The Three Tenets of Trust

“Watching Tom manage, it seemed to me that he applied a simple three-step algorithm to every problem: 1. Who owns the problem? 2. Do I trust them? 3. How do I find an owner I trust? If you can’t find an owner, that’s the problem right there. Skip to step 3.”
— Dave Hitz, How to Castrate a Bull, p. 108
This essay was originally published as the introduction to Good Work—Edition Nº 33 on Holloway.com.
Soundtrack:
Furr by Blitzen Trapper

When I sat down to write this week’s Good Work, I stumbled on a note I’d taken of something executive coach Khalid Halim told me in July of 2016: “Trust is made up of three things: sincerity, reliability, and competence. And trust crumbles at anything less than having all three.”

Over the next year, as we founded Holloway, Josh and I spoke about these three tenets of trust at length. They became the foundation for how we think about Holloway’s brand. It’s not enough to be competent explainers of gnarly professional challenges. Our readers need to be able to depend on what we produce and share, and they need to be able to feel the sincerity of our commitment to helping the internet grow up into a place that isn’t just word hucksters shilling for clicks.

When we feel like the people we work with are driving us nuts, cracked and crumbling trust tends to be the culprit. Whether we’re blaming others, blaming ourselves (yes, mistrust works that way, too), or plain frustrated because we don’t understand what we’re frustrated at, it can help to step back and ask ourselves whether we’re dealing with a sincerity, reliability, or competence issue.

The last thing I’ll add is that trust should not be treated as a binary undertaking. If you force yourself to choose between 100% trust and 0% trust, you’re likely to find yourself living in a terrifying interpersonal dark forest. A much more pleasant approach to trust is Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke’s “trust battery,” allowing you to to think of trust as a spectrum of charge and discharge.

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