When All Else Fails, Try Trust
Author: Julia Fabris McBride
The economy is going to hell in a hand-basket, even the most determinedly civil candidates are getting nasty, fear is rampant in the media and in the coffee shops, and something drastic needs to be done. For my part, I’m going to indulge in a fantasy about trust.
Not too long ago I had the opportunity to be the fly on the wall as a group of smarter-than-average 18-to-20-somethings wrestled with implications of trust as it applies to the art and practice of leadership. In the interest of confidentiality, I will skip the back-story.
I’ll simply say that circumstances required these young people to identify (and eventually achieve) a shared goal. Not surprisingly, they spent a good long time going nowhere before admitting that if fourteen strangers were to become a team, they’d need to build some trust in each other.
An idea or two about how to begin to do the work of trust-building was half-heartedly offered and easily shot down. Finally, one brave young woman stood up for her suggestion that each of the fourteen people at the table demonstrate their trust in the group by admitting aloud their best quality and their worst quality. There was some hesitation, but enough implied consent to get the round robin going.
Someone went first, and others followed. Feelings were shared, acknowledged and even challenged. Tears were shed. Sitting on the sidelines, their professor and I kept our mouths shut and our anxieties to ourselves.
Never underestimate the wisdom of inexperience.
By the end of an hour the students knew each other better and felt that they were closer to being able to accomplish something together. Had trust been achieved? A little bit of it. You have to start somewhere, and these students dove right into the deep end. Granted the stakes were low – a grade in a class, not a paycheck, a reputation, or a global economy.
But, thinking about it from a different perspective, the stakes will never be as high as they were when I was eighteen.
What is a team if not a group of people who must learn to trust each other enough to get the job done?
What is leadership if not the ability to help a group develop the trust that is necessary to achieve important and difficult things together?
It is worth remembering what it was like to be eighteen – totally inexperienced in the work of civic leadership, but courageous enough to ask hard questions of ourselves and others.
This week’s wackiest idea.
What if every group that ever came together to try to solve a difficult problem started its first meeting with honest sharing and discussion about each individual’s best and worst qualities?
“Ridiculous!” “This is exactly the reason I hate meetings and Coaches!” “A waste of time!” “Ugh, Julia, get over yourself!”
Trust takes time. But is there any wiser investment?
Would our country and the world be facing the current crisis in confidence if people, as a matter of course, took the time to develop trust in each other?
What if you listened empathetically and without judgment as colleagues described their best qualities and worst qualities?
What if you spoke up more often and admitted the ways in which you are not living up to your own vision for yourself?
What if, before we got down to solving problems together, we spoke of our deepest hopes and fears about who we are and who we are becoming?
What if we took the time to describe the kind of human beings we want to be in the world and the ways in which we are failing?
What if I asked my colleagues to call me out when my worst quality rears its ugly head and to support me in bringing my best quality to bear on the world’s problems?
Would I be less likely to hide behind false self-confidence? Would I be more likely to take action knowing that I’d be supported in either success or failure? Would I be more likely to ask for help when I need it? Would I be less apt to flounder? Would the world be a better place if we took the risk to trust one another more?
It’s a wacky idea. But something’s got to give. Greed and self-deception have had their day in the sun.
About The Author
Julia Fabris McBride
Julia is a certified coach, and skilled teacher and facilitator, Julia Fabris McBride is dedicated to helping individuals and organizations know themselves deeply, and then use that knowledge to align actions with values, forge powerful connections, and do good work in the world.
Julia is an International Coach Federation Certified Coach and a graduate of Coach University. She is a certified Body-Mind Life Coaching™ Specialist.
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