Leadership Skills: Your Trust Reflects Your Responsibility

Want more trust in your life? Consider this: we commonly think of trust as something that happens between particular people for particular reasons.

But, if trust exists only between people, how do we explain those all-trusting persons who seem able to exhibit high levels of trust all the time? Are they naive? Or have they got something figured out?

I think they’ve got something figured out.

From my vantage point, folks who are able to trust highly all the time have figured out that trust depends on more than interpersonal dynamics: it’s also an INTRA-personal event.

Whether we trust others or not actually has less to do with what others do and more to do with our ability to respond (to what others do). And this is true not just sometimes, but every time we trust — in our personal life and in work relationships.

Think about it. Trust isn’t simply a product of what happens between you and someone in a given situation: it’s heavily influenced by what’s happening inside of you.

As you focus on teamwork as an individual skill set, how much you do or don’t trust reflects your level of individual response-ability.

That is, the more you expect others might do something you don’t know how to successfully respond to, the less you’re likely to trust them and the more guarded you will be.

Therefore, as your ability to respond grows, the greater will your trust in others grow, because you’ll know how to respond to a wider and wider range of behaviors others might choose to display. Hence, how much you trust others is really a reflection of how much you trust yourself.

As I always point out, you can only control your response to any given situation, and learning to trust more yourself will improve situations and relationships with others — although you are doing the work.

Let me put this into a personal perspective. For three years, I shied away from repeated requests to teach Sunday School to toddlers at my church. My justification was that “I specialize in teaching adults.” The truth was, however, that I didn’t trust a room full of 2-year-olds.

I finally admitted the truth to myself and confronted my fear of not knowing what a room full of 2-year-olds might do (or that I wouldn’t know how to respond to what they might do). So I tried teaching the kids and wouldn’t you know it, after two months of practice, I had expanded my repertoire of behaviors and, as a result, dramatically increased my trust in a room full of 2-year-olds.

Remember: trust is more about what’s inside you than about what’s between you and another.

If you’re always waiting for others to prove their trustworthiness to you, maybe, just maybe, you are playing too small a game. Get started with this week’s 5-Minute Practice Tip.

5-Minute Practice Tip

Refusing to empower others is often an example of our imagined inability to respond to what others might do. So this week, identify at least one relationship where you’ve been controlling another person or balking at trusting him or her. Consider where you can develop or expand your abilities so that you can trust.

Then do it. Trust me — you’ve got nothing to lose.

Tell me what you think. Leave a comment.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide. Build a responsible team (or family) and master your leadership skills with The Leadership Gift Program for Leaders.

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7 Responses to Leadership Skills: Your Trust Reflects Your Responsibility

  1. Michelle says:

    Thank you Christopher for this post. I have a training on Leadership and Trust in a few weeks. I wanted to combine it with the human behavior tool (Emergenetics) and you have given me some great insight to use in combining leadership, trust, behavior and now adding self-awareness. Often our lack of trust is based on our lack of understanding.

  2. Thanks for alerting me to your post via twitter Christopher.

    Yes, I agree that trust has more to do with what’s inside us. But what is inside us is coloured by our experiences with other similar people or similar situations in the past.

    Some of it is a necessary self-defense mechanism based on our own experience – we have been “caught” by a tele-sales person so we believe all tele-sales people are liars and not to be trusted.

    Some of it is the result of our own or inherited, prejudices. “my father told me all used car salesmen are con artists” therefore I cannot trust them either.

    A lot of out reluctance to trust may be a combination of many factors from real or imagined experiences, what we see in the media and our own personal beliefs.

  3. Interesting post. I trust you know what you’re talking about. Actually, this was very well written and excellent insight. I do agree with thoughts. I’ve chosen to live my life trusting. Why? Because I am trustworthy. I always believe if we want others to trust us, we must trust them. At least that’s what I thought. But the reality is, I have confidence to know how to deal with their reaction… despite what they do. We cannot control what others will do and how they behave, but we do have control of ourselves…. we hope. But then I live and work in a world where I must trust. Trust my fellow crew members, ATC… and all the systems. But not blindly. Trust …but verify… is essential. Why can I trust my fellow crewmembers? I have the confidence within me, despite what they do, I will know how to react.
    As far as two year-olds go… give a me a room full! My favorite age.
    Thanks for a great post.

  4. It really shows how easily it is to project negative feelings on someone else and basically blaming the other one for your own failure or misunderstanding, a well oiled self-defense mechanism. Patterns are a bitch as I noticed very different behavior – levels of trust – between how I interact with my wife or my children or even with my parents. I don’t expect my children to know the answer and I’m honored to be able to guide them through life. When the same problem is handed over to my wife I expect her to fix it and leave me alone, how hard can it be, she’s an adult, a highly intelligent being. Although I’m very aware of it, it’s so hard to always keep that in mind. Thanks for reminding me agan!

  5. Christopher says:

    Peter, thanks for pointing out how we receive much of our programming. You say “But what is inside us is coloured by our experiences with other…”. The “but” is loud there, effectively negating your opening comment. (-: I consider it my responsibility to empirically examine my stereotypes, untested assumptions, and what well-intended parents and teachers told me, especially if I want to grow and operate at higher and higher levels of contribution, relationship, and joy.

    Karlene, well-put. Thanks. I just have one question: would you like that room full of two-year-olds to be the aircraft cabin? <-: Maarten, I love your addition of the notion of projection. Sometimes I think I'm just a big movie screen reflecting others illusions of me back to them! (And that means they are big movie screens reflecting my illusions of them back to them...)

  6. Pingback: Trust Breaks Are an Opportunity to Strengthen Business Relationships | Christopher Avery's Leadership Gift Blog

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