Building Trust for Collaboration

This blog was originally published by Tamarack Institute.

“Do you trust me?” Jack asks Rose in the movie, Titanic.  Jack is holding Rose by the waist so she can lean over the bow of a massive ship to experience what it might feel like to fly. Had Rose replied “No,” or had Jack been untrustworthy, the movie would’ve ended there. Luckily, there was trust, and so we all experienced something beautiful.

If, as Stephen Covey said, “Progress moves at the speed of trust” – the practice of developing and fostering trust is essential to any complex endeavor.

I recently facilitated a discussion with child care providers who asked, “How can we build trust with kindergarten teachers?”  Too often, trust between child care providers and kindergarten teachers breaks down. “All you care about are the ABCs,” a child care provider might say. “All you do is babysit,” a kindergarten teacher may respond. Who suffers most in this exchange? The child, of course, who is both heart and mind, and in need of loving, competent adults to guide their path to adulthood.

It was awesome that the child care community asked themselves this question, and framed it to include their role in building trust. During the discussion, several good points were made.

  • “It doesn’t take long, but it does take time to build trust.” I overheard a woman say this as her colleagues nodded. This is key, I thought: building trust does take time (a phone call, a coffee date, doing what you say and honoring others’ perspectives), but it doesn’t have to take a long time. Check out my recent blog on how to use the 100 Cups of Coffee exercise to begin to build trust.
  • “We must go slow to go fast” I first heard this from seasoned community organizer Linda Stout, and it’s so true. Building trust, discovering a compelling vision, lining up shared expectations – this can and must take time to do. Once the foundation is established, magic can happen – new organizational alignments, programmatic leverages and grant opportunities begin to emerge. Because there’s trust.
  • “It seems to me it all comes down to communication” observed another child care provider. He was commenting on what he heard through several rounds of discussion (we were using a World Café-style of conversation). People were identifying ways to build trust with kindergarten teachers, including inviting them to child care centers, asking what “kindergarten readiness” means from their perspective, and encouraging parents to invite the child care provider to kindergarten transition meetings.

There is a saying that is attributed to the Buddha: “A mature relationship is one of compassion and forgiveness.” We can start more rapidly down the path of a more collaborative world if we are willing to begin the work of building trust. Seeing the role we each play is a critical first step.



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