Anyone who knows me can tell you that trust is a big deal for me.
I have left jobs because of a lack of trust. I've quit organizations because of a lack of trust. I've killed friendships because of a lack of trust. If I can trust you - really trust you - then things are great. If I can't trust you ...
Why I Left Venturing
Before I turned 18 and aged out of the Boy Scouts, I started a Venturing Crew with some of my closest friends. We got to wear snazzy green uniforms, enjoy high adventure activities, and spend more time with our girlfriends since the Crew was co-ed. It was a blast, and we learned a lot of new skills in the new organization.
One of our advisors happened to be the president of a local mountain rescue team. His skills far outshined ours, and the things we learned from him will last a lifetime. Wilderness first aid, rock climbing safety, mountain climbing fundamentals. Another thing we learned was the importance of trust.
If my life depends on you and I can't trust you, then I'm in trouble. If your life depends on me and you can't trust me, then we're both in trouble.
As much as I loved the organization, I eventually left because of trust. I found out that one of my friends, for reasons I still don't understand, didn't trust me. As a result, he'd assign me tasks on trips, then go behind my back to assign the same tasks to other members in the group in case I failed. This became hugely embarrassing on several occasions when both I and my shadow came through and ended up stepping on one another's toes - in one case in front of a crowd of thousands where we were both asked to emcee the same event.
When I found out he didn't trust me, I resigned. It was a hard decision to make, but I wasn't going to put anyone who couldn't trust me in a situation where their life depended on trusting me. Like his life on a climbing trip; if his lack of trust would lead to second-guessing me in a critical situation, we would both be in danger.
I won't have that on my conscience.
Why I was Unemployed
Once upon a time I worked for a startup. It was a great company and, at more than one team meeting, I explained to my coworkers that it truly was my dream job. I was working in a great field, making a difference in the world, and I got to travel to represent the company at trade shows. Focus plus purpose plus travel, at the time, was everything I was looking for in a job.
I was taking a tiny paycheck at the time - just enough to cover my expenses (rent, student loans, food, gas). I had no savings and even had to borrow money from my parents on occasion to make up for deficits. The sacrifices were, in my mind, necessary to help the company achieve its goals.
Just before my birthday, we held our 3rd annual meeting with shareholders - having taken shares in lieu of payment for several months, my 2% investment in the company meant I was hugely interested in how things were moving from the investor side of things.
My boss gave a moving presentation about the company's numbers. How our word-of-mouth advertising campaign had grown our customer base to 300% in the past year.[ref]Lies, damn lies, and statistics. We had gone from 1 to 4 customers in a year. By the numbers, this is a "300% increase." In reality, it meant our gross sales had increased by $15. Fifteen. Dollars.[/ref] He also talked about finances. Things were tight, but we had at least $50,000 left in the bank to get us around the corner and cash-flow positive. Their investment was safe and would produce a return in as little as a year.
The next week was payday for me; everyone else was on a straight stock-for-compensation plan. Being younger and needing to pay down debt, that wasn't an option for me. Aside from our phone bill, my $1000 per month check was the company's only expense.
The check bounced.
I complained to my boss, even bringing the slide from his investor presentation claiming we still had cash and demanding to know what happened.
"Well, we have $50,000 available, if you take our remaining lines of credit, credit cards, and unused loan offers into account."
I submitted my letter of resignation the next morning.
Can I Trust You?
Counting on someone when it doesn't matter is easy. Will you make it to the movie on time? Will you pay back the $2 you borrowed to buy a candy bar? Will you give me a hand moving a couch on Saturday? When the matter is trivial, failure is trivial and whether or not I truly trust you isn't much of an issue.
Critical trust issues, however, are much more defining. Will you properly brake the rope when I fall while lead climbing? Will you be able to treat a snake bite when we're out hiking? Will you drop everything to give me a ride to the hospital if I really need it?[ref]A close friend of mine was hospitalized with the flu last week. All he was able to do was post to Facebook "Bad flu. Send help." and no less than 20 people jumped in to help. An ambulance was arranged to pick him up at his remote home and get him to safety. All of this, from a Facebook note to his friends. The amount of trust and goodwill there is staggering.[/ref] Will you get your part of the project done on schedule so I can add my part before the client fires us?
If I can pass something to you and not think about it anymore because I know you'll get it done, it means you have my trust. If I pass it to you and have to check up on you every so often afterwards, it means I don't trust you. It's a simple dichotomy.
I have the privilege of working with several people whom I know I can trust. Can I trust you, too?