Is trust earned or granted?

by Lyssa Adkins on March 31, 2011

I’m recalling the first moments I trusted my daughter, then a toddler.  She certainly did nothing to earn my trust up to that point, yet I still granted her trust.  Albeit on a small basis…I trusted her to stay put while I ran to the next room to get something.  I trusted her to not draw on the walls of her room while I grabbed a quick shower.  And, as time went on, I trusted her more and more and gave her more freedom.  Even though she occasionally drew on the walls and worse as she got older.  Over time, she has earned my trust – and shaken it – so I grant it again, a little and then more and more until I feel she’s earned it again – and then she shakes it again – rinse, repeat.  I see the pattern of granting and earning, and yet I am drawn to those first moments of granting her trust.  Why is it that I was willing to do that, even though nothing in my experience with her would have said that was a good bet?  At age two, I can tell you it was certainly NOT a good bet.  Yet, I did it.

I think it’s because I am, above all, interested in growing a human being.  Not just any human being, but a glorious human being.  One who gives as much as she takes, improves the world and enjoys her life fully.  So, if you’re interested in growing a glorious human being, do you need to grant trust first?   I think so.  If you’re interested in growing a glorious agilist, do you need to grant trust first?  I think so.

What got me thinking about this subject was some work I was fortunate to do with Tobias Mayer and one of his clients recently, where I read this:

Trust — lead from a place of faith, not suspicion; follow likewise

Lead from a place of faith, not suspicion.  That’s what I was doing with my daughter.  And that’s what I believe agile coaches must do with everyone they coach.  More than that — I believe agile coaches must exemplify granting trust from a place of faith first and also exemplify recovering when trust has been shaken.  Why?  It’s part of an agile coach’s job to build a culture that has people thrive.  This is part of it.

Just allow yourself to imagine for a minute…What would it be like if everyone on the team and in the organization, at large, held this value of trust just as it is stated here?  Imagine what kind of team that would create, what kind of creativity that would unlock and what kind of results would follow.  I see an amazing view from this vantage point.

Trust is just one of five values articulated succinctly and beautifully by Tobias Mayer as part of his Business Craftsmanship work.  As an agile coach, I first ask myself, “How am I doing living these values?”  and then I make them a part of my conscious life (so I can be better at them) while I also introduce them to the people and teams I coach.   Because the view from here is just too good to pass up.