Trust is the secret sauce of all relationships. Without trust, drama often arises so things don’t get done effectively and efficiently. When trust is low on a team, making decisions takes longer and issues get revisited over and over and are rarely resolved. Low trust leads to more stress, less fun and high turnover.
As best-selling business author Patrick Lencioni notes in his book "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team," trust is the fundamental element of teamwork. Teams that don't trust each other don't share everything that's going on, don't get to learn everything about an issue, and isolate themselves into silos. In Lencioni's view, no team is really a team until its members fully trust each other. So getting the trust issue right is the critical first step for any leader.
Conscious leaders develop through three stages of trust. Knowing this path and being able to determine which stage you’re in is a key to self-awareness and transformational leadership.
Stage 1: I trust you.
Stage 1 leaders make trust a function of the other person.
I trust you if you are trustworthy. If you’re not, I don’t trust you. If you do what you say you’ll do I’ll trust you. If you tell the truth I’ll trust you. If you’re competent to do your job I’ll trust you. If you are generally unselfish and care for the team more than yourself I’ll trust you. My trust is a function of your behavior, character and competency.
Stage 1 leaders locate trust and trustworthiness “out there.” Trust is highly variable for these leaders because what’s out there changes all the time. They are “at the effect of” them and it. They are in “to me” consciousness around trust, thus below the line.
Most people live and lead this way without ever going to stage 2 or 3.
Stage 2: I trust me.
Stage 2 leaders trust themselves.
Trusting myself means that I trust myself to be OK regardless of what you do or don’t do. This level of trust is directly related to sourcing approval, control and security from the inside (commitment #11 of The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership). The more I can reliably source the three great needs of humans from the inside in a solid and imperturbable way, the more I can trust myself to be genuinely OK regardless of what you do or don’t do.
I also trust myself to learn from everything and everyone that life puts in my path. Stage 2 leaders are so committed to curiosity and learning that they see all of life as an opportunity to learn and grow, as an invitation to wake up.
So if you (the other out there) don’t do what you said you would do (a trust breech for a level 1 leader), I see this as an opportunity for me to learn and grow. Possibly I learn more about making clear agreements. Or I learn about being more candid or feeling my feelings or creating conscious relationships on my team. What you do or don’t do is simply an opportunity for me to learn and grow. It’s a gift.
Conscious leaders who trust themselves say this to themselves about other people:
“I trust you to do exactly what you do or don’t do. Whatever you do or don’t do I’m going to use for my growth and learning as a leader. My trust in you is unshakable because I trust you to be exactly who you are and do exactly what you do.”
This approach to life radically changes relationships.
At this point people usually ask, “If I trust people to do what they do and be who they are, won’t that mean people will do whatever they want and my life will be filled with people who are untrustworthy?”
Fair enough, but just for the sake of learning consider these responses.
Yes, people will do what they want. But they’ll do that anyway whether you’re badgering them to be more trustworthy or not. How many people in your life have really become more trustworthy because you sought to change them? Probably very few.
Second, you get to fill your life with whatever kind of people you want. This is a radical idea that most people don’t believe. But it’s true. From above the line as the creator of your life you get to choose who to have, and not have, in your life. Most stage 2 conscious leaders who trust themselves choose to fill their lives with people they can learn from by the person being exactly as they are. They also choose to fill their lives with people who are equally committed to learning and being curious, speaking candidly, keeping their agreements, living in integrity and valuing appreciation.
People who can trust themselves to be OK with others being just as they are usually have powerful transformational relationships.
Stage 3: I trust.
Stage 3 leaders trust the universe. (Feel free to substitute whatever word works for you in place of universe. It could be God, Love, The Quantum Field, Source, Jesus or any of a thousand other words or something beyond words. As the Tao says, “That which can be named is not the Tao.”)
Einstein said that the most important question is, “Is the universe friendly?” He went on to say that if it is, then about 99% of everything we do is a waste of time because most of our lives are spent reacting to the world as though it is unfriendly. Stage 3 trust leaders understand this, not as a belief only, but as an experience in their bodies. They have fundamental trust that the universe is “for” them.
Stage 1 trust leaders experience the world as “to them.” Trust for them is variable based on the world happening to them. Stage 2 leaders experience the world as “by them” (I create my world because I trust myself to learn from any and all outcomes). Stage 3 trust leaders experience the world as “for them.” For them to expand and evolve into the highest state of who they are; for them to wake up; for them to be fully free; for them to experience uncaused joy and the elimination of suffering.
Stage 3 leaders who trust the universe to be for them have come to this experience through devoted practice. Almost all stage 3 leaders were once (and still at times are) stage 1 leaders who outsource trust to others and stage 2 leaders source trust in themselves. Stage 3 leaders have done the work to change their consciousness from “to me” to “by me” to “for me.” This work usually includes a commitment to some deep practice over many years. This practice could include meditation or listening prayer or The Work by Byron Katie (commitment #10) or The Sedona Method by Hale Dwoskin (commitment #11) or Dzogchen Buddhism or countless other practices that have led many people to the direct experience that everything is for them.
In truth very few leaders in our world are leading from stage 3 trust. Most are still solidly in stage 1 and a few are shifting to stage 2. At The Conscious Leadership Group we spend our energy supporting leaders to move from stage 1 to stage 2. It’s great fun and the results are profound. We also believe that the world desperately needs stage 3 trust leaders who can hold a consciousness of love. We choose to believe that these leaders are coming.