Thoughts on Trust in Teams — Load it Like a Battery🔋

Have you ever felt you weren’t being trusted enough by your partner, friends, parents or even at your job? You know, mumbling to yourself something along the lines of “If only they would trust me here, I’d be so much more productive and happier — if only they just gave me more trust”.

If I look back at my own moments of wanting to be more trusted, I’ve come to realise that it was little short of an avoidance strategy of how I was contributing to being in that position in the first place. I’ve been thinking about trust the wrong way.

Trust is an Outcome, Not a Right

The thing is trust is an outcome, not a right. No matter how you beg, twist and shout, or you feel there’s rational ground for you to be trusted or you simply feel deserving of it. For trust to build it requires a level of consistency, predictability and reliability in what you do over time.

I wanted to share a few observations that have helped me rethink trust in a more productive way.

10 Trust 😈 Devils 😈 in the Details

I’m going to assume that we all agree how stealing, cheating and lying are a fast track to killing trust between people. Most of us can hopefully easily refrain from doing those, but in my experience being sloppy about the basics and careless about the seemingly unharmful small habits can be equally corrosive to trust building. Luckily there’s always something we can do to recharge our trust batteries* (reference see point 9 on the list).

1 | Actions speak louder than words

as the old saying goes. If you’re all talk but no walk, sooner or later people won’t find your credible. Through previous mistakes I’ve learnt it’s much better to be really conscious of not making promises I can’t keep and proactively owning up to it if it happens.

2 | Showing up late

Even five minutes. This seems small but it’s just making the other person feel like you don’t respect them or see your time as more valuable than theirs. You can hear that heavy disappointment in the tone of someone’s voice, shrill, fast or avoidant, sarcastic at worst when you miss your agreed slot. Auchie. I’m notoriously bad at this, but I know when I leave generous buffer time for appointments it just leavs a better impression even if it’s “just a friend”. I know I can’t make a specific time at least try to say a bracket.

3 | Showing a high volatility in your mood 🤯😱😵‍💫🤪🤩😤

This might be a really personal one but there’s nothing that unsettles me more than when someone’s flaring up from extreme highs to lows in a short period of time. Makes me feel like they don’t have themselves under control, can’t zoom out and it certainly doesn’t make me feel safe. I know we all have different temperaments and it’s ok to be expressive but just taking a moment to not work our shit on other people certainly helps in building trust. I try counting to ten before reacting if I feel the Feels, it isn’t such a big price to pay in exchange.

4 | Gossiping & Trash talking

I’m always surprised about how much people trash talk especially in job interviews. It’s just one of the biggest no-gos. It makes you immediately think of how you will be talked about when you leave the conversation. Even if you feel you were unfairly treated, the person at the other end of the line will not trust you more if you share this kind of experience with them. Just don’t do it. And interviews are also not great places for venting.

Well summarized on gossiping by Nedra Tawwab.

5 | Sloppy writing

This goes for not just a professional context, or on Slack. Whatsapp counts too. It gives off that you don’t care. How you write is pretty demonstrative of how you think. Be mindful about those typsös. Kidding. Typos.

6 | Not making your intentions clear 🤥

Especially when you’re asking for someone’s time. It’s much more helpful to just get straight to what you want. Engage in the pleasantries afterwards if you must. Politeness is overrated, kindness is underused. It’s far kinder to be mindful of someone’s time.

7 | Not answering the question straight up

Circling around the topic using sarcasm, floral language or complicated explanations weakens your position and makes you more suspicious. Note to self, I’m a very wordy person, I could use with some cutback. I should remember to repeat the question out loud, offer to park it for later, and get back at an agreed time. And answer questions with Strong verbs, Short sentences” (see the episode about Bernadine Healy on Revisionist History for full context).

8 | Changing the story too often just to fit your audience

This is corrosive to your integrity. Even if you’re doing it for entertaining your audience, don’t take it so far that confuse your facts from fiction. You obviously want to make your story relevant to the listener, but I’ve observed that it’s more helpful being transparent about where the line between your interpretations and the facts goes.

9 | Thinking of Trust as a binary thing*

You can get into a lot of trouble by giving all your trust at all times to everyone. It’s not so black and white, trust is much more a scale game. Instead I try to be more conscious about who I trust for what and when as an active decision before I share something. Trust can also fluctuate over time, being like 🔋“A Trust Battery”🔋 as Tobi from Shopify explains in this interview with Shane Parrish. The podcast is a blast if you haven’t listened to it already!

10 | Playing for your own (short term) gain

We can be fabulously bad at thinking a few steps ahead about the implications of our actions. Even if it might seem counterintuitive, a fast track to building trust is actually to “take a painful short term loss in exchange for the possibility of a long term win… The kind that puts your partner’s self-interest decidedly and dramatically ahead of your own — Daniel Ek”. I couldn’t have said it better than Spotify’s Daniel, full show in this fun interview by Reid Hoffman. Demonstrating a level of selflessness quickly into a win-win situation for both if you add even just a little perspective.

The Devil really is in the details. Off we go to load those trust batteries.

As always, thanks for reading!



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Mia Wähälä

Mia Wähälä

Musings on building great teams and tribes.