April 20, 2023
By Allison Iantosca, ACC
I have recently found an intellectual attachment to the concept of trust. It’s a short, tight word. Five letters long. Not much span or earned hubris in comparison to some of its Merriam Webster counterparts!
But perhaps mass or load are more appropriate measures anyway. Because trust feels heavy. Weighty. Meaningful. Critical, even, to manage the complexities of our teams, our organizations, our companies. A re-established character playing a deepened role in our interpersonal relationships.
What does it feel like to trust and be trusted? Who knows anymore? And how can I help my executive coaching clients— all leaders entrusted to make the right decision for everyone else— feel trust themselves?
May I propose that trust could be better understood if we start by eliminating the notion of “good behavior” versus “bad behavior”? I know. I know. Then how do we know who gets promoted? How to measure results? How do we create a standard of excellence? I get it. There is an age-old tradition of managing by policy that creates the safety of boundary and clarity through expectations. But it fails, often, to grasp the human tendencies hiding in the performance gaps.
What if, instead, we create a norm that is foundationally contingent on a determined focus for competency? Meaning, deeply focus on what is operationally fluid and functional – something that takes little energy or redirection. Something so readily available and natural, so obviously a capability, a capacity. And name it. Address it with unconditional positive regard. Get curious about what feels good about it. Desire the deepest knowledge of what purpose it serves, what value it brings. And support another to bring this competency into awareness– “Do you know that you have this way of behaving? What do you like about it the most? What does it do for you? How does it feel to rely on it? What would be the cost to you to lose it?”
Because here’s the thing: that competency? It might be something often identified as “bad behavior”. Like complaining, for instance. Pointing out what is wrong with everything and everybody. Constantly pointing fingers. Decidedly determining what is broken. That can be a hard thing to tolerate for those of us who have a value about optimism and positivity.
Yet, that ability to complain might be a mechanism for self-protection. Or it might be a way to manage expectation. Maybe a taught behavior that is an accepted norm inside a loving family or deep-seated community. Maybe complaining is the squeaky wheel that finally gets things to change around here. Something good. Something practical.
Imagine the kindness you can give to a colleague to understand them exactly as they are. Imagine how quickly people might start to let go of needing to prove their point or hold onto any single behavior now that it is named. Imagine adding that extra energy to more productive outcomes. Imagine the creativity possible inside the safety of being known.
It’s a way to start. With a deep appreciation for competency. Releasing the grasp. Breathing in acceptance. And then, well, people will begin to trust. Others. Which means, by the way, you might find you start to also trust yourself.
Give it a try.
Allison Iantosca is a Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) trained coach certified by ICF with extensive leadership and management experience. She is an Executive Coach and is the Owner and President of Boston based FH Perry Builder.
*Photo Credit: Gary Yost