Collaboration Moves at the Speed of Trust

Earlier this month I attended a conference where speaker after speaker inspired the attendees while addressing some of the key issues of our time.  My notebook was filled with thoughts and information.  However, one note—a  Chris Thompson quote—stood out for me above all the rest.

“Collaboration moves at the speed of trust.”

 This simple assertion has been playing around in my mind ever since.  When I came to the National Trust more than two decades ago, I recall sitting in a meeting where I asked a colleague why she was not engaging others in the organization on a particular project.  Her response was, “I don’t trust them to do the job to the standard I want.”  It struck me as a telling remark on a number of levels, but this long-ago exchange was one of the first thoughts that came into my mind when I heard Chris Thompson’s quote. This colleague—a wonderful person who now runs a successful one-person consulting firm—was upfront in admitting her lack of trust.  And that lack of trust meant that she was not going to collaborate.

Trust is something earned, and when lost we have to work hard to rebuild it in others. I find that when I take an action that causes a loss of trust in others, or when others make decisions or take actions that cause me to lose my trust in them, the first step to rebuilding that trust is to acknowledge the loss. Together. Disagreements don’t necessarily break the bonds of trust, as they simply represent different perspectives.  However, at other times disagreements, as well as mistakes that go unacknowledged, break those bonds. We are so often focused on making an excuse for a mistake that we don’t step back and say, “I didn’t act out of my values, and I recognize that I’ve lost your trust.”  That simple acknowledgement goes a long way towards building a culture of collaboration.  The poet David Wythe has noted that as individuals are promoted in organizations and businesses they often move away from original core technical competencies and move into the field of key human relationships, relationships that are mostly sustained through holding necessary and courageous conversations. I find in many organizations, that’s true at almost every level.  Those conversations and the actions that follow are what build trust.

Collaboration is so important to our success that it is worth the effort to build—and sometimes rebuild—trust.  As the old African proverb says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”

Let’s commit to collaborating at the speed of trust.

Have a good week, and more to come…


Work With Your Door Open

At a recent staff retreat, I urged everyone to “work with their door open.”

It may have seemed like a strange request since we don’t have offices with doors in our headquarters at the National Trust, and many of our historic sites and field offices also utilize open plan design.  But whatever the personal office situation of those in the room, I was making the request in a more figurative sense.

In an observation that isn’t original but aligns with my own, I have noticed that people who have the door to their office closed throughout the day may get more work done today and tomorrow, and may be more productive than most in the short term. However, several years later somehow they don’t quite know what problems are worth working on. All the hard work they do can be tangential in importance.

On the other hand, those who work with the door open get all kinds of interruptions.  But they also occasionally get clues as to what is really going on in the world and what might be important.  In my mind, those interruptions are more than worth the short-term drop in productivity.

Being open, being collaborative, being curious: those are the ways we learn.  In our minds, in our personal interactions, and in our focus on others, we can work “with our doors open” and accomplish so much more together.

Have a good week.

More to come…