Are you giving your trust away? Our tendency to see the potential in others and take them at their word may be working against us. How do we find the right people, and not let the wrong ones in?
This is not a first for me. I had a tendency to befriend the underdogs in grade-school. In high school and college I used to date guys because they had so much “potential”. As a professional, I have been hiring and keeping team members who said that they were looking for an opportunity to really show their value, and I love to give people opportunities. Unfortunately, most of those relationships end up not being a fit. I understand, “You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince”. Nonetheless, the frog-to-prince ratio in my life is not where I want it to be. I decided that I wanted to change that.
Retreat from the Front Lines
Sometimes we all need to take a step back from the day-to-day routines. It is nice to get a new perspective on our situations. Vanessa and I recently returned from the excellent Breakthroughs in the Bayou retreat in Louisiana. Sabrina Starling of Tap the Potential really rocked our world with this one. A trip like this could be easily confused with a vacation, between the lovely February weather, the delicious food, and Sabrina’s welcoming retreat center. Nonetheless, we got a lot accomplished in those two days, and all of it was big-picture work that would not have been as effective to do at the office.
When I attend an event like this, I like to pinpoint in advance the main thing that I am looking to get out of it. What is the one question that others can help me with? The problem I am looking to solve? What do I need to change? This time, it was “What do I need to change in myself to stop choosing the wrong people.”
I am a big fan of responsibility. I want to take as much responsibility for a situation as I can. When I am responsible it means that I have the power to learn, grow, and change the outcome next time I encounter a similar situation. It’s all too easy to blame others when they don’t follow through or it turns out that they are not who I thought they were. That’s the easy way out. The more challenging and more effective option is to see my role in the situation. Then I can make different choices next time.
When I sat down for my mastermind hot-seat at Breakthroughs in the Bayou, I started crying before we even got started. All of the emotions from recent team members leaving were right at the surface. I wanted to get through them and open myself up to the potential of real learning, growth, and change. I am not interested in playing the victim role, and I was tired of feeling taken advantage of. Nonetheless, I needed to pinpoint where I had been going wrong, and what action I could take differently moving forward.
The Choice to Trust
“I keep hiring the wrong people. We talk about the amazing impact that we want to have in the world, and I think we’re on the same page. I get excited by all the potential of what we can build together. How do I tell from the beginning if someone is a good fit and going to follow through? I want to take them at their word, but then it turns out that all they have to offer are excuses, never results. Then they don’t want to take responsibility for not honoring their word. They leave blaming me for all of it on their way out the door, and I paid them for the courtesy. What do I need to change to keep this from happening again?”
The outpouring of support from the other business owners in the room was profound. Most of them had experienced similar hurts, whether from employees or past relationships in general. They offered their insights and experiences, showing me that I’m not alone in this struggle. As much as this situation may have had me feeling like a failure and a fake, these colleagues were celebrating my vulnerability in expressing it and encouraging me not to give up.
Then one voice in particular said exactly what I needed to hear.
“Slow down, and let people earn your trust.”
Jason, another business owner at Breakthroughs in the Bayou, phrased this so concisely and perfectly, it was like a key fitting into a lock. I had been giving my trust away to anyone who asked for it, and then getting hurt when they abused it. Jason showed me with those simple words that I don’t need to be in a rush to form these important working relationships. The right relationships will form and strengthen over time. They need to be built on the results that we are achieving together.
With that one sentence, I now have an actionable focus that I can put into practice in so many areas of my life and business. I would never just hand a stranger the keys to my home. Why would I trust someone with making or breaking my dreams based on their word alone? It is alright to ask them to show me. By setting clear, measurable expectations, I can ensure that the people I bring into my life are honoring their commitments. This will make me a more effective leader. I can hold people accountable in a positive way, and having clear rewards for success and consequences for shortfalls.
It may be a while before Vanessa and I are ready to begin seeking another team member for Polymath. In the mean time, we are excited to be building systems and processes for trust and accountability into our routines and communication with each other. This way, when we are ready to audition a new candidate, our culture has these systems already in place, and we will be leading by example. We can still take risks and follow our intuition, but we don’t need to do it blindly. It’s nice to have the reminder to slow down; we don’t need to have overnight results on everything we do.
Relationships need to be cultivated over time, and trust harvested too early can leave a bitter aftertaste. Slow down, and let people earn your trust.