Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Habit of Trusting

I couldn't improve on what Andy Stanley recently wrote about trust, so here are his thoughts:

Trust is the currency of relationships. Great leaders cultivate a culture of trust, and thus a culture where relationships thrive. But how do you foster trust between members of your team?
For some, trust is not the intuitive choice. However, I believe it is just that. A choice. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says that along with forgiving, enduring, and bearing all things, love believes all things. We must reconcile the scriptural charge to believe all things with the fact that it is not always easy to do. If we believe it is possible for us to choose to love, or be kind, or be patient, then we must also believe we can choose to trust.

But the gap between what we expect of people and what they actually deliver makes it hard to trust. We can either fill that gap with trust or with suspicion. How we handle these opportunities is the greatest determining factor in the success or failure of the relationships in our organizations.

Trust as the currency of relationships implies an exchange of one thing for another. Relationally, we give trust, and we expect trustworthiness in return. But trustworthiness is not a synonym for perfection. Trust is not built on flawless character, but on authenticity. I will extend trust to people who will admit their imperfections. It is people who defend their infallibility who make me suspicious.

There are situations that merit suspicion. What's important is how we handle them. When over time a person's actions erode our trust, and we believe those actions leave the organization vulnerable to harm, we have a responsibility to talk to that person about it, (not the rest of the team), to address the gap, and give that person the opportunity to re-establish their trustworthiness. Trustworthy people will address the suspicion they've created.

I wish this principle were easy to implement. It's not. But it is crucial for building a strong team. Here are three things to keep in mind when a trust versus suspicion issue surfaces:

1. When there is a gap, choose to trust.
2. When you see others filling the gap with suspicion, come to the defense of the suspect.
3. If what you see continues to erode your trust, go to the person directly.

Great leaders create a culture in which people have learned how to trust. Modeling biblical trust as outlined in 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the greatest leadership strategies you can employ. Biblical trust is not denial - pretending that you don't see behavior that erodes your trust. It's not withdrawal - refusing to confront. The key is to choose to trust. When it becomes impossible to fill the gap between expectation and behavior with trust, ask for clarification.

Trust is the currency of relationships. Trust is a dynamic your team cannot afford to be without. Model it. Extend it. Choose to trust.


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