Last Fall, my son and I went to Joshua Tree National Park. We were so motivated and driven to reach the top of this rock formation. We had tried one way up and had to decide to stop after making it two-thirds of the way up because the we decided together that the risk was too great. We found a new way up, but had one 5 foot jump up to an uneven area of rock above us and over a 50 foot ravine. Both he and I have made jumps like this easily, but not in this risky of a situation. We could see the top. We could taste the reward of being there, but something inside me was holding me back. As the leader, I made the decision that the risk was too great and so we had a hard discussion that we were not going to make the jump even though my son was adamant that we could make it. We didn’t do it and headed back down.
Little did I know that he held on to that situation in his heart. About a week later after we had returned home when he had broken my trust by taking the car without my approval, he brought it up in our conversation. He broke down and shouted, “Dad, you didn’t even trust me that we could make that jump!”. I was taken back. He thought that I didn’t trust his judgment and I didn’t even know it. How had I allowed that to happen? I broke down and told him that it wasn’t trust at all and that I just thought the risk was too great because I didn’t want to lose him if he slipped and fell down the ravine.
It was a hard conversation, but an amazing one all at the same time. Our relationship grew immensely through that challenge and I don’t think he or I will ever forget it. This situation really made me think about how I lead. Do I ever make my people feel like my son, like I don’t trust them and not even know it?
Stephen M.R. Covey states that we should extend trust abundantly to those who have earned your trust. That we should extend trust conditionally to those who are earning your trust and learn how to appropriately extend “Smart Trust” to others based on the situation, risk and credibility of the people involved. He states that we should not withhold trust just because there is risk involved. So the question is, how do you make your people feel? Do you extend trust to them (your people, your peers, your wife, your family, etc.)? Seriously reflect on this and then watch this short video.