News from the Top

Do you trust me?


I would argue that trust is the single most critical component of the work we do and one of the most difficult to achieve.

What is trust? There are plenty of conversations around this subject. From “The Speed of Trust” by Stephen M.R. Covey to “The Thin Book of Trust” by Charles Feltman to Brene Brown’s description of the anatomy of trust through the acronym BRAVING … boundaries, reliability, accountability, vault, integrity, nonjudgement and generosity. From an internal team perspective, TRUST is the foundation of healthy teams, according to Patrick Lencioni in “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” I pour over these titles and more regularly for my own clarity and sanity.

Why do I obsess about trust? Because we need it desperately to be successful, and (to be blunt), it really feels shitty when trust is in question. We want our organizations to be seen as honest brokers, both in our intentions and our delivery of services. We need trust to be able to move forward with projects and partners and to build relationships. But it can break down so quickly. Why?

I’ve given this much consideration, and I believe it comes down to transparency and our armor. Transparency sometimes is not possible. Even with the best of intentions, there are moments when we cannot disclose all that we know. The necessity of confidentiality can be perceived as deliberate withholding, which breeds distrust. For example, an internal issue with an employee that cannot be shared with the team or a community member looking for access to embargoed information. And then there is the armor. We go into a community meeting when naysayers and gadflys are in the audience and we know from experience that our message will be manipulated. We have experienced these individuals interacting kindly in a public setting and then viciously behind a keyboard. We then approach them differently moving forward; we share less and we withhold more. They then trust less and the death spiral or distrust is activated.

We are always walking a tightrope of vaulted information and self-preservation, but we are seen as untrustworthy when we keep our cards close to our vest. I share this with you for two reasons.

First, because I often need to be reminded of this myself. I need to give grace to others and recognize that they might be facing this themselves. I also need to remember that the only path forward is to lean into what we fear. It takes great vulnerability to trust someone who has previously burned you (the keyboard hater), but if we carry that experience into other interactions, we are worse for the wear. The longer we work with people and the more we demonstrate our integrity, the greater our foundation of trust. We can stand upon that in moments when we can’t be as transparent and we can relax when we begin to build walls.

Second, because we all need to be reminded that we aren’t alone – and this is the beauty of IDA. We might not be able to share these difficult experiences with members of our community or our teams, but we can share them with our IDA colleagues. We can get both empathy and guidance from one another. Sometimes that’s all we need to face another community meeting.

This work can be lonely but we have excellent foundations and we have one another. I believe that you will find solace and comfort in your colleagues if you reach out. Trust me!