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Trust: It’s Built by Action, Not Accident

Deepak Menon

A couple of years ago my daughter Ramita was practicing for a dance performance with her team members. A sequence in the dance required her to participate in a “trust fall.” As she plummeted backward toward the floor, she knew that her designated teammate would catch her to break the fall.

But that did not happen, as her teammate got distracted just at that moment. Ramita fell to the floor and sustained a back injury. That “trust fall” led to a fall of trust.

Trust is an important ingredient in any relationship. It’s key to the success of any team, maybe even more so in Toastmasters, where teams are common. Building trust takes time and effort. It requires dedication and commitment from every member of the team.

The late Toastmasters International Golden Gavel recipient Stephen Covey noted that, “Contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, illusive quality that you either have or you don’t; rather, trust is a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that you can create.”

A personal touch goes a long way in fostering trust.

How can you build trust? Create a team charter or agreement listing how the team will work together and act on shared core values. Be open to listening without being judgmental. Be willing to trust and thus, allow others to reciprocate. The enthusiasm to have open and transparent conversations with team members creates the environment where trust flourishes.

Get to know team members as individuals. Find out who they are, their likes and hobbies, or a little about their families. A personal touch goes a long way in fostering trust. The next step is to allow everyone the freedom to air their opinions in a safe and supportive environment. Confidentiality is the key to instilling confidence in the team so that they can be trusting of each other.

Despite all our best efforts, trust does break down at times. When that happens, do not give up on each other. Make a conscious effort to rebuild trust. Understand the reasons for the trust failure. If nothing else works, make use of a mediator who can assist in reconciliation. At such times, focusing on the objectives and goals that brought the team together in the first place can guide you to reestablishing trust.

It took Ramita some months to regain confidence in this dance sequence after her fall. But she worked on it with her team. Today, she continues to participate in “trust falls” with unflinching trust in her teammates.

My fellow Toastmasters, I wish you a happy, successful, and “trustworthy” new year!

Deepak Menon, DTM

International President

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