On Trust

Just like about a million other companies, the word ‘trust’ appears in our handbook and graces our walls as one of the 4 Core Values at The Woodshop. And yes, it’s absolutely the most cliché one we have. But recently its meaning has grown deeper, and become more important to me than even before. 

I remember back in 2016 when we wrote the core values. Jeremy and I sitting on couches, laptop literally in my lap – thinking, dreaming, and building out the bones of the company. We did the obligatory number crunching, vision, mission, org chart, goal setting… all the good stuff, but perhaps the agenda item we found most interesting was the core values exercise. I only remember bits and pieces of how we framed the conversation, but whatever we did worked. Those same values stand today, and with the fresher eyes of time, they’ve only gotten more important to me.

The old notes, now 7 years old, don’t tell the exact path we took in settling on trust. But I’m certain it was based on the trust and mutual respect Jeremy and I had for each other going into this venture. To have such high trust between us, and knowing that was a major contributing factor to even get us to this spot – we knew working to have that same trust with the team was going to be crucial. 

The subtext at the time was, “Trust. Yourself, and your team. Take chances and we own the results.” It was our way of saying, if we bring you on, damn straight we’re gonna hand you responsibilities and say – go for it. We wanted to give people the space to do their best work. We wanted to give people the opportunity to show off their best ideas. And we wanted it to be okay to fail. Acceptable failures… perhaps a whole other piece on that… 

Shortly after, we launched the values to our team of 3, including the 2 of us. And despite our ridiculously small company, we leaned into those values the best we knew how. 

One of my biggest breakthroughs along the way was attending a Covey Leadership Training with my friend Shawn Moon. Shawn is a pro, seasoned with the material, engaging in front of a room and he’s always got a way to help people connect to the material. The seminar was ‘Speed of Trust’ – originally a book, then a multi-day seminar. My opportunity only allowed for a shortened, one day class, but the material stuck with me still. 

My favorite part of it all though, was the take home material. A small book that shared the format for a “Weekly Trust Huddle.” The huddle was the perfect way to take all the great information back to the greater team. And the format was, and to this day, still is one of my favorite team building exercises. We are not talking about trust falls or anything like that. Rather, material that has allowed the team to be very real with each other. It’s created a space where they can openly talk about some of the things they could do to be a better teammate, to both build and offer more trust with one another. It’s offered a shared vocabulary for our whole team – which alone is a game changer. The words and phrases, with our now shared understanding, allow the team to say things to each other they may not have been comfortable saying before. They trust that they can communicate – and that is everything. 

We’re about to begin our 4th round of these Speed of Trust huddles with the team. Most of them will have done it before, and only 3 will be seeing it for the first time. For the newbies, I know they are in for a treat. But even for those who’ve done it (even those who’ve done it 3 times) already – they too, have so much to gain. 

Since we found this program, it really has become the basis for our Core Value of Trust. If that were the end of it, I’d have no complaints. But here in the last few months, trust has found another place for me. Potentially one just as important.

All businesses have their ups and downs. Expected challenges and unexpected surprises. Recently, I found myself staring down a handful of changes that we’d never yet experienced. Some of which force us to answer questions we’ve never needed to consider. Details aside, it was a time when we all had a lot on our mind. 

That time has passed. Not the time where questions linger – that will always be, but the time where those lingering questions caused grief. 

I’ve come to find a new trust in myself. And my team. 

From a strategic standpoint, it makes sense to speculate about the future. To look ahead, consider what could happen, and to think through your options. That makes sense, it’s good business really. But how do you differentiate between productive speculation and an unhealthy spiral of potential disasters? This is where trust has stepped in.

When speculating on the future, you answer the question, ‘what if?’ With trust in myself and my team, I can answer the question simply. If X happens, we’ll do Y. 

Sounds silly to even suggest it could be that easy, but the difference becomes clear when there is no trust. “If X happens, then we’ll do Y. Ok, but can that person handle that? What will the others say? What if I cannot complete the task? What if the team refuses?” And on and on. 

Without trust, every solution leads to more questions. The solutions actually create even more challenges. If you do not trust yourself or your team to get the job done, you’ll continue to go down the rabbit hole, trying to consider every possibility. 

With trust, you can see the challenge, set a course, which is based on the trust you have with the team, and then execute the plan. Furthermore, if things do go awry along the way, the trust you’ve offered makes the next steps easier too. 

When we find ourselves off course, you can simply adjust. See the new situation anew, set the course again, and go. 

It’s with a low trust team where you find this hiccup to be consequential. You have to question all of their moves. You send someone back to check their work. You literally waste time rehashing the issue because you’re not convinced they did what they said they’d do. 

This applies to mistrust of the team, but also to not trusting yourself. 

Altogether, it’s not that I’ve suddenly found a whole new level of trust. It’s more of a new perspective on it. And a new way for me to express my trust. A deep knowing that, at every step plans can be diverted and that’s fine. I don’t know the future. I don’t know what challenges tomorrow will bring. But today, that’s more ok with me than ever before. I trust that whatever happens, we will know how to move forward.