Trust: Is it a Head or Heart Thing?

23 min. read

Nobody argues with its importance, but yet we never really spend the time needed to break it down to better understand it. When was the last time you unpacked trust?

Join Alan, Jenny, and Nick as the dig into the components, behaviors, and feelings of trust. There are three unique takes on trust shared. Is trust more head or heart? We hope you make connections to this discussion. Reach out! We would love to hear from you.


Nick: Hello I am so excited that, my friends, Jenny and Alan are joining again today. And it’s my turn to throw something out to you all, which I am very excited about. And it’s a topic that I know both of you know that I’m crazy excited about. So today I want to talk about trust. And I really want to unpack it and break it down.

We see it on walls. I think we hear about it as values. We read articles that it’s really important. It’s essential. And with my work, I think it’s human. I think trust is a really human feeling. And so I’m going to start by just throwing this out there to you. What is trust? And how does one gain it?

Or how would one lose it?

Alan: On the gain and loss thing, without defining it, I always felt it was a hundred to one. It could take you a hundred minutes to get it a hundred hours, a hundred days, a hundred years. And it would just take one hundredth of that to lose it. The more you have. Covey talked about that. And I thought that was pretty good about an emotional bank account.

You know, the more trust you can bank, but to your point, Nick, you said, and this is kind of funky and weird, we’re talking about a feeling. So how much of this is rational? How much is irrational? How much is cognitive? How much is it emotional? I don’t know. There’s probably something very primitive to it as well. I’m sure there is, you know, that says, can I, in order to survive, to what extent do I have to keep my distance or to what extent can I let you in?

Hard to create. Easy to lose.

Jenny: You’ve nailed it on the head that it’s a feeling, this is my attempt to define it without really thinking it through. It is a feeling … in our head and our heart that is established over time based on behaviors and patterns and conversations and experiences that we have with Others and of course, me being me I, I always like having a little nugget to start with. So this morning I pulled open a couple of books that popped into mind when I was thinking about trust.

One of them is a coaching for transformation book that specifically said it is creating a safe space, which is essentially trust, based on five elements. Reliability, acceptance, openness, straightforwardness, and caring. And there’s a lot in all of those, but I thought that was an interesting way to wrap up all of the different elements.

And I think, again, lots of those words are tossed around without any real depth in understanding them. So, yeah, it’s a very interesting conversation to dive into and. For example, this morning, I said, you know what, I really don’t know what I’m going to say or where this conversation is going to go, but I trust we’re going to talk about something interesting and I can show up authentically as me and not have to come with anything.

And I know something interesting will come out of it. Trust shows up when we don’t really realize it in many scenarios. And that’s why it’s so important.

Alan: Well, something had something has to happen to get to that point. Right? And it’s obviously when we’re work. I say, obviously, it’s not so obvious.

I asked people as you both heard, you know, tell me about the best boss you’ve ever had. And you’re going to hear something about consistency and there is something to that in trust but you said something that I have never thought about. You said you trust with your head and you trust with your heart. I think there are very few people that initially trust with their heart.

And Nick, maybe that’s onto something as I’ve thought about human. I’m trying to get it. I’m trying. That’s why I’m saying let’s screw emotional intelligence. I think you should start talking about human intelligence, which people is going to say is IQ. So there’s got to maybe has to be another way to do it.

But humanly, I’m going to do as much as humanly possible. We don’t use that word a lot. But if you were to say you were to trust somebody from your heart or trust you implicitly, that’s just another way of saying I love you and I know you’re gonna, you’re not gonna screw this up.

Or you’re not gonna, it’s not even, you’re not gonna hurt me. It’s gonna be a good thing. I trust you. I love you. But when you say you start in your head, you didn’t say it that way, Jenny. I’m saying that that’s a different thing because it’s I’m really testing it out. I want to see if I can trust you is all part of the preparation.

Even now you hear me talk. Well, yeah, I trust them. Well, that’s as good as saying I don’t trust them. Do you either trust somebody or you don’t? But there is something I’ve never thought about that you go from your head to your heart that you can say,

what can I say? I trust what’s gonna happen? Who the hell knows? I’m not worried about what’s happened, I just know I’m with people that I trust.

Nick: And so if you’re going to go from head to heart and maybe heads first and then heart, I’m going to throw out three kind of, I think they’re, they’re components of trust. At least this is what I believe are the three major components of trust. And then there’s, I think, specific behaviors that a leader could do in order to get those.

I think it’s summarizing a little bit of what, what you just said. I think number one, this is the head part. I think competence is important to trust a team or to trust a person or to trust a leader or as a professional guide people had a trust that I could get them in their boats. I could get them to the glacier and we’re going to get back in time for dinner.

And so I think there’s a level of competence that just do you know what you’re doing so it’s hard to trust someone if you’re not sure that they have the ability or the skill to do it. So that’s 1. The second component, I think, as you’re shifting into this like head to heart, I think there’s like an authenticity piece of this.

Is the leader actually who we think they are? Do they show up the same way all the time? Do we, do we really believe that that’s who they are? Or are they someone different sometimes compared to other times? Or at the office they’re different than in their personal life? Or what I see? Because I think that moving target is hard to trust.

Same with that team. They seem a little wishy washy. I don’t really know who they are. And I think vulnerability is a behavior. That allows people to see your true self and allows them to feel that you’re authentic. You’re willing to say, I actually don’t know that, or this is who I am or I struggle with that.

So I see that. And now we’re starting to shift. And I think the final piece then is where we really get into heart is compassion. So I started with competency, authenticity, and the last one is compassion. Like, do we think that team, that leader or this circle that we’re talking about truly cares about me as a person?

Or do they just care about me to get the job done? Because we have a lot of really smart people out there and they show up the same way every day But you know what? I just don’t think deep down they even care about my backstory Or who I am or the fact that I am a a brother and a husband, so that part sometimes is hard too because I don’t think they see me and therefore I don’t trust.

Are any of those three components ringing true with the work you’re doing with clients or behaviors that you intentionally try to show to build trust?

Jenny: I would say absolutely the competency side of things, 100%, especially in work situations and work environments and team scenarios, the authenticity for me that covers the gamut of being able to share and show up as I am as the leader or as the teammate looking to that leader. And the third one was compassion. Yes. Okay. Compassion covers. That that’s that depth and that’s when I believe you start to get into the heart side of things.

Nick: So definitely you’re like a, you’re an amazing designer. You make logos, you show up for clients, you help them tell their story. Is there anything you intentionally do to know that? You need to tap into their heart.

You need to demonstrate some compassion like is that intentional actions or behaviors that you have to sort of tap into that heart side.

Jenny: I know there’s always room for improvement because I know I, I definitely get Often can get caught up in more intentionality around the cognitive, the surface level trust, right? The competence side of things. So I want to make sure that I deliver when I say I’m going to deliver, if I hit deadlines that I, you know, hit expectations, but as far as adding in that, that heart side of trust, the compassion … a little bit of authenticity part two I think what I do most is that personal connection. I make time to, and some might say it’s small talk. , what did you do this weekend with the really nice weather or the really crummy weather or whatnot?

And that’s how I can dive deeper into understanding how they spend their free time, who they spend it with, that sort of thing. So I know there’s room for more as far as Just even asking why they think the way they think beyond what they do on weekends, but it is more intentional conversations, getting to know both sides of them, I guess.

Nick: And Alan, in your work, just working with clients all over, I mean, is there one of those three that you that rings more true or do you see one where excellent if that’s if that’s a word like really, influential leaders tend to lean on one of those or strategies that you’ve seen in any of any of those areas .

Alan: It’s the compassion, and it’s the least trainable, least behavior-based element of the three. I mean, as I’m listening to his talk, I feel I’m just speaking my personal opinion. I feel like we’re at arm’s length on this. We’re trying to intellectualize something that defies explanation to a point. And I understand Nick, why this is necessary because you we’re all working with people and it’s like, how do I get people?

How do I show people? If I, if I use what I say that I’m compassionate and let me give you a real example. Jenny came to me years ago and said would you be willing to help me and coach me?

I said, sure. And we started off with a bunch of assignments and talk track, you know, trying to fill in the matrix or something. And then finally it’s like, what do we do? We don’t have to do anything. We just have to spend more time together, find out more about what you’re doing, what you’re interested in. And to me, that was such a great example on,, what does it really take? So, when people say trust takes time, it doesn’t take time because I’ve gotten through step 3 and, you know, that leap to step 4 is so tough. I think the competence is there. I think it’s at what point does it not?

Is it maybe it’s a threshold thing? You know, it’s like, Nick, that didn’t take. We didn’t it. It didn’t take any time for us at Treffert Way and I have to tell you, and with all modesty, and you owe me. Is I was in there every chance I could and said, I don’t know, maybe we get Nick, we can hire Nick to do that.

And I called you one day, I said, Nick, do you do these kinds of things? You go, yeah, yeah, I can do that. We, we were like high fiving back at the office, you know, it’s like, we got the person to do this. So the competence piece is, is good. It’s the quality of time that gets spent with people that you tap into.

I, think that’s it. And that’s the key is trust, is that you can tap into Jenny and, and I tap into you and God help you. You tap into me. I, I think that that’s, I, I don’t wanna make this less scientific and less behavioral. There are clearly some behaviors. And Nick, as you would say, routines that you want to create for people.

Absolutely. You don’t you know, let’s let’s not rush into everything without first asking people how they’re doing, or you’re doing your little assessment, or how’s it going, or how you, you know, any and all of those things. But to me, when it’s, if there’s a but in that sentence, to me. It’s all down to, when I say I trust you, it’s like the size is important because the more I trust you, the more I love you, everything else is an aberration.

It’s are you okay? You know, something doesn’t happen that I want that I need or feel like it’s like, are you okay? You’re just you’re just not your usual self or something’s going on. But I, think, you know, people have to understand this is not a cookie cutter thing. And if you don’t have it, you have nothing.

So it’s not a nice to have. If the trust is not there, then you have to actively manage the relationship. That and situation. That’s how I see it. So I’m now checking to see if you really did what you said you did. It’s as much being antsy and.

And anal lots of a’s there when it’s like, okay, well, did the email go out yet? Show me the postmark on it. When you trust somebody, those things fall to the side, but when you don’t, then, then you have to actively manage.

How much do you want to be working with that person or group? And from a business perspective, that also equates to money. I have this group that I work with because, why?

Because they’re the only ones that can do this, this thing, this technology, this service. Do you trust them? Not completely. So what does that mean? That means I have to actively manage the relationship. So when you talk about it, Nick, I’d be interested to know, do you think of it as an all or nothing thing?

Is this something that’s built? What do you tell your clients that they need to do? With the elements that you, you articulate, how does that work? That’s a lot.

Nick: I never want to attempt to make trust seem like it’s a formula, right?

Or that, trust has some sort of equation to it because that’s not human. And I think we talked about that trust is like a feeling. Trust is. You’re always heading toward it, but you never get there. It’s just a journey.

And we just want to try to get there. And every moment, every interaction, every behavior, whether it’s intentional or not builds trust, or we take steps back. And I think coming from like the guiding world, I think sometimes we actually need adverse moments. And time to get trust.

I don’t know how long it takes. I don’t remember the day that it was like, Oh, I trust Alan. I don’t know when that happens. And it’s different for different people, but I do think challenges need to come and then you’re still there in the challenge. And we, we, we got through that, I think over time.

And I think there is some level of a, of an X and Y axis of like, Oh, every adverse moment that we get through together and the amount of time. I do think we’re, we’re kind of. Growing toward trust. But what I want to ask you is this is something I’ve been thinking about over the last like six months, there’s a lot of industries and organizations that seem to almost be taking trust away.

For example, we have organizations now that are counting how many copies you make. Right all the way down to like you need to put in your card and I need to know how many you may don’t we trust people to like use our resources appropriately when we’re trusting them with thousand dollar clients or in our school system or trusting them with students, but we don’t trust them to make copies or keep track of their pens.

I was always under the belief that we would have to give trust before we can ever expect to get trust right we can’t just say, oh, they would just trust me. It’s like, well, you need to trust them. And I think sometimes we, in our, in organizations, they almost are pulling that back, but then still expecting that the trust would, would be there for them.

Do you see that happening?

Alan: Sure.

Nick: Well, good, because I was hoping I wasn’t the only one.

Alan: Yeah, well, you may be the only one.

Jenny: I had, I didn’t have an example for it, but I was thinking this morning, can you, can you trust and not be trusted? In return, and I think what comes first, the chicken or the egg, does the trust need to be reciprocal, essentially.

So, like Nick was saying, even though they might have concerns about whatever fiscal things and copy quantities along the way. Can they simply say, I trust that they’ll honor these whatever budget numbers and resources and know that maybe those team members don’t quite have the trust back.

But somebody needs to initiate. It needs to start somewhere.

Alan: That’s a great question. Can you trust somebody that doesn’t trust you? Is that. It sounds like Ted Lasso, you know, it’s just like, here, have this, this is good, this will make you happy.

Nick: I think, what can you control, right? We can only control what we can control, and we need to trust. I believe in, like, I don’t believe in policy over people. I believe in people 1st, and I don’t think we need to make policies. Just keep them in their little boxes. Right? I think we do have to give that it comes back to, competence, authenticity and compassion.

If we’re not trusting someone, we’re removing 1 of those. Right? And so, to your point, a couple of questions ago, like, what. What am I doing with some of my clients? I think it’s a little bit of self awareness. It’s a little bit of reflection and really looking at your team and saying, How have you been treating your people?

Well, they don’t trust me. Well, do you trust them? To your point, Jenny, well, you can only control what you can control, right? You can’t say, well, darn it, you need to start trusting me. Well, that’s their decision. That’s the environment and the conditions as we talked about earlier that we create. So what can we do then?

Like, what intentional behaviors can you do tomorrow that you haven’t been doing to get closer to that, that journey of trust? And that’s when we get into some of those trusting behaviors, like showing some vulnerability, admitting that you might not have all the answers, admitting that there’s definitely someone else in the room that is smarter than you.

And listening first, those are very authenticity kind of. Behaviors. You might have to be more transparent with what you do.

And compassion. When was the last time in your feedback session? Did you ask the person how they’re doing as a human? How kind and specific and helpful was your feedback?

Was it compassionate? I think trust is credibility. I think trust is your currency as a leader. But I don’t know if you can ever just demand it.

Your title will not give it to you. The people will decide.

Alan: It’s not yours. It’s not yours to demand. It’s, for others to give. Trust exists, because that, of that reciprocity. , I demand your trust. Well, kiss my ass. You know, it’s that’s I’ll give you want trust.

You can’t handle trust. It’s so underlying Nick and Jenny the way I see it. Just thinking a very specific example on the business side. And this is going way back and I’m comfortable mentioning names because they were so well known for it. I was doing work with Hewlett Packard. But the company that was really hot, a company is really hot at that time.

This is around 2000 was Cisco because Cisco was getting into a ton of alliances, just hundreds because they were trying to look for what niche in the market they go and they send out a team to do their due diligence to say, okay, can we work with humanistic leadership dot org. And the 1st question they would ask when they came back from doing their due diligence was.

Can we work with that group, which is just another way of saying, do we trust them? 1st thing they asked. So it wasn’t even about competence. Sometimes they the only game in town. And my point here is that it is so fundamental. If you don’t have, of course, I’m thinking credibility. If you don’t have the trust and you want it, what would you have to do to gain it? Yeah. Is that fair to say, Nick, if you don’t have it and you want it, what is it within your control that you can do to build it? And what, what is that? What are obviously not? Obviously, it’s nothing obvious about this.

You’re saying, well, you, you got to know your shed. So you have to be competent. You can’t fake your way through that. And then you’re saying, well, you have to be real. To people, here’s what I can do. Here’s what I can’t do. No, I’ve never had anything quite like this before. No, I’ve never worked with this kind of customer before.

That compassion, I think, throws it into a whole different.

So my point is there’s something so fundamental and basic and if, if you’re saying, Nick, you’re seeing companies or organizations not doing it or pulling back on it, they’re screwed.

Nick: I did something crazy with a group that I felt the elephant in the room was trust. I just felt like, man, there is no, like, we can’t be candid with each other. We can’t be truthful. It just seems like everybody’s just really keeping it close to the vest.

No one really wants to say what we need to say. So I just asked the team on a post it. Everyone needs to rate the level of trust in this room from a scale of 1 to 10, just a number, and then crumple it up and put it in the middle of the table.

And it wasn’t so much like what the mean score was, right? But what was interesting, Was there was nines and there was twos. Yeah, that’s the conversation that needs to happen. Why would someone have a two? Why would someone have a nine? Both are just as interesting. I’m curious about both of those scores.

Because if the nine is, what do you feel that you’d give it a nine? And as a two, what do you not feel that you’d give it a two? And that starts the conversation. But how many of you out there that are listening, right, could… Well, our team would never want to do that. We couldn’t have that honest conversation.

Well, there you go. We’re missing something. We’re missing one of those components

Jenny to your work. I know I would recommend you, I know you’d show up. I know you’re competent. Cause I’ve seen your designs. I know who you are and I know you’re going to be that person for them. And I know you care about people, right? So I’m going to tell my close friends and relatives to work with you.

I’m going to invite people to my board meeting because I trust my board. I look around boards that I work with and they’re like, Oh, well, we haven’t really recommended anyone. Well, I started to wonder, is it because you don’t trust what they’re going to walk into? Right? Like what is missing? You don’t want to bring your friend to the crazy party.

You know, you want to bring your friend to the party that you trust. I wouldn’t recommend Jenny Knuth to someone if I didn’t absolutely trust her.

To your point, Alan, like, do you want to work with me? Would you tell your sibling? To call me up and work with me. Why not? Or why would you? That’s pretty powerful.

Jenny: I love all of that, and thank you for trusting me so much, Nick.

I, 100 percent agree. Those sorts of questions, asking for referrals, asking for feedback, asking the room to rate the level of trust are Essential to moving the needle to moving forward and building more trust or building the foundations of trust. I feel myself included at times, we’re afraid to ask those questions because of what it means what we interpreted it meaning about us.

There’s been multiple scenarios where it’s like, well, I’m afraid, and even people that I’ve, you know, not officially, but people I’ve worked with that I’ve peer coached, what’s the worst that could happen? Why don’t you say this to your boss or to your colleague? And what always came up was they didn’t trust themselves in how They would show up how they could communicate what they were truly feeling.

So that’s just an interesting dynamic.

Nick: That is super interesting. I feel like we could go for like another hour , maybe it’s more about how much you trust yourself to do it than who you trust in the room. That is awesome. And I think there’s a confidence thing in there, which. Alan, I know you’re all hot on right now.

I wonder if that’s a piece of it too. Are you confident in yourself? Do you trust yourself? Well, to sort of begin to wrap some of this conversation up, which I really appreciate you allowing me to just throw some ideas out there and get some of your feedback, I think it’s just such a messy.

But interesting thing, this, this idea of trust. We know it’s important, but yet it’s so hard to get our arms around. I’m just curious, from today, is there a big takeaway or something else that was hanging out there that you would love to just highlight or bring back around .

Alan: I just thought of something from what you just said. Both of you said people want to talk about culture. I think that’s the wrong thing. 1st of all, that’s just such a overloaded topic. I think the way that. Hit it, is on a scale of 1 to 10, throw your answer in the middle of the table, the culture stuff will come out, we made such a big deal, culture, culture now is like, I don’t know, what is it, Viagra? Dope? I mean, is it somehow there’s an elixir in here that’s going to make people bigger, stronger? It’s, it’s ridiculous. But if we just started that way, Nick, if you just started any group, I mean, if that was I’m thinking of this as from an assignment point of view.

So that that’s something I haven’t thought of. I’ve done something like that, but I’ve never thought of it. I think that’s big. I think that’s really big because that’s a no bullshit. Let’s not call it anything. Let’s not name it yet. And it and it plays into how much of a feeling this is. Because if somebody says it’s a 9 and somebody else says it’s a 2, who knows?

They may be using the same definition. It’s just they’re rating it differently. Do you know what I mean? They really trust it, or they really don’t trust the environment and the people there. I think you could get at everything with that one little activity. What do you think of that?

Nick: What’s hitting me with that is not so much the activity, but when can we move our group from having to do that activity hidden to when we can just openly talk about it,

How can we just have an environment where we could actually have that conversation? And I think if we have the environment where we actually can have that conversation, we probably don’t have to dwell on trust.

We’re probably doing okay. When can we get to a point where I can just look at my colleague, Jenny, on a scale of one to 10, where am I at? And not so much the score, but what can I do to get closer to 10? How do we change from transactional to that transformational?

If we are still in organizations where we don’t think we can have that kind of human conversation, then that’s what we need to work on.

Jenny: 100%. All of this conversation here today really comes down to what I was feeling going into the conversation and reflections beforehand. When we get into team environments, when we get into conflict. Or culture building. I can’t see the bunny quotes, the air quotes there. I, I believe many individuals, many leaders, many organizations go into, okay, we got to be strategic about this, we got to think about it from all angles.

And yes, that is true. However, And really developing trust and growing trust is always going to come down to being more human, having those tough conversations. And why do we even have to say to your question? Why do we have to assume they’re going to? I think maybe this came up in the last podcast. Why do we have to assume they’re going to be tough conversations?

Like, there’s obviously something that I’m carrying there. It’s the conflict listening side of things. So I don’t know, just leaning into more human and that means more vulnerability. And I honestly think we may have to come back to this and pick it up in a following episode. That whole idea of self trust does go into it.

Do you trust that you have the competence? Do you trust you have the, you’re showing up authentically? Do you trust yourself to be compassionate and not even compassionate with other people, compassionate with yourself? Okay. I effed up. Can I trust that I can be open and honest with my team about that, but then not beat myself up about it.

If I’m going to say failure is okay here. I think it’s often there’s two sides of the coin. As leaders, we want certain things, but we’re not always fast to give it to ourselves.

So anyways, we’ll pick that up perhaps.

Nick: Well, and I hope that anybody that’s listening is also feels that they could reach out to us and keep this conversation going. I think there’s many tidbits and probably personal experiences ideas and thoughts that we haven’t even covered that just trust is just, it’s complex.

It’s dynamic. But so essential that we are honest with ourselves and honest with our team around the importance of it. And what we can do to ensure that we’re growing on that journey however we can get closer to trust. Thank you both.

Alan: Well, thank you. Thank you. Jenny.

Jenny: Thank you to both of you.

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