Last week I left you with the pretty scary stat, that when employees don’t trust organisational leadership, their chances of being engaged are only 1 in 12!
I also shared an encouraging one: when trust is established, the chances of engagement skyrocket to better than 1 in 2.
And, I dangled the million dollar question; how do you build trust?
So, how do you?!
Trust is a BIG word.
There’s a lot to it and it’s not just about doing one thing and then you’ve got trust.
There’s different aspects to trust, and being able to break it down can help you navigate why you trust or distrust someone, and also help you understand what you can do (or need to stop doing) to build trust with others.
Brené Brown’s research into trust found that trust is built in very small moments, what she calls marble jar moments.
Imagine an empty jar, and every time someone does something that shows you can trust them, you add a marble to that jar. Over time, they’ve done thing after thing that’s filled up the jar and you know you can trust them.
People shared small moments like, “I really trust my boss. She even asked me how my mum’s chemotherapy was going” (marble), and, “I trust him because he’ll ask for help when he needs it” (marble).
John Gottman calls them “sliding door moments”.
He says “there is the opportunity to build trust and there is the opportunity to betray.” As small as the moments of trust can be, they are also moments of betrayal, which means it’s a choice.
If you make the choice to connect, that’s a marble in the jar, but if you choose not to connect when the opportunity is there, that’s a betrayal.
So, what are the marbles? What actually makes up trust?
This is where The Anatomy of Trust comes in, an acronym from Brené called BRAVING. Here’s the breakdown, as explained by her:
B – Boundaries. I trust you if you are clear about your boundaries and you hold them, and you’re clear about my boundaries and you respect them. There is no trust without boundaries.
R – Reliability. You do what you say you’re going to do over and over and over again. You cannot gain and earn my trust if you’re reliable once, because that’s not the definition of reliability.
A – Accountability. I can only trust you if, when you make a mistake, you are willing to own it, apologise for it, and make amends. I can only trust you if when I make a mistake, I am allowed to own it, apologise, and make amends. No accountability? No trust.
V – Vault. What I share with you, you will hold in confidence. What you share with me, I will hold in confidence. And, it’s not just about the fact that you hold my confidences, it’s that, in our relationship, I see that you acknowledge confidentiality. This means if you’re coming to me and sharing something that’s not yours to share, that breaks trust.
I – Integrity. I cannot trust you and be in a trusting relationship with you if you do not act from a place of integrity and encourage me to do the same. (Here’s her definition of integrity)
N – Non-Judgment. I can fall apart, ask for help, and be in struggle without being judged by you. And you can fall apart, and be in struggle, and ask for help without being judged by me, which is really hard because we’re better at helping than we are asking for help. If you can’t ask for help and they cannot reciprocate, that is not a trusting relationship. When we assign value to needing help, when I think less of myself for needing help, whether you’re conscious of it or not, when you offer help to someone, you think less of them too. You cannot judge yourself for needing help but not judge others for needing your help. But real trust doesn’t exist unless help is reciprocal in non-judgment.
G – Generosity. Our relationship is only a trusting relationship if you can assume the most generous thing about my words, intentions, and behaviours, and then check in with me. So, if I screw up, say something, forget something, you will make a generous assumption about it.
Brené says, “How do we talk about trust if we can’t break it down? What understanding trust gives us is words to say, “Here’s my struggle. You’re not reliable with me. You say you’re going to do something, I count on it, you don’t do it.” We can break it down and talk about it and ask for what we need, very specifically. Instead of using this huge word that has tons of weight and value around it, we can say, “Here’s specifically what’s not working.”
Now I want to go back to that question, how do we build trust?
Here’s my answer.
The first step is to understand what trust is, the second step is to honestly ask yourself, do I do all of these things with my team? Do I make generous assumptions when someone says the wrong thing or makes a mistake? Am I reliable? Do I apologise and own my mistakes?
If the answer to any of them is no, then that’s how you can build trust.
Remember, it’s all about the marble jar moments – seizing those sliding door moments and making the choice to use them as opportunities for connection instead of betrayal.
Ok, there’s A LOT in there, so here’s what I want you to do:
- Scroll back up and read through the Anatomy of Trust again
- Comment below and tell me which letter resonates with you the most and how you think you can improve trust in that area. It can be something as simple as, “I want to be better at asking for help”, or “I need to be better at owning my mistakes”
- Start to look for the marble jar moments and make the choice to connect
It’s that simple.
PS – in your comment below, while you’re telling me which letter resonates and how you can improve in that area, I’d also love to hear about a marble jar moment that builds trust for you. For me, a big marble jar moment is when a friend checks in on someone I love, e.g. my kids have been sick and someone messages to ask how they’re feeling, or they ask, “hows your parents?”.
What’s a marble jar moment for you?
Go on, share yours now.