The Trust Battery
I was introduced earlier this year to the concept of the Trust Battery and it has rapidly become one of the metaphors that I rely on regularly. I learned about it from Tobi Lutke, the founder/CEO of Shopify, who has talked about it on multiple podcasts and interviews as one of the key frameworks that they use at Shopify.
Here's the Molly version:
Trust is one of the currencies in the barter economy of work. It is exchanged every time we interact with someone. Do I trust this person to execute this project? Do I trust this person to lead this initiative? Do I trust this person to have my back? Each interaction — a meeting, a project, sometimes a Slack message or an email — either adds or detracts from our trust of that person.
The concept of the Trust Battery adds nuance to how you think about the relationship between two people. It takes “Do I trust this person?” from a yes/no answer to a gradient — “My battery is at 25% with this person. What could they do to get it to 75%?”
Here two things this metaphor has really clarified for me:
Types of Leaders: After sitting with the Trust Battery metaphor for a couple months, I realized that there are basically two types of leaders when it comes to trust. Either the leader's battery starts at 0% or it starts at 100%. If it starts at 0%, you are fighting a battle to make that leader believe they can trust you. If it starts at 100%, your actions can cause you to lose their trust, but you generally get the benefit of the doubt. When you get a new manager, wouldn’t it would be extremely helpful to know what kind of trust person they are?? We always assume that everyone is like us, so if you are a “the battery starts at 100%” type person, it can be pretty jarring to work for a “the battery starts at 0%” person. I’ve met leaders that write those “how to work with me” guides; I now believe every guide needs a section on how their Trust Battery works. It should include (a) where your battery starts and (b) what significant things people can do to earn or lose your trust.
New Hires: For years, my advice to new hires has been “Find something to execute the crap out of in the first 60 days that will make people trust you.” Tobi’s concept of a Trust Battery makes that even more clear. At Shopify, they believe that when you join, your Trust Battery is at 50%, meaning people want to give you the benefit of the doubt. So, your mission as a new hire is simple: to figure out how to charge it much closer to 100%. So clear. The question becomes: what does it take to gain trust in the organization you just joined?
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