Trust in a Transactional World

A good friend recently sent me a copy of The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey. I’ve come across this book before, but apparently a gifted copy was the nudge it took for me to actually read it.

Stephen starts off Chapter 1 saying this:

“There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world—one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love.

“On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time.

“That one thing is trust.”

I couldn’t agree more. For instance, John Gottman, the infamous marriage researcher, spent years studying the way marriages succeed and fail. The one thing he found over and over again is that the marriages that succeed are ones where partners each assume the other is operating out of good intentions.

Each partner trusts that what their partner is doing or saying is being done and said with the best of intentions for the other partner. If hurt happens, it wasn’t done intentionally.

In addition to trusting their intention for good, the partner trusts the other partner’s actual words and actions as true.

And when all this happens, the marriage stays strong. 

Zoom and Trust

Recently, I listened to the author Andy Crouch make a point about Zoom. On Zoom (or any other web conferencing format we use), most of our work becomes transactional. We jump on a Zoom call, (maybe) chat for a few minutes about what’s going on in each other lives, and then dive into discussing the topic at hand. We spend most of the time in the Zoom meeting working through work.

As I think about the last two years of working primarily on Zoom, there is one thing I’ve found over and over again: I haven’t developed any new friendships over Zoom.

I’ve made a ton of new acquaintances, but if you were to ask me what new friends I’ve made via Zoom, well, I can’t think of many. And this is a real contrast to the friends I’ve made through in-person work meetings over the years.

2022 and Our Workplaces

As we move into 2022, there seem to be two things required of us.

First, the need to be productive. Whether we are in person or on Zoom, if we’re working at a company today, we must continue to find ways to be productive and provide value for our clients.

Secondly, we need to trust one another. To Stephen Covey’s point, if we are going to work and work fast, we will do this best if there is trust between us.

Which begs the question for all of us: How do we build enough trust in an increasingly virtual world that we can be productive and provide value for our clients?

At GAN, we’re focused on four things related to this:

First, we try to get the team together in person as much as possible. My undergraduate degree was in interpersonal communications. It was a four-year study in how humans productively interact with one another and form strong relationships. Almost every time I took a new course, in the first few minutes of the initial class, the professor would note that 70% of communication is nonverbal. We communicate with one another using so much more than our words. And, without being in person, we can’t understand the full extent of how someone is communicating with us. As great a tool as video meetings can be, they obviously aren’t nearly as good at providing a conduit for nonverbal communication as in-person meetings are.

For GAN, we believe that being in the office allows us to trust one another, although this is very countercultural right now. There is something about seeing one another’s nonverbals, where we can more fully observe when someone is anxious, sad, frustrated, or happy, that helps us have a deeper understanding for one another – and increase our feeling of being understood – leading to increased trust between colleagues.

Secondly, we appreciate one another every week. Once a week, we pause our work and thank one another for the ways we each showed up for each other, our team, and our clients over the last week. Trust is built because people recognize that we’re more than just what we produce in our work.

Third, no matter whether we are on Zoom or in person, we spend the first few minutes of every meeting checking in with one another. We ask each other, “How are you doing personally and professionally?” We ask that each person give a green, yellow, or red to indicate how they’re doing personally and professionally that week. Doing this builds up our team’s empathy and understanding for each other, and ultimately increases trust.

And finally, we’re constantly sharing one another’s objectives, goals, and metrics in a corporate setting. We list all of these on an internal company operating system, and everyone on the team can see exactly what everyone is working on, as well as the exact metrics I’m looking at to manage GAN. This helps each of us trust that we’re each focused on the right things and allows everyone to feel like they understand where the company is moving.

As you move into 2022, my hope and prayer is that you also find yourself moving at the “Speed of Trust.”