Trust has been the theme of our newsletters over the past two months and it has me thinking about trust within our own company. We have a “small-but-mighty” team at McDonald Graham, and as I have reflected about the trust we have developed inside our company, I realize that it has slowly but surely changed how Lisa and I run our small business…and how we live our lives.

Four years after recruiting Susan Andrews as our Executive Assistant and a year after bringing Mandy Bassett on board as our Marketing/Project Manager, I am acutely aware that, although Lisa and I both have high needs for control over many aspects of our business, we are offloading more and more tasks to their capable hands. Why? Well, because we trust them.

Having had this realization, it seemed appropriate to do our own analysis — through the lens of Brené Brown’s BRAVING Trust acronym — to understand how we built this high level of trust. We trust Susan and Mandy because:

Boundaries: Susan and Mandy both set healthy boundaries around their availability and work time, letting us know when they will be out of pocket for family activities, medical appointments, etc. We respect (and applaud) these healthy boundaries…and this translates into them being fully present at work because they set the same boundaries for their work time.

Reliability: Plain and simple…they do what they say they will do. We don’t have to constantly follow up or check in because they keep us up to speed on the status of various tasks.

Accountability: Mistakes happen. Lisa, Susan, Mandy, and I make mistakes Every. Single. Day. Some are pretty cringe-y. But we all take ownership of them, figure out how to fix what went wrong, and focus on what we can learn from every goof-up. Humor abounds. Lots of mistakes means lots of laughter! And LOTS of learning.

Vault: Susan and Mandy are superstars at protecting private information that flows through our business. They have demonstrated, time and again, a mature and ethical approach to managing highly sensitive information.

Integrity: Susan and Mandy go above and beyond to do the right thing. If there is a learning curve on a new task they need to tackle, they set appropriate expectations and let us know how they are progressing. They don’t pretend to know if they don’t know…and they ask a lot of really good questions to make sure they are getting it right.

Non-judgment: This is where the two-way street of trust is crucial. Lisa and I try to live up to this principle of not judging when someone asks for help, makes a mistake, or drops the ball. (Remember, Mistakes = Laughing + Learning here at McDonald Graham). We are all imperfect but continuously strive to learn and get better every day.

Generosity: Knowing Mandy and Susan’s stories, knowing what their families need from them, and caring about them as human beings makes offering the most generous interpretation of their actions so much easier. I know if Susan doesn’t respond to an email right away, it is because she is busy with something else and will respond when she is able. If Mandy says we need to scrap a meticulously put-together project plan and spend time re-vamping our approach, I know it is because she has put a lot of effort and thought into it to make it more efficient and effective for our business.

My trust in our team means I don’t have to know all of the details about everything. This not only frees up my cognitive and psychological bandwidth to do more strategic thinking about the kinds of services we want to offer our clients, but it also allows me to use my time off to relax and recharge instead of dealing with endless business details. Since I am no longer drowning in a million organizational tasks, I sleep better at night and have more energy for the work that I love.

While trust within our small-but-mighty team is built on these Dare to Lead™ principles, the research shows that they work in any size organization. We know that leaders who live into these BRAVING principles can create stronger teams, spend their time engaging in higher-level tasks, and maybe even sleep better at night.

Click here to learn more about Dare to Lead™ and the workshops we offer, schedule time with one of us to discuss how we can help your organization build trust, or join us on April 21 and 22 for our next open-enrollment workshop (limited spots available).

Our mission at McDonald Graham is to create the space for people to do the difficult inner work that is necessary to become their best selves and, thus, the best leaders they can be.