Trust is, in my view, my belief that you have my best interest at heart. My clients often say to me “I trust you.” I’m pleased about that, certainly, but not only because this has a positive feel. Also, it tells me that they believe that I am focused on their objectives and will act to help them achieve those and avoid barriers to their success.

It is particularly helpful to think this way because it is more observable than most think. If I pay attention to what you do and look for patterns of relevant behavior, I can discern if you and I are in pursuit of a common goal or goals. If we are, then our discussions are about how to achieve them and we can tolerate different views about that. If we are in pursuit of different goals and are direct in communicating that, then we have to stay on that topic until we either get on the same page or agree to part ways.

The absolute worst case scenario is when we think or believe we are on the same page about objectives (yes, I know I switched from goals to objectives which will drive the rigid amongst us crazy) or when one or multiple parties are dishonest about the objectives. This is the land of passive-aggressive behavior (wherein one agrees overtly but undermines subtly) or the openly aggressive (chronic arguers, those who take up the mantle of ‘devils advocate’ ad nauseum) who prevent agreement for their own misguided entertainment.

The shortest route to success is to find people capable of agreeing on goals and/or objectives and work with them. Eschew the chronically disagreeable and get them out of your organization or if you cannot (volunteer organizations, for example) do not place them in leadership roles. Once you have people who can discuss “what” and tolerate various “hows” you have a chance for great success and strong relationships.

Such is the relationship I have developed with the man who is currently the President of the Board of Trustees at my church. I am the President-Elect, well, for another few weeks anyway. I have worked closely with him for the past year and here is what I learned:

1. I was right to like him. He is thoughtful, smart and honorable. He is acting in the best interests of our congregation.

2. He is tolerant. The source of this is twofold (at least). One is he has a personal ethic of tolerance, which is part of his faith. The second is that he is intentional about tolerance. His behavior is guided by an ethic of tolerance and he never veers far from this course.

3. His focus on the goals is so reliable that it is easy for him to entertain various points of view without reacting. He can listen with a genuineness that is rare.

4. My relationship with him stands as a significant example of one that works precisely because we trust each other to be working toward common goals. We do not think alike all the time. We do not approach issues the same way at all. Yet our work has been rewarding, productive and fulfilling because we have trust and with good reason.

This relationship didn’t happen because we are working in the context of a religious organization. It happened because we share common goals and and built a relationship that we needed to work together. It’s simple, not easy (well, he made it pretty easy), and priceless.

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