Around the Summit offices, we often remind ourselves to “Assume the best about others” and “Give the benefit of the doubt wherever we can.” As staff culture goes, I think we do remarkably well. But we need to be vigilant about cultivating trust, because trust doesn’t come natural to any of us. We’re like cars out of alignment: The moment we take our hands off the wheel, we veer right back into mistrust and suspicion.
Here are five ways we can help a culture of trust grow on our staff.
1. Fill in the gaps with trust.
As Andy Stanley puts it, we all know what it’s like to face a gap between expectation and reality. The meeting started at 2:00 (expectation) but your coworker walks in at 2:20 (reality). An important project goes live (reality) without anyone consulting you (expectation).
When we sense one of these gaps, we have a choice. Our natural tendency is to fill the gap with suspicion: He was late because he’s lazy; she didn’t consult me because she doesn’t value my opinion; he said that because he’s a racist. But cultivating a culture of trust means choosing to fill those gaps with trust instead.
We might think this is difficult, but there’s one person in our lives that we tend to treat this way already—ourselves. Patrick Lencioni (in The Advantage) points out that we all tend to attribute our own negative behaviors to environmental factors. I was late because someone stopped me on the way out the door, and it would have been rude to blow him off. I couldn’t get the assignment done because I have too much on my plate. I didn’t ask Phil for his feedback because I thought he was out of town. We “fill the gap with trust” all the time with ourselves. What we need to do is to extend the same kindness to others.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” right? Shouldn’t the Golden Rule extend to the way we interpret others’ actions?