Trust: The Underrated Enabler

my-brothers

I was traveling from Cape Town to Panama to attend my mother’s funeral and my brothers agreed that I would speak at the ceremony. I was sitting on the plane trying to think what to write since she has been a huge influencer in my personal and professional life. It was an impossible task to fit it all in one speech. Then I decided to just focus in one word that will define her greatest legacy in my life. After hours of thinking that the perfect word was ‘trust’. She trusted me to do well, always. It didn’t matter how much I failed in something, she will always be there to cheer for me.

The best example of this is when I started playing baseball in youth leagues. For an entire summer, I did not hit the ball not even once. However, my mother would never miss a game and never stopped cheering louder than anyone else.  For the first time in my life I felt trusted and supported and I was not scared of failing. My biggest learning that summer, besides the fact that baseball was not my thing, was that my mother understood that in order to make it in life I would need to fail several times before I getting it right and she will be supporting and trusting that I will do my best. Over my life, I have had some successes and many failures, but I always have done my best and was never afraid to try it again. The trust I received from her over the years didn’t automatically make me a winner, it just didn’t make me a quitter.

Fail-free environment

If we take this to the team environment, trust will empower us to always do our best effort without the fear of failing since by doing so we will learn and will continue to improve. Do not take this as a license to fail since every time I heard from my mother “I trust that you will do your best”, I felt obligated to do so. In other words, in a trusting environment, people do not enjoy failing … they just are not afraid of losing.

I work in operational execution and the margin for error can be high. There is no substitute for real time hands-on training when it comes to the process of becoming a quality operator. So, trust is everything and I have been lucky enough to have a boss that pretty much reminds me of that motherly trust when mistakes are not pointed out, just the learning that comes from that mistake. Is a beautiful and fun environment, we even make fun of our own mess and make learning in such hectic situations very enjoyable.

So if failing part of the learning process, so is support. The whole team supports and assist if necessary. Open and honest feedback is a daily thing. Everybody participates in ongoing training and assistance on sharing workload if the new guy cannot handle it.

Because of this, every time I look for a new position I do research about how trust is managed within that specific team and if I will be in a key position to influence trust. I like what I do and trust just enables me to be passionate about it.

Trust starts with you

Now, don’t get me wrong. My mother was a tough lady and in order to be trusted and supported, I needed to earn it. For example, when I was a teenager we did not have cellphones. So when I go out with friends, there was no way of double checking on me. My mother told me once “If I find out that you go to a different place from the one you told me, it won’t be good”. My brothers and I used to joke about her being a ‘human lie detector’ so we will never dare to lie about it, because she trusted us not to. She is not with us now, but the trust remained within my brothers and I.

Going back to team environment, I recently saw a documentary about one of the greatest coaches of all time, Sir Alex Ferguson, often referred as a father figure for some and a tough guy for others. In the documentary, they explained in a very practical way the balance between being loved and being feared. They draw a horizontal line and wrote in one end the word ‘loved’ and in the other end the word ‘feared’ and in the middle the word ‘respect’. People who love you will go the extra mile for you and people who fear you will follow orders. The perfect balance is respect that is the consequence of a trusting environment and the responsibility to foster it is yours. Cheers!

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