Ritch Hochstetler February 7, 2020

Experiential trainer Sam Sikes frames a powerful metaphor for trust.  He tells a story that takes you to the edge of a 100ft cliff with only a rope hanging vicariously and connected to the trunk of a tree on the other side.  As you look at the rope, it looks worthy of bearing your weight until you observe that in the last two feet it transforms into only a thread.  The question he poses, “Would you trust this rope to get to the other side?”

For people to experience trust, there needs to be a solid connection they both believe in.  For this connection to be solid means that both people are “all in!” It’s built on a solid history of being trust-worthy (a history of behaviors that support your belief.)

Alex Pentland, author of the book Social Physics: How Social Networks Can Make Us Smarter, defines trust as “The expectation of future fair, cooperative exchanges.  It is built upon direct, positive interactions.” He goes on to frame these exchanges as investments that each person makes in their relationship.  These investments create “social capital.”

British Sociologist David Halpern has found that only 34% of Americans believe that other people can be trusted. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything he does becomes tainted.”  

Dan Coyle, in his book, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, says that one of the most effective ways to build trust is to lead with your own vulnerability.  He goes on to say:

         “When we share who we are, warts and all, we create vulnerability loops. Openness, on top of safety, opens people to be vulnerable. We think we need trust to be vulnerable. Rather, If you are vulnerable, then you build trust.” 

On teams, people often hide or fail to share their weaknesses in groups.  This “bottling up” of vulnerability not only hurts the person who is holding back, but the effectiveness of the entire team.

A key question to ask yourself as a leader and a team member is,  “How do I model vulnerability so that my team members feel safe to bring their best gifts to accomplishing our shared mission?”



Ritch Hochstetler, President and CEO at ULEAD


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