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.

Posted in Collaboration, Responsibility, Teamwork on 10/24/2011 05:16 am
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