Thursday, September 25, 2014

Trust As A Way Forward

by Pia Infante

The Context

Recently, we hosted a salon on The Role of Trust in Our Work – attended by a mixed group of funder friends, grantees, capacity builders, and consultants.  The prompt sparked our thinking about how to design relationships, collaboration and convening that intentionally scaffold trust building.  We all agreed that powerful social good impact cannot happen without trust, and often we get to new solutions and effective collaboration towards community and policy change at “the speed of trust.”

The conversation brought forth a number of different forms and paces of trust that I found compelling.  Here is a brief (incomplete) list for types of trust building that could be of use in our collective practice:

Types of Trust Building
(A Small Compendium)

Cumulative Trust: At TWI, we’ve often used the phrase “time over time” to acknowledge that building trust in relationships (at the individual or group level) is accrued by demonstrations of reliability (and vulnerability/intimacy) over time.  This trust is evidence and relationship- based – a person or group consistently demonstrates that they will do what they said they would do and that they can be counted on — and do so in a way that encourages relationship and interdependence. 

Accelerated Trust:  Others spoke to human centered process design to accelerate trust building, particularly when there is pressing common purpose.  Some of these include peer-to-peer sharing about the value of the group, creating opportunities for vulnerability and mutual support, and encouraging people to show up fully in their purpose, strength, and vulnerability.  Actually, when these types of accelerated processes are reinforced over time, the power of relationship builds – and so cumulative trust grows even stronger.

Assumed Trust:  We talked about this type of trust as the human yelp function – that often we immediately trust those whom our trusted partners and advisors trust.  This is not a new concept – businesses are built on referral and many tech platforms integrate ways to see who and what our friends trust to leverage possibilities for opportunity and connection in our wider social networks.  It is powerful when investors take this trust stance, and shoulder the work of vetting for fit (with a leader or group) themselves.

Implicit (“Burst-y”) Trust:  We talked, too, about the physiology of trust – many of us assess within seconds whether or not a new person or organization is trustworthy.  This type of immediate, or “burst-y” trust, we realized, can also be attributed to our inherently tribal nature.  We trust those who look and smell like us.  We trust those who exhibit signs that they share our frameworks and worldview.  This immediate instinctual affinity creates little "bursts" of excitement, empathy, love-at-first-sightedness that is literally heart warming! We realized that this trust can build in implicit bias, so needs to be questioned, but is a very human way to behave. We might also use the label “Intuitive Trust” for this one, to name the role that intuition can play in guiding our investments of time, talent, and resource. 

Cross Institutional Trust:  One reflection on our conversation was that we were often discussing trust between individuals, when there is a great need to build trust across institutions.  For instance, in philanthropy, greater trust between institutions could lead to both more streamlined grant-making and greater social, political and economic impact.  Trust between institutions also enables the organizations to maintain their relationship when key individuals or leaders leave the organization, which is a promising way to ensure that institutional wisdom and influence does not have to be lost when key staff transition out.

Trust As A Way Forward 

“Humans are basically trustworthy.”  When this sentiment was expressed, the group sighed a collective sigh.  It seemed so incredibly true.  Except when it doesn’t – like when public servants demonstrate they cannot be trusted or accountable to the public good.  I won’t dive into grappling the simplicity vs. complexity of this premise, but invite you respond to this or anything else in this post that strikes you.

What does feel true to me in this moment is this - explicitly naming that trust plays a vital role in advancing equity in our community, advocacy, and philanthropic initiatives is rare and important. 

Our hope is that TWI can be louder and braver in naming the role that trust and relationships of equity play in moving social, political, and economic dials towards a brighter, better world for all (not just some) of us.

Friday, September 12, 2014

In Between: 3 Tips to Transition from One Leadership Role to the Next

By Pia Infante 

At the end of May, I took time off between my previous job at Rockwood directing transformational capacity building work and a new role as Co-Executive Director of The Whitman Institute (TWI).  I was leaving a beloved and highly time intensive non-profit role for a new one that held the exciting promise of intentional co-leadership and experimentation in philanthropy.

A of couple of months post transition, I reflect back on the “in between” period with some levity, and clarity.  

Well before I started at TWI, I recall telling myself, and others: “I haven’t started yet, let me get back to you after I’ve started!” I was demonstrating a phenomenon I've witnessed often - shortchanging a complete ending by jumping into the new.  For me, this was probably to avoid "feeling" the end of a period so vital, and transitioning so many cherished relationships and roles.

There are a handful of “do-overs” that I’d prioritize if I could beam myself back in time a few months:

                     Gala for One

During the last few weeks at Rockwood, it was not always easy to take in the verbal and written expressions of gratitude, impact, and connection that were coming my way.  I was overwhelmed not only by the love but also by my own immense gratitude for the work itself.  BCORR (a Rockwood program for Building Capacity for Organizational Resilience and Renewal) stands out as a true love of my life.  I was honored to have supported nationally recognized social movement leaders and organizations – to be a part of the interlocking forces moving our nation towards equity and justice. 

One clear do over is that I would throw myself a Gala for One – just me actually sitting with the feelings and the feedback, with my own sense of what I learned and accomplished in those three and half years, and looking at the path my work ultimately took.  I would dress up, light up a room, and slowly take in (over the course of an evening and a bottle of wine) what it all meant to me – and who I had become because of what I had shared with so many.

Log Out Before Logging Back In

I thought five weeks between positions was enough time off the grid, even spacious.  I was wrong.  It took me a week or two to truly clock out of Rockwood.  It wasn’t that I had work to complete that stretched over into my break, but being in the rhythm and flow and culture of an organizational system for three and half years is a physiological and emotional vortex.  Even though my body was no longer on 17th Street, a part of my consciousness still was.

Another do over is that I would take at least eight weeks off, and create enough space to allow my body to acclimate to a pace where my days would unfold rather than be dictated by an Outlook calendar. 

              The Ocean of Notions Does Not Require an iPhone

I steal that phrase from Salmon Rushdie’s book Haroun and the Sea of Stories, one of my all-time favorite books – Haroun was my Harry Potter before Harry Potter.  In it, there is an Ocean of Notions (also called the Sea of Stories) that feeds the collective human imagination.  My imagination was already ready to work, but it also needed some renewal and inspiration.  Not only did I read fiction during my time off, I also spent time on the seashore.  It’s a simple act, but one that I repeated a dozen times.  I walked and waded and swam in the water, mindless and wandering.  It was the one true treat of my break that my senses could feast on the ocean and be renewed by the vastness of the natural world around me. 

I even enjoyed a few days without technology.  If I could do it over again, I would commit to two full weeks away from technology.  No iPhone, iPad, or laptop.  No brainer, I know now.