The Calculus of Trust

Season 3,
Episode 31
(55 mins)
The Calculus of Trust
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The Calculus of Trust

Summary

Transcript

Darryl Stickel – The Calculus of Trust

Rob Brodnick:

Welcome to the Positive Turbulence Podcast: Stories from the Periphery here, we journey to the edge to talk to turbulators about their experiences creating positive change. Hi, I’m Rob Brodnick.

Karyn Zuidinga:

And I’m Karyn Zuidinga in sharing these stories, these perspectives on innovation, creativity, change, and leadership. We hope to generate some positive turbulence for you.

Rob Brodnick:

Consider for a moment the importance of trust. Trust plays out in public ways like in the growing political divide, racism and the environment. It also plays out in personal ways like your relationships, your work, how you get along in your community. Trust is critical to effective leadership, flowing, creativity, change management and innovation.

Karyn Zuidinga:

Yet few of us spend much time thinking about it. We take a passive and binary approach. It’s there or not there when it’s there, things just work and we kind of take it for granted that it will always be there. When trust’s not there or we experience betrayal things fall apart and we throw up our hands and we say there was never trust there to begin with. 

Rob Brodnick:

I’m really excited to introduce you to Darryl Stickle, founder of Trust Unlimited who has cracked the code on how to build and maintain trust. He’s the rare academic who not only has a big breakthrough in his field, but also has developed a highly practical model. He’s applied this model in war zones, in business settings and with families all with great success. I don’t know exactly what picture that paints in your head. But I’m pretty sure you’re not thinking about someone who is legally blind named his dog Drake, because he’s a philosopher who can’t sing, and grew up in a small Northern town in British Columbia.

Karyn Zuidinga:

Darryl offers us the gift of how to better build and nurture trust. Our conversation with him dives into how vulnerability, uncertainty and context play into creating or inhibiting trust. And he offers more than just a few solid insights along the way.  I’m sure that even for those among you who are trust and vulnerability experts, there are one or two eye-openers here. There is even a hot tip for those of you looking to build trust in your personal relationships. 

But before we begin, let’s take a moment to acknowledge our supporting organizations. 

Sponsor Message:

The positive turbulence podcast is brought to you by AMI and innovation learning community that is celebrating 40 years of supporting innovation and creativity for organizations and individuals learn more at aminnovation.org.

Also we’d like to thank Mac avenue music group as a contributing sponsor to hear our theme song late night, sunrise and other great music visit MackAvenue.com.

Karyn Zuidinga:

Welcome. Welcome. Welcome. I am so excited to be talking to you today, Daryl when we spoke what, I guess it was a couple months ago maybe I was immediately impressed and intrigued and curious and wanted to dive in.

And then I had to stop myself and say No, wait until we get Rob here  and we can just let go and really dive in and explore trust.  So if you wouldn’t mind, Darryl, would you just give Rob and I, a bit of an overview of how we wind up talking to you about trust? 

Darryl Stickel:

I was born and raised in a small Northern community here in Canada. And there was a sense of community where people helped one another out.   Through that and a series of challenging life experiences developed a fairly high level of empathy and understanding for others compassion.

I came to university at the University of Victoria. I’d find myself sitting on the bus and somebody would just sit down next to me and say, I’m really having a hard day. This started to happen fairly often. And I thought, if this is going to happen all the time, maybe I should get paid for this.

So I started down the path towards becoming a clinical psychologist.  I worked with families in crisis and troubled teens and street kids and all kinds of different groups. I worked on crisis lines. I continued to try to hone those skills. And then after a while, I came to realize that a lot of the people I was working with they had limited resources. They were really just doing the best they could. And the fact that, you could get there and see the problem and diagnose it and give them a path forward, but they just couldn’t implement. And I thought, I’ll go crazy if I do this for the rest of my life. And so I switched and went into public administration, ended up working in Native land claims in British Columbia.

They would ask me deep philosophical questions. What is self-government? Or what will the province look like 50 years after claims are settled? And the last question they asked me was how do we convince a group of people we’ve shafted for over a hundred years, they should trust us? 

Karyn Zuidinga:

Yeah. 

Darryl Stickel:

And I thought, wow, what a good question? My initial response was maybe it would help if we were trust worthy. And that that didn’t get nearly the positive response one would hope. Okay. And so I went to Duke and wrote my doctoral thesis on building trust in hostile environments. 

Our lives make sense in retrospect. It feels there was a path all the way along that led me to that question. I started looking at the existing trust literature and the research, and started to try to understand how people made the trust decision. And through years of research and work, I developed a model that talked about how people made the decision itself. A lot of the work on trust treats trust like a black box. Something happens and then trust, magically pops out the other side. 

Rob Brodnick:

Yeah.

Darryl Stickel:

Yeah. I was trying to get a better sense of what goes on inside that box. I was fortunate to have a couple of leading academics on the topic of trust on my thesis committee. They sat me down after I finished and they said, okay so when you first came to us, we said, it’s too big. He’ll never solve it. We’ll let him bang his head against it for six months. And then we’ll let him slice off a little piece and that’ll be his thesis. And he said, six months in you were so far beyond us we couldn’t help anymore. All we could do is sit and watch and said, now, here we are two years later, we think you’ve solved it.

I ended up going to McKinsey and Co. Working as a consultant.  They identified me as having really good client hands. And so I would get sent to difficult places. Again, it was a chance to hone those skills and practice. And then I was involved in a car accident in 2001 ended up with post-concussion syndrome, which meant I just couldn’t work those kinds of hours anymore.  I ended up starting a small company called Trust Unlimited.  One of my former colleagues came to me and said, look, just come talk to us.

He was working as head of strategy for a mutual fund company. And they brought me in to, to talk to them about sustainable, competitive advantage and strategy. I said, sustainable, competitive advantage means you do something that others can’t copy, that you do something better than they do and they can’t copy it. And there’s nothing you do I can’t copy. I could buy one share of every fund you have. And now I know how they’re all built and I don’t have to pay the fund advisor so I can sell what you sell at a discount. I said, the only thing you can do is build deep long-term relationships with your customers. And they said, that’s it that’s our strategy. 

And so I spent 18 months training everybody took my thesis, turned it into a workshop. And after 18 months they hired a professional survey firm and found out that trust was the primary driver of the sales decision and that they were dramatically more trusted than any of their competitors. And they generated 75 cents of every new dollar that came into that industry for the next two years.

Rob Brodnick:

Wow.

Darryl Stickel:

They were part of a global financial services organization. And that organization started sending teams from all over the world to figure out what are these guys doing? Because they were dominating. From that, I knew, the model’s not perfect, but it works. I spent the next 20 years helping individuals and organizations better understand what trust is, how it works and more importantly, how to build it. .

Rob Brodnick:

Wow. That’s quite a story. What a starter, that’s only first answer, Karyn!. We’re just, going to have fun.

Darryl Stickel:

Yes. 

Rob Brodnick:

Can’t imagine. I just can’t imagine finish your thesis, your doctoral defense and your committee says to you, we think you cracked it. It’s one in a million that students who even get a chance, you know, to, to aspire to that. And here you got the feedback that you did.

I’m really curious,  what were some of the signs that out of your work that this committee of experts saw and thought, wow,  here’s, what’s new. Here’s what’s novel. We think this problem has been solved now where it hasn’t been solved before. What were some of the nuggets from that? 

Darryl Stickel:

That’s a good way to frame the question, Rob. Because when I looked at the existing research, I came to realize that all of the work was answering the same question. And when we decided to trust somebody, we asked ourselves two fundamental questions. The first is how likely am I to be harmed, which is perceived uncertainty.

And the second question is if I’m harmed, how bad is it going to hurt? Which is perceived vulnerability. And after I’d been looking through the research for awhile, I had this epiphany where I said, they’re all talking about uncertainty. All of this work is talking about answering that first question.

Once I’d framed it in terms of uncertainty. I could also ask myself where else does uncertainty come from? Most of the research is talking about trust from a personal level. What are the things that I do that make you trust me or not trust me? One of the pieces that was missing was the context. Because we sometimes trust people without knowing anything about them. We go to a restaurant, we get in a cab, we get on an airplane. We go see the doctor, 

Karyn Zuidinga:

And sometimes like in your experience, people sit down next to you and they just start sharing. 

Darryl Stickel:

Yeah.  I like to use the doctor’s office as an example, you go to the doctor’s office, somebody walks in  pulling on some latex gloves and has a white coat and a stethoscope and says, take off your clothes. And you do right. That doesn’t happen in other places. Change the setting to the bathroom at a gas station and all of a sudden it goes from credible to creepy.

Rob Brodnick:

Yeah.

Darryl Stickel:

And it could be the same people. And so without understanding context we really couldn’t explain why we trust some people without knowing them or why we trust people in some settings, but not other settings. 

Understanding context was one of the things that really helped me when I was asked by the Canadian military to try to help them figure out how to build trust with the locals in Afghanistan. Because one soldier with a machine gun tends to look a lot like another.

Those individual characteristics don’t carry as much weight.  We started to learn that the formal mechanisms of social control, I divide context into formal and informal mechanisms of social control. We rely really heavily on those in North America, but none of that plays in Afghanistan.

It’s all the informal. It’s who, who your friends are, who you’re related to, what religion you belong to, what village you’re from, it’s all that informal stuff. 

Context ended up being a big piece of the addition that I made to the literature. Vulnerability was the other one.  Overwhelmingly the research treats trust like a dichotomous variable, like it’s either present or absent. Like an old time light switch. Adding vulnerability allows us to talk about depth of relationship. I’m willing to be more vulnerable with somebody that I’m closer to.

I think about these as the basis for trust uncertainty and vulnerability, and it’s uncertainty times vulnerability gives us a level of perceived risk. We each have a threshold of risk that we’re comfortable with. If we go beyond that threshold, we don’t trust. If we’re beneath it, then we do. Building trust becomes really simple. How do we reduce uncertainty?

Rob Brodnick:

Okay.

Darryl Stickel:

How do we reduce perceptions of vulnerability so that people are more comfortable. And we can also talk about profiles of relationships, where, in settings where uncertainty is high, then vulnerability has to be low for us to trust. And where uncertainty starts to squish and get smaller than the range of vulnerability we can accept, gets bigger. That’s inside that black box that I talked about before. Where we’re talking about these leavers of uncertainty and vulnerability. And this is how I help people understand how to build trust is by deconstructing those things. Give them a sense of which leavers to pull and how to pull them. 

The next piece that I added was perceived outcomes.  We interpret the world through stories. We can have exactly the same experience and have dramatically different perceptions of what just happened. We need to be cautious and conscious of the fact that we should be defining outcomes beforehand. We should be creating a shared narrative afterwards, so that the next iteration we have has a higher trust level within it. In the middle of all this are, our emotional states, our feelings, whether we like or dislike somebody else.

And this was the piece where we’re talking about hostility, because when we like someone, we tend to look for reasons to trust them. And we tend to find those reasons. We’re more likely to trust them. And we’re more likely to see the outcomes as positive, and that makes us like them even more. So this is how we start these virtuous cycles.

When we dislike someone, we look for reasons not to trust them. We’re less likely to trust them. We’re more likely to see outcomes as negative, which creates these vicious cycles. The more extreme our feelings become, the less rational we are.  All of the existing trust literature is focused on these cognitive rational components, which are virtually useless in hostile environments where people are really angry and hate one another. That was what prompted them to say. Yeah, we think you’ve solved it.  

Rob Brodnick:

Yeah, that’s pretty incredible. As you explain that it doesn’t only provide a theoretical perspective, but the way I see it, it provides a set of tools where you can actually do something and, not always does academic research or literature produce that do something with it result, which I like it’s it’s often just explain this. We need a new theory because our understanding of it is not fully clear. But I love your simple, strong methodology. And I have a thousand questions, but I’m going to let Karyn next.

Karyn Zuidinga:

It’s going to be a thing we’re both going to be oh my God. Yeah. What’s really appealing to me. Is this kind of equation you’ve developed, 

right. The, with the thinking about the variables And those leavers. I’m less of an academic than Rob. I know we’re all shocked. All our listeners are, 

Darryl Stickel:

Okay. 

Karyn Zuidinga:

But I would love to see, so to get a sense maybe an example or a sort of a way for our listeners to interpret it a little, maybe a little bit more personally. In their own maybe work situations or relationship situations or just community situations. 

Darryl Stickel:

The interesting thing is I’ve applied this all over the place. Nonprofits, public sector, private sector, families I work with families often. I’ll give you an example of a couple of applications that I made.  On the uncertainty side, we think about leavers and I believe that we all have the ability to build trust some are better than others and those who aren’t very good, pull a lever, they pull it over and over again. And they just hope that the problem lines up against that. Those who are better have multiple leavers and they try them out. Those who are really good, have multiple leavers and they know when to pull which one. 

What I try to do is give people more tools in their toolbox and give them a start towards helping to diagnose some of these problems. Often with my students, I’ll sit down and I’ll say, think of a relationship. And on the uncertainty side, uncertainty comes from us as individuals and from the setting we’re embedded in, the context. From the individual side, there’s some really well-known research amongst academics and most people who’ve read anything about trust will, will recognize the terms or the subsets that were created.

In 1995, a guy named Roger Mayer, who’s a friend of mine wrote one of the seminal articles with a couple of his colleagues on trust. And in it, they proposed that there were three elements that drove perceptions of trustworthiness, and those were benevolence, integrity and ability. Benevolence is a belief you have my best interest at heart, and that you’ll act on my best interest, even if it’s not in your own short-term best interest. Integrity is I will follow through on my promises and my actions align with the values that I express. Ability is, do I actually have the competence to do what I say I’m going to. And that tends to be our favorite lever. I’ve got this much experience, these many credentials, this kind of position in the organization. this many happy customers.  One of the examples I have is one of my students  we were talking about benevolence and I said, I want you to think about a relationship that you want to work on.

And he said, okay, my girlfriend, I said, great. So what matters most to your girlfriend? We’re going to try to show benevolence. And he said her family, and I said, great. So tonight when you go home, you’re going to have a conversation with your girlfriend. And you’re going to say, today my instructor was talking to me and he asked me to think about a relationship that really mattered to me. And I thought about you. So that’s our first step in showing benevolence. That we’re giving consideration to the other person. And then you’re going to say to her when he asked me what mattered most to you I said, family, is that right? And so now you’re inviting her to be part of the conversation to give you the chance to be wrong. And when she says, yeah, my family’s really important to me, you’re going to say so then I thought that me getting along well with your family would be really important to you. And so I’m going to start having conversations with your family, going for lunches, with them, sharing information with them. I’m going to work actively to build my relationship with your family, because it’s so important to you. 

This is the way that we show benevolence. The next day he comes back and he goes, wow, did that ever work well, I’ve been given the go-ahead to talk to you as often as I want. And so we, we have these sort of mechanisms. A lot of times when I talk to parents, I’ll say, how many of you have your kid’s best interest at heart and all the hands go up. And I say, how many of your kids say, and it’s about a third, somewhat hesitantly. And it’s often because we haven’t included the other person in the conversation. As a parent, we’re thinking about today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, 10 years down the road.

We want them to engage in behaviors that are going to be good for them 10 years ago now. And we don’t hold ourselves to that standard. They’re thinking about right now. To earn the right to talk about tomorrow, we have to help them be successful today. These are ways that I try to help folks understand how to show benevolence.

And if it’s not transparent in a place like a family where it’s supposed to be, how hard is it for a leader to show benevolence, or us in everyday life to show benevolence towards others. In part it’s about thinking about others and then including them in the conversation. I have similar conversations around ability, it’s our favorite lever to pull, but we tend to massively underdefine what excellence is.

The mutual fund company I was working with. They had senior executives, middle managers, and frontline staff all in the same room. And I said, if I break you into those three groups, would you have the same definition for what an excellent middle manager is?

They said, we wouldn’t have the same definition within those three groups. If we don’t understand what excellence is, then how do we identify it? How do we reward for it? How do we recruit for it, train for it, develop it.  A lot of times we identify or define excellence based on outcomes that are sometimes outside of people’s control.

You guys like to talk about innovation, what we should be rewarding is the right process. Believing that it’ll come to innovative outcomes rather than rewarding the ones who have that Eureka that’s actually successful. Often to get to excellence, it means we need to surface what it really means.

For me, when I’m lecturing, I’ll talk to people about what excellence looks like as a professor. And I have my perspective, but I’ll also ask the students for their perspective. I talk to my bosses about their perspective and I get this list that I try to create a shared understanding of what excellence is going to be so that I can then communicate it and try to live up to it.

Does that help Karyn? 

Karyn Zuidinga:

Yeah, Rob and I were both seriously nodding, like heavy, nodding when you’re talking about rewarding process, when we’re talking about innovation rather than outcomes, which, will make a lot of people, particularly people in the startup community that I know, their hair is now on fire. They’re shouting at whatever device they’re using to listen to this on, because for them it’s completely the opposite. Most entrepreneurs I know can’t even they can’t even say the word process without getting like hives. They just hate, they hate, process. They love outcomes.

Think as we have conversations around redefining success. And what does all that mean? I think that this thing that you’re into about defining excellence and rewarding process and knowing that if you’ve got the right, process, the outcomes will follow… 

Darryl Stickel:

right. 

Karyn Zuidinga:

It’s simple, but radical. 

Darryl Stickel:

I had a CEO and his VP of sales in one of my training sessions. And I said, so what does excellence for him for the VP of sales? And he said he hits his numbers. And I said, so what happens if something dramatic happens in the marketplace? And all of a sudden, you’re just swamped with orders and a chimpanzee could have met the numbers. Or what happens if there’s a, I don’t know, something crazy, like a pandemic and demand just goes away. And this guy is actually delivering better than anyone else could have in that situation. Do you fire him? 

Because he hasn’t hit the numbers. Because those are things that are outside of his control. It launched a very earnest and interesting conversation around what are the things that we should be measuring to show that I’m actually doing my job well? we just don’t seem to have those conversations very often.

Karyn Zuidinga:

Yeah. Or ever.

Darryl Stickel:

Yeah.

Karyn Zuidinga:

At least in the communities I’m traveling around and often where everyone’s talking about a number being the metric, right? A number either a sales number or a margin number, or I know what it profit numbers. It’s always about a number or metric. Oh, we had so many views. We were looking at a newsletter the other day. We had so many opens.

Darryl Stickel:

right.

Karyn Zuidinga:

What does that mean? How does that relate to 

Darryl Stickel: 

Success for the organization. Yeah. Yeah. 

I had a great conversation with my son. My oldest son is very invested in baseball. One year he was on a team and he just, he said to me, dad, we’re not going to be very good this year. Like we’re not going to win a lot of games. And I said, maybe you need to define success around what you have control over. So what would a good year look like for you? And he said I would get better. So skill development and I would learn about being a better teammate. And so I’d built strong relationships and I’d build a good relationship with the coaching staff so that they’re happy to teach and coach me, but also happy to recommend me to others.

I said, okay. And so by those metrics, he actually had a great season and the team didn’t win a lot of games, but we were able to just revisit it every once in a while and say, how are you progressing against what success looks like for you?  Knowing that if everyone did their best to be successful in that way, the team would actually start to see result. 

Sponsor Message:

The positive trip in this podcast is brought to you by AMI a not-for-profit innovation learning community. Here’s AMI member, Snow grad of the Pratt Institute and author and illustrator talking about how trust was a key factor for getting her to come to her first,AMI meeting and to opening up to new experiences.

Snow: 

Two mentors, Denise and Mary. They are longterm members of AMI, and they thought that I can benefit from joining this group. And they also, before I come, they prepare me by saying that, Oh, you’ll love this group of people. And they were like, you. So it’s because of trust. I know that I will meet like likeminded people, just like them. Amazing mentors here. That’s how I got introduced here. 

Sponsor Message:

AMI is proud to announce that we now also offer virtual meetings. We pack in all the goodness of the in-person meeting in a two hour virtual convening. Find out more  at aminnovation.org.

Rob Brodnick:

There’s some paradoxes in here that I find interesting. I really liked your statement about the light switch and it’s either on or off either have it, or you don’t. And I think of those extreme conditions of trust and if you play free association with people, they would say, a warm blanket or a good feeling,  you can think of the list you’ve been in the business long enough to all the things like what is trust? If people have to describe it and then in, in the lack of it, right? Have this kind of anxious, chaotic. 

In the spirit of positive turbuence, I actually think trust is not a warm blanket. I see trust as permission to get real about some things and maybe start to turn the volume up. And when you have trust, things can start to get interesting because if you don’t, you just fighting for like a good day or status quo. But when you have this, you’re in this sort of organizational flow state where people are trusting each other, I think that’s the opportunity to really create something magical. And like I said, in the spirit of positive turbulence, what about trust is not the warm blanket, but the opportunity really to make it cool or interesting. 

Karyn Zuidinga:

Have to interrupt. I love that trust is permission to get real. And that is also a positive turbulence is. I just have to jump in and say that out loud because I’m like, Ooh, shiver down my spine on that one. Sorry, 

Sorry, Darrell, go

 

Darryl Stickel:

warned me Karyn, that Rob was going to have fantastic questions. So that’s a great question. 

Karyn Zuidinga:

I did. 

Darryl Stickel:

We think about some of the big problems in the world. Things like climate change race relations relationships with the police. We think about, the growing divide in, in politics and animosity towards one another. These all require a collective collaborative response. They all require some level of underlying trust and we need to actually be able to be honest and open with each other. One of the leaders I’ve been recently working with said, I really want my team to bring the ugly to the table. And I said, you’re talking to the right guy. Cause I brought ugly to every table I’ve ever been at. It’s that ability to be able to take risks. One of the things about innovation is that it comes with failure.  If we actually want our organizations to innovate, then we have to have people comfortable that they can make mistakes, that they can fail.

A lot of the organizations I’m working with even high tech organizations, the leadership group feels if I make one mistake I’m done. They’re terrified. 

And that means that they have to micromanage everyone else. Because if those other people make mistakes, then it reflects on the leader. 

The unusual thing about times of high uncertainty like we’re facing right now, or times of crisis, is that we become more aware of the importance of trust and the value of it goes up. But at the same time, the amount of it goes down.  

So does that answer the question, Rob, or did I just go on a tangent.

Rob Brodnick:

No, it’s good. I think it’s good. I have eight more questions that pop into my head.  Here’s the next one that comes to mind, maybe an extension of it. Trust being like a house of cards in that it takes so long to build. And in an instant you can make it all go away.  When you see the first card start to fall, what do you do to get it back? 

Karyn Zuidinga:

You’re on fire today, Rob. 

Darryl Stickel:

Isn’t he amazing? That’s a great question.  Part of the thing is though is when we get good at building trust and it’s a skill that we can all get better. As we get better at building trust, we’re more able to identify where we missed and people are more inclined to give us the benefit of the doubt. There’s a resilience that we can create. 

I make mistakes often. I’m legally blind and I’ve got post-concussion syndrome. Clearly, I’m not perfect. When I ask my sons, what does good look like from a father? What would excellence be? They’re actually, they’re quite comforting and we have these honest conversations about what good would look like, but I fall short and because of the trust levels that we have, they’re more willing to cut me, slack, or give me the opportunity to make amends.

We get stuck, Rob in, this dichotomous thinking. When I ask people who do you trust?  I always get these close, tight, personal relationships. We don’t remember that we trust some people more than others, but it moves.

Sometimes when people talk about that house of cards, notion, they’re thinking about a catastrophic failure, cheating on a spouse or betraying someone. And often it’s more like a death of a thousand cuts where we disappoint somebody over and over again. How do we rebuild trust when it’s gone? In part, we need to understand how we’ve fallen short and what the story is for the other person. And to be able to go back and say, here’s my story. Here’s why I did what I did. And here’s my empathy and understanding for how that hurt you. And here’s an expression of remorse for that. And it may not be that it was causal, right? It may not be that it was my fault, but I still can feel remorse that it happened. And then a conversation around how do we take steps to try to reduce the probability that’s going to happen again. 

Karyn Zuidinga:

Yeah. 

Darryl Stickel:

And then we start to build. When we’re in higher trust environments, there’s the opportunity for those conversations. And it’s back to that notion of how do we bring the ugly to the table? How do we actually have those conversations before it festers, before it gets so bad that it’s really hard to fix. 

Karyn Zuidinga: 

Yeah. 

Darryl Stickel:

And then we go back and revisit the model. We understand which leavers do I need to pull. We’ve got, 10 or 11 different leavers, which ones do I need to pull in this situation to try to make things right. 

Karyn Zuidinga: 

Do you know Daryl, as you were talking? I was thinking, first of all, yes. And yes, all of those things, so resonate with me on on, everything from the most profound, personal level to, the kind of everyday transactional in the store level, they’re just like that. All of those levels really resonate.

One of the things I was thinking about when you were talking was the telling of your own story and my experience about when trust failed in small instances and in really deep, nasty, big instances is that my perception has been is that there was never really trust there to begin with. 

Darryl Stickel:

Okay. 

Karyn Zuidinga:

The story I begin with often, and maybe that’s a little bit TMI, I don’t know, but that’s where I often begin telling the story about trust when trust failed was well, there was never really there any there anyway, and here I am.

And so I, and I suspect I’m not alone. I suspect a lot of people respond to a failure in trust when they have felt betrayed in the same way. I can think of a work situation that I was in where, it went sideways badly and the story I’m telling myself was, oh, and they never really trusted me anyway. Okay. Can you say help me see it from that side? Cause you talked a lot about the, if I can say the betrayer, not that necessarily, it was a bad betrayal, but the betrayer side taking responsibility and saying, Yeah.

But can you talk about it from the other side? 

Darryl Stickel:

One of the challenges we face and so I often talk to people about, the workshops that I do the intent is to close the gap between how much we should be trusted and how much we are. Not to help them be more trusted than they should be, because that’s when we fail. That’s when we fall down.  You remember, I was talking about those sort of virtuous cycles, 

One of the things that can happen to us sometimes this will be started on a virtuous cycle and then there’s a betrayal that happens and we go back and we reevaluate all of those past experiences through a negative lens.

And it corkscrews us to a negative cycle fairly quickly. Because we interpret the world through stories, it’s very possible for us to have that narrative of this person never trusted me, or I never really believed in them. 

I talk about this notion of locus of control. And a lot of the, a lot of the pieces of the model are backed up by theory from other places it’s more of an integrative model, but the notion of locus of control becomes really important.

And internal locus of control means we’re master of our own destiny. And we make things happen in the world. An external locus of control means that we’re busted by the winds of fate. That things happen to us. When I used to teach undergraduates at Duke, I would say to them who here has an internal locus of control and they’re good little capitalists, so all the hands go up.

And I said, this is fantastic. So if you don’t do well in this class, it’s not because it was too hard or I didn’t teach it. Right. Or the test wasn’t right. It’s all you baby. And all went, oh, a minute. And I said, yeah, that’s right. We have an internal locus of control when we’re successful.

And an external locus of control when we fail.  That’s a defense mechanism for us, it keeps us psychologically well and capable of not curling up into a ball and still able to go out in the world. But if it’s too strong, we don’t learn.

When things go wrong, we need to actually take a moment and reflect on what role did we play and how could we have changed our actions. When things go, right we need to look and say, what are the circumstances that led to that? What are the parts of the environment or the context that allowed me to be successful so that I can recognize those in the future. And a lot of times when things go wrong, we blame the rest of the world and that’s not unusual. 

If I fail, then I’m more likely to blame the circumstance  than to take accountability for myself. And I try to be very conscious of not doing that, particularly when it comes to my kids, I try to own the pieces that were under my control that I messed up on.

And yeah. You’re right. We have this tendency to shift the narrative. So it protects our sense of self. We shift the narrative to say there was never trust there anyways, because it reduces the amount of loss that we experience. And sometimes it makes sense for us to not be engaged in a relationship to step away from it.

Fair enough. But sometimes we panic and we flee things that might be good for us or for the group moving forward, if we could just work through them.

Does that answer your 

Karyn Zuidinga: 

Yeah, no, a beautifully, 

Rob Brodnick:

I love it.

Karyn Zuidinga:

yeah. Yeah. I was thinking yeah, locus control. Fascinating. They, oh, wait a minute. Wait, if I don’t do well, that’s also could be my thing. 

Darryl Stickel:

Yeah. My, my sons are involved in sports and their team has never lost a game where the ref didn’t suck.

Karyn Zuidinga:

Yeah, 

Rob Brodnick:

That’s always the case. 

Karyn Zuidinga:

So how do you that’s hard psychological work coming to those places, and to accepting your own responsibility in when things went wrong and getting out of your own way, getting out of your own victim story. Short of spending a lot of quality time with a great therapist, how do you get to those? How do you accept responsibility? How do you make that shift? What are the steps a person could take? 

Darryl Stickel:

I think part of this is really trying to understand, being aware that our story, isn’t the only story that could be used to interpret how things just went. And then trying to understand the other person’s perspective. And there’s a bit of a Socratic method to this, right? A lot of questions.

How did that land for you? I can imagine that your story might be… trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes will then give us some hints about things we might’ve done differently. the thing to remember here is that none of us are perfect and expectations of that are unreasonable.

We’re all flawed beings on a journey together on this hurdling blue marble to try to get better and to be better each day. .And part of building trust is actually really trying to understand other folks and what their narrative is and what their perspective is by adopting that we can see what some of our own flaws might be, at least from other people’s perspective.

And sometimes it’s a communication problem. It’s a failure to communicate our intent. it’s a failure to have a shared understanding of what a good outcome look like or what the priorities were or how important this was to somebody else. And those are flaws we can fix.

Rob Brodnick:

So I hear active engagement in my consciousness, the processes I’m involved in hard work observation of the process, continuing questioning, plus then a diagram on the wall of the trust formula, because you gotta be reminded of those levers all the time. And you said they’re there in front of you. You just have to be aware of that.

So openness to the process, understanding the recipe. It’s not that simple, of course. And then what else, how do you take trust further? How do you make it? How do you turn it into a tool for you to help yourself and others in the best way possible?

Darryl Stickel:

Partly what we’re doing now is we’re developing a 12 week program to help people walk through applying the model because, you’re right. When I show people the model they go, of course, that’s how it works. This is obvious, right? Like you got a PhD for that?

And when trust scholars see it, they go, oh my God, you’re talking about things we don’t talk about. But that sort of surface level understanding of seeing the model and getting it the next step is how do I apply?

 It’s actively thinking about how do I show benevolence? How do I include people in conversations? How do I on a daily basis show somebody that I’m thinking about them and that I’m aware of them. And it doesn’t mean always being nice. If I’m a leader and somebody says to me, I want to progress in my career then that says to me, okay, so I should start evaluating you based on the next level.

And I should start giving you feedback based on what the expectations are going to be at that next level. And I need to hold you more accountable because the expectations are about to go up. And as long as we’re transparent, we have the same story about that. Then we can be benevolent and it doesn’t have to be nice nice all the time. It’s around, the integrity piece. We often fall down on integrity. 

One, because we over promise. We have a tendency to over promise. Some people have a hard time saying no. particularly when things go wrong that’ll never happen again. Or or we promise outcomes when we don’t have absolute control over those outcomes.

And instead we should be promising effort or actions that we’ll take. We can have a set of values if they’re not clear to everyone, then it’s questionable, about whether we can demonstrate integrity. I try to talk to people about telling your story and being consistent around here’s how this lines up with my values. Here’s how this decision aligns with the values that the organization expresses. Because so many times we go into organizations and they’ve got the value statement on the wall and it’s just  there isn’t an ongoing conversation about how our actions are aligning up with that, how we’re expressing that to our customers, how they’re experiencing it.

And then the ability piece is really around conversations and getting a shared definition of what excellence is. When it comes to the context. We can share our context with other folks. So it’s easier for them to predict us and remember, it’s really about reducing uncertainty. We can share how we’re constrained and finding ways that we overlap.

I work at the Luxembourg school of business and I live in Victoria. There’s all kinds of formal constraints for me as an employee of a university, as a Canadian living in Canada. But there are also informal things that constrain me.

My relationship with my sons means more to me than anything. And so I will act in a way that would not bring shame to them or myself. And I know that word can get back to them. And so I try to be cautious about how I behave, I say some outrageous things at times, but they’ve come to accept who I am and how I approach the world and the way I think about the world.

And we can also take steps within the context to constrain ourselves. We can make public commitments, we can sign contracts. So there are ways we can reduce uncertainty for each other. And then, we come to the vulnerability piece and we try to understand what does the other person think is at stake and how do they value it and how do we take steps to make them more comfortable. 

If we think about what’s going on right now in a lot of organizations, when we go to work each day or we work from home each day, we have a fairly set level of vulnerability because it’s where we get our paychecks. It’s where we have our friends. It’s part of our sense of self, our sense of self identity. It’s part of our self-esteem. And it’s where our dreams are. A lot of times, our visions of next year, this time I’ll be doing X at this company. So we have this fairly set level of vulnerability, and then things come along and create massive waves of uncertainty. 

The uncertainty starts to bounce, which means that the level of perceived risk starts to bounce and it makes people uncomfortable.

And so what do they do? They try to find ways to reduce their vulnerability. They start to disengage at work. They start to look for other jobs. They start to find ways to not be as connected. Or not put as much in, and that’s not what we want as an organization, because who were the first to leave. It’s the ones with the best options, right? It’s the best people. 

When I start to frame problems, I’ll think about innovation or I’ll think about organizational change and development. I’ll think about parenting or families. I use the model as a frame to give me a sense of what are the different leavers at play right now and how could we take steps to make things better?

I’ve worked with some great leaders. I was working with a company where the organization did a trust measure and the leader that they had assigned me to go to 13 out of one hundred. And I got assigned after that. I had conversations with this leader and coached them and showed them the model. And then I had a conversation with their whole team and I said, okay. So how could this leader show benevolence? What would benevolence look like? And by the way, trust is the willingness to make yourself vulnerable. So now we all have the same definition when you can’t completely predict how somebody else is going to behave. There’s elements of vulnerability and uncertainty in that definition. We walked systematically through the model and said, how can this person be intentional about these things? Three months later, they did another survey. The leader score went from 13 to 80. 

Karyn Zuidinga:

Wow. 

Darryl Stickel:

In part, next steps are raising awareness. One of the struggles or frustrations for me is that there are people, a lot of people, talking about trust, but not really talking about what to do about it .Or how to build it. That’s partly why I’m writing the book. It’s partly why I’m having conversations like these with great folks like you is to try to raise awareness so that people can actually see that there are things we can do about it. There’s ways we can fix this stuff.

Karyn Zuidinga:

Yeah. 

Rob Brodnick:

I love it. I love theory that lands in the universe and has potent applications. That’s why I asked that question about the third stage, and I really loved your answer. I have a curve ball for you. If you’re ready something that comes to mind, let me describe this situation.

Then I’d like you to respond to it, interpret it through the model or theory, or we can just call it magic and be done with it. But I’ve got a new guy on one of my teams with a client organization and he’s in a senior position. And I, met him for the first time in a group situation.

And then we had a chance to work individually on a number of things. I trust this guy immediately. I don’t know what it is. I, it doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t know if it’s does he remind me of someone that I trusted before? Is it just his manner? Is there something other worldly going on here?

But we have developed a good working relationship now and he hasn’t let my trust down. So my, my curve ball is this is intuition real? Is there self fulfilling prophecy at play here? We’ve all had this experience. It’s very human that we immediately trust someone when we have no good reason to, and often it doesn’t come back in our face. 

It actually seems to work out now. Maybe I’m not counting my observations and experiences. But played play with that a little bit. And I’d love to hear your thoughts about that.

Darryl Stickel:

Absolutely. And this is what started me getting curious is the fact that people just seem to now not everyone likes me. 

Karyn Zuidinga:

How is that possible? 

Darryl Stickel:

well, uh, I what, when 

Karyn Zuidinga:

took me about three seconds to go, oh my God. I, want to talk to this guy a lot more. 

Darryl Stickel: [00:43:56] my batting average is high. I would find that I just tended to have positive interactions with people.

And I wanted to understand what that was. And part of it is body language in ways that we signal to each other part of it is this halo effect of, once we’ve got a positive story about someone, we tend to look for reasons to confirm that and it strengthens itself. And there, there are things we can do to get other people to like us.

For me, I’ve got the world’s greatest guide dog. His name is Drake and his name is Drake because he can’t sing. But he’s a lyrical genius. But Drake is such a great ambassador. He’s actually on my website, he’s the director of goodness, the dog.

Rob Brodnick:

I saw that. Yeah.

Darryl Stickel:

Yeah. Yeah. And so he just, he releases oxytocin in people, makes them smile.

Makes them happy. And I’m the guy with Drake. And so we end up having these sort of positive interactions, positive exchanges that build on themselves. And there’s also this sort of initiation of vulnerability. If we make ourselves a bit vulnerable first, it tends to trigger a similar response.

And as long as it’s a small amount of vulnerability, we don’t get hurt too badly by it. And we learned something valuable. And so I would suggest that we tend to like people who are like us and we like people who like us. And so if we can have a positive approach towards somebody else they will tend to reciprocate or respond to it.

And we also like people who are better looking, usually that’s not helpful to my clients. If you could just be a little more attractive but we can have these things initiate a positive exchange for us and it’ll feed on itself. And you’re right. Often it’s not disappointed.

My experience of the world is such a positive one because of Drake. People really do want to be helpful. People really do care about one another. There are exceptions, but a lot of times we’re cautious about how we approach each other, because we’re worried about how it’s going to come across.

Before I had Drake, I would wander the world and people wouldn’t always know, oh, he’s blind. They would have different narratives, right? Like that guy’s acting weird. Like he almost walked into that pole. What is he. And so I would use my cane sometimes and sometimes I wouldn’t. But Drake gives everyone a narrative that makes them comfortable and we’re able to approach people in a way that we weren’t before. The world was an isolated place for me before Drake, because I couldn’t read body language and signals. I didn’t know when to approach people and when not to. And so I could be very alone in the middle of a crowd,

Rob Brodnick:

Yeah.

Karyn Zuidinga:

who hasn’t experienced that though? Sighted or unsighted. 

Darryl Stickel:

yeah. But now the crowd comes to us. Drake’s a great filter because some people will ignore them and that’s fine. They don’t want to engage, but other people will say, can I say hi? And I always let Drake say hi because he loves it. 

Karyn Zuidinga:

It’s amazing. Thank you. I, again, more shivers down the spine. Beautiful. What about the person on the flip side of that, the person alone in the crowd who just can’t. I don’t know who, just who people just don’t talk to who, to people just don’t immediately trust who people are maybe a little standoffish with, or maybe they’re just straight up awkward. I’ve had certainly been awkward in the crowd before. How do you,  I’m particularly thinking of the leader, the entrepreneur maybe, but what can they do? 

Darryl Stickel:

I’ve worked with some tech companies where some of the leaders are really strong introverts. You find yourself trying to help because they’re gifted people and they can be fantastic leaders, but it’s more work for them to do that people interaction stuff than it is for others. In part, what I try to encourage them to do is find ways that you’re comfortable engaging be curious about other people and just that awareness that we have different stories going on. One of my old advisors, Sim Sitkin he told this great story. He said he was working in New York and he went out to a conference in Portland and he got there and he was talking to somebody and the guy said to him, I bet you thought we all wore cowboy hats here in Portland. And he said, and I just looked at him and I thought in New York, we just don’t think about Portland so I just had no idea what she’d be wearing. Like it never occurred to me. And so that’s us in the middle of a crowd, we’re the center of our own universe, but so is everyone else. And feeling like we’re being ignored or excluded is likely inaccurate. It’s just that we haven’t hit other people’s radar yet or they’re afraid to reach out and connect with us.

Finding a way to ask questions, just superficial things things like, oh, can you help me find, or oh, I love this place. And so finding a place where we’ve got an overlap that can create an area for common ground, And then, because we like people who are like us, we can find a way to communicate.

That’s part of it with introverted leaders I talk to them about making sure that everyone knows, right? So don’t have people making up their own stories about, oh, you’re cold and aloof or arrogant or dismissive instead tell them, I’m pretty strong introvert. And so crowds are hard for me. It’s easier if we have conversations one-on-one and I’m going to try to set times up for that. It’s something I’m trying to work on. You include other people in that conversation and share the story so that everyone isn’t making up their own. Does that help?

Karyn Zuidinga:

Yeah.It’s a great reminder that we’re all in the center of our own universe. And we forget that what’s going on in our head is not the same thing that’s going on in the other person’s head.

Darryl Stickel:

Right.

Karyn Zuidinga:

And that’s the only way to find out it’s just to ask 

Darryl Stickel:

Yeah. 

Karyn Zuidinga:

And to start creating, a bit of a shared universe for a moment. 

Darryl Stickel:

I got to tell you I’ve experienced such kindness from people. I’m, I’m constantly amazed. People want to help one another. Most of us find that rewarding, the ability to be helpful. To put a smile on somebody else’s face, it’s very affirming. So sometimes we give people that opportunity and we try to be helpful in return. We find ways to be helpful and.

Karyn Zuidinga:

I have one I’d love to ask you. I’ve been thinking about since the beginning of our conversation, you mentioned we could problems, climate change, police, leafing race relations political issues and on. If you could tackle or attempt to tackle at least part of one of those problems, which problem would you tackle and which players would you try to tackle it with? 

Do you know what I mean? not just, oh, I want to solve racism, but I’d want to solve racism and I want to talk to X and Y 

Darryl Stickel:

Racism would be amazing and a subset of that is probably the policing issue. And I would probably want to talk to all of the stakeholders. Because it’s not just minorities that are concerned about it. There’s fear and vulnerability from other stakeholders as well. And that leads to resistance that probably doesn’t need to be there.

One of the things I find really helpful about the model is it, sometimes it helps us squeeze some of the emotion out of the conversation. I was asked by a group, is working with some of their leadership development and they said will you spend a day with our senior executives? And I said, sure, I’d be happy to do that the day before they said to me, oh, by the way, the heads of the unions are going to be there. And I went, oh, that’ll be different. And they said, just so you know, we’ve been in court with each other for the last five years and everybody hates everybody. And I was like, wow, you’re sewing me into a bag of cats and throwing me in the river. And they said, yeah, that’s exactly what we’re doing. And the day went incredibly well. And partly it was because I said, I’m not on anyone’s side and here’s the model. Now let’s talk through the different elements of the model. And afterwards they all came up to me and they said, it’s the first time we’ve had hope in five years. And everybody shook hands with everybody. 

I would like to be able to share the model with the different stakeholders. Go to a place where we had the police and city, government, and local community representatives and minority representatives all in the same place. And we’re able to share the information and then facilitate a conversation around what are your best interests? What would success look like to you? What matters most? Let’s talk about what benevolence looks like for each group. What are the vulnerabilities for each group? Because some of the catastrophic events we see take place, are because of the vulnerability levels that the police are feeling . because they’re really vulnerable, they can’t tolerate much uncertainty. And then they make a bad decision. A horrific decision. Ways that we can understand each other’s vulnerabilities, ways that we can understand each other’s needs and best interests, ways that we can understand how to make commitments to one another that we can follow through on how we are interpreting the world. I’ve seen some remarkable results actually fairly quickly. We could facilitate conversations that I think could have real impact if we could just get the attention of the right groups.

Rob Brodnick:

That’s amazing. I think of a powerful model and your bravery, and these are situations where not a lot of people, even with the best tool in the world could go into it with an optimist’s attitude and focus on positive change. And that courage should be commended for sure.

Darryl Stickel:

Thank you.

Karyn Zuidinga:

That’s a rockin’ amount of positive turbulence. 

Rob Brodnick:

You got it.

Darryl Stickel:

Nice.

Karyn Zuidinga:

right? That’s like 

Rob Brodnick:

I love it. 

Darryl Stickel:

Thanks so much folks.

Karyn Zuidinga:

Thank you, 

Rob Brodnick:

fun. 

Darryl Stickel:

This has fantastic. 

Karyn Zuidinga:

All right thank you, Darryl. It has been such a pleasure. 

Hey, lovely listeners stay tuned for this episode’s positive turbulence moment coming right up. First, a huge thank you to AMI who have nurtured us in developing this podcast is the source of so many of our guests, and of course the founder, Stan Gryskiewicz is also the author of the original book and dare I say, the Abe Lincoln of positive turbulence.

Sponsor Message:

AMI is a pioneering nonprofit organization comprised of committed individuals who foster and leverage creativity and innovation in organizations in society. AMI identifies leading edge innovation, shares experiences, sponsors research, and recognizes innovation and creative processes. Find out more at aminnovation.org.

 And thank you to Mack Avenue Music Group, our contributing sponsor for providing our podcast soundtrack Late Night Sunrise.

Rob Brodnick:

And here’s our positive turbulence moment.

Darryl Stickel:

When I think about where trust might matter most for the folks who are listening to your podcast I think trust is critical for innovation because people need to feel comfortable taking risks for innovation to actually thrive. I think trust is critical for entrepreneurial ventures where a lot of innovation takes place because you need stakeholders to be willing, to invest against an uncertain future payoff. And, people are welcome to reach out. And the website Trust Unlimited has some pieces on the blog that people can read and look at a number of topics that we’ve tackled. That’ll give them a sense of the approach that we take. And I’m always happy to answer questions or, if you guys want to do a follow-up, at some point, I would be delighted because you’re just fun to hang out with.

Rob Brodnick:

This is awesome. Yeah. We may have to come meet some of our AMI community at some point. And it’s a community that is based on trust because we share innovation across industries and sometimes across competitors, trust is critical and yeah that’s fun for sure.

Karyn Zuidinga:

If you want to share a positive turbulence moment or otherwise comment on what you’re hearing, please drop us a line at podcast@positiveturbulence.com. We welcome your thoughts.

Rob Brodnick:

Be sure to tune in next episode for our conversation with John Cimino founder of Creative Leaps and The Renaissance Center, whose concert of ideas experience transforms cultures. John has found a way to use music and art to explore the boundaries of what’s possible and to set the mind in curious motion.

Karyn Zuidinga:

You can also head over to positiveturbulence.com to find out more about us, get a transcript of this episode, get links to find out more about our guests or positive turbulence. Until next time, keep the turbulence positive.

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