It is probably not necessary to make a case for the power of trust in relationships of any kind - business, professional, or personal. We use the word a lot and still struggle to understand it, develop it and, when lost, restore it.
Bob Conklin, in this vignette ending the unit on Attitude Awareness, writes about mutual trust. It is unfortunate that we allocate no time to discussing his vignettes since they are usually quite powerful and thought-provoking. And this one is no exception.
In his inimitable fashion, Bob simplifies mutual trust and takes us on a thought journey into honesty. Honesty, he says, is the foundation for mutual trust. His path to trust is short and elegant - “You need to be basically honest. Honesty crops out into sincerity. And sincerity is the mold for mutual trust.”
He uses an example from sports history in which Arnold Palmer marked down a one stroke penalty for himself in a major golf tournament even though no one else saw the ball move slightly as he addressed it. That behavior is rare in sports, as well as in business and personal relationships. For Palmer, it enabled him to become a trusted spokesperson in the advertising world. Bob uses this example as encouragement for us to “be like Palmer”.
Saying “I made a mistake” or, “I am wrong” is hard for many of us. Especially so for me. On top of the typical need to protect an ego, I am blest with a behavioral style that has a strong need to be right, or, at least, not be caught being wrong. This makes it hard to admit mistakes. But, I must admit, when I do point out something I did that was an error it is a bit freeing. So, it will be worth the effort to keep this idea in mind and become more aware of this propensity to not admit mistakes.
The vignette includes a number of quotes. Two are worth remembering in regard to honesty:
Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes. - Confucius
Where is there dignity unless there is honesty - Cicero
Honesty leads to sincerity. “Sincere people”, Bob says, “are those who have ideals, values, beliefs and conform to them.” I know I have always been attracted to people like this and aspire to be one of them. A favorite quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet seems to sum this one up:
This above all; to thine own self be true; and it need to follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.
So there is Bob Conklin’s formula for building mutual trust - Be Honest, Be Sincere. And one more take away from the vignette - look for the good in others and begin by trusting them even when they don’t seem to deserve it. In our work with teams we address this by encouraging team members to assume positive intentions when interpreting behaviors of other team members. Not always easy to do.
How interesting to read this vignette once again, after a year of studying and working with Pat Lencioni’s team model which puts vulnerability-based trust as the foundation to building cohesive teams. This is exactly what this vignette seems to teaching.