecting back on what has passed, trust comes in as the key topic. Where, within an organisation do we, as leaders put an emphasis on trust? We are all either pessimists or optimists, and based on this we are more inclined toward trust or distrust. For self reflection we often use the trust frame shown below.

Don’t trust anyone Trust when proven that, can be trusted
Trust, until proven wrong Trust everyone
The trust frame

We can all agree, that along the diagonals, specific behavioural traits can be identified, and nobody should have the life goal to move along the diagonal from top left to right bottom. The road sprinkled with paranoia and rainbow coloured unicorns should be as far away from anybody’s business as can be. That leaves us with two options.

Trust when proven that, can be trusted. A.k.a. the hamster wheel. When one cannot take the leap of faith, to blindly trust one, he requires proof. Prove it, that you can be trusted — said he, who has no faith. Sounds like a sound strategy, but what is my DoD (in laymen’s term: definition of done)? This is what we as leaders most often forget to define. When, for God’s sake is enough enough? Have you ever had a hamster? How much could you feed him? As much as he could fit in his cheek pouches… Then he quickly ran away, safely storing everything in his burrows. When he was back, how much could you feed him again? As much as he could fit in his cheek pouches…. You get the point. How much grains can you store for winter,  until you say now I have enough? Do we ever really have enough, or we just keep expecting more? And what happens in case of a f*ckup? We all f*ck up every now and then…. Do we look at the winter fat and acknowledge the achievement or we just see the consequence, clean out the cage and send Fifi back to gathering more grains for the winter? Think about it…

 Trust, until proven wrong. Well, this sounds like fun. Since we all love so much being out of our comfort zones — in the “learning zone”, let’s see how much we can learn about ourselves in this case. We take the leap of faith and preempt our trust. What happens? Usually, nothing… Life’s all rainbows and unicorns. Until… The dreaded until comes, when…. You guessed it, there’s a f*ckup! Depending on how high you centre of mass is, you will have higher or lower oscillations around your own pole. If your baseline is truly trust, the oscillations will sooner or later ring-off and we’re back to riding our unicorns into the sunset. Is this really what we should be doing? We rode the wave out, we survived. Surf’s up? I say no! We should take the time to self reflect. Not only to our own shortcomings but also to those of the organisation. We, as leaders are sometimes forced to take decisions with little to no information, but is this really the message that we want to give? That this is ok? “This was decided over my head, so I just did as I was told!” — Is this the mentality that we want to empower? I say hell no! Do we want to raise generations of employees, who think it’s ok that managers take decisions “over their heads”? Or we want “no bullsh*t, badass engineers”, who call us all out on our bullsh*t? I say hell yes! 

“He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted”

- Lao Tzu
© 2021 Albert Erika. All rights reserved.

We are more often than not forced to act out of our comfort zones and be in our learning zone. But who is there to learn from? Do we foster employees who can bring clarity and say: “i told you black is white but you didn’t listen, so this one’s on you!” — or the ones who burrow along with Fifi for winter hibernation until the next wave comes. Think about it….

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