Hey you high performer of low trust!
The Infinite Game
Let me tell you something about my journey.
Year 2019 to me started with our team establishing our own company at Proakatemia. I had the honor of being our very first business leader. I was excited as well as scared. It was a whole new situation for me. Suddenly I had meetings to organise and situations to handle. It was a lot but it felt quite good. I have always liked new challenges and I felt like the role was natural for me. Anyway, the spring flew by and I went through a lot of pain. As it turned out, leading a team of 19 people wasn’t that simple after all. I worked a lot. I worked hard. Or so it seemed to me at least. I was more and more disappointed as days went by and on the last day of May, I was feeling like I had given my everything to our team. I was tired and felt like I hadn’t got anything back. At the time all I graved for was a little gratitude and honor from my team members. Most of the pain during the spring had came from these cravings. From the things that I felt like I deserved but didn’t get.
My time as a business leader was over and I started my summer feeling like I had fallen short. No wonder! To my mind I did my all and got nothing in return. I was kind of mad. I didn’t think that I’m perfect, but I felt like nobody in our team saw the good in me. I felt like I was criticised over every little thing. I wanted to yell ”Haven’t I done anything good for you?” I was clearly trapped in feeling like nothing. I started to see myself as a bad person who knows nothing and does nothing right. Still I was in between two feelings; ”they are right, maybe I have done nothing right” & ”what the hell, why can’t they see, that we wouldn’t be here without me”. I had no balance because of these mixed signals that my head was feeding me with.
Then it hit me. I had went straight back to my childhood. All of my thoughts were there because of the problems of the past. I had definitely performed very highly in our team, there’s no denying that. And I realise now; nobody WAS denying that fact. I actually did get also a lot of good feedback. Most of my team members probably thought that I have done so much for our team. They may have even said so. I clearly just didn’t hear it! I was too busy feeling like I wasn’t appreciated enough. I was busy wondering, why I wasn’t rewarded enough.
When the summer came and I had more than enough time to reflect my past, I realised that I was never thanked enough. In school yes, but as a kid I never felt appreciated. I had no idea how much that was effecting me that spring. I didn’t want to admit that the problem might be in me. I have always performed well in life, and I’m still seeing myself as a nobody. That’s completely on me. Nobody can take my own thoughts away. Nobody in our team could have done anything more. They tried to make me see the good, but I wasn’t coachable enough that spring. I had to see it for myself first.
That was the turning point. I started to understand myself more and let people tell me the truth. I understood that performing well isn’t THE THING. I was good at it, but it does not matter to people. Even if I’m the most effective person on the planet, people rather would like to see my vulnerability. I saw myself giving my all and others had just seen a robot. That got me thinking. Maybe I went blind because of my past. I thought perfection was what I had to do to receive all the appreciation. That’s how I had survived at home, I realised. There was also another problem; because of that, I did everything just for the respect. I didn’t see it; I thought I was being good for others, but actually I didn’t get all the honor, cause I was doing it all for myself. People can tell the difference. They want to feel, that you are truly selfless before they respect you for your actions.
So there were two big problems;
1. I didn’t hear all the ”thank yous”, I got
2. I had got it all wrong, how earning gratitude even happens.
Looking into my past and admitting those issues did really good. I relaxed, I did what I had to do and started learning from my mistakes. It made me want to grow and be better for everyone; myself and our team. But at the time, I was the only one aware of my goals. I did a lot of thinking back and forth. I knew that if I really want to change, I have to tell someone. Then I can be sure that if things go back to the way they were, someone notices and can remind me of my goals. So when the first cabin in the woods came that autumn, I told my team. I told how much I had learned from the spring and that I have big hopes for the future.
Being vulnerable changed everything. I learned to trust more and I feel like I have gotten so much more trust on my side after that. Since then I have wanted to help because of helping. Not because I want to hear myself being praised.
For a long time I’ve also wanted to write about these experiences. I’ve wanted to write for people who might be going through similar things. By writing, I don’t only teach others but I also make these learning experiences more real for myself. It has got me reading and searching for explanations. I have done enough reflecting on my own. Now what I really want to do, is help others. So if you recognise yourself from my stories, this really is for you. I believe that there are a lot of people like me and you in business world. People, who have trust issues. Our place is hard, I know. But I do have found something that makes it easier to understand team members of all kind, also us.
Trying to learn more about myself, I pumped into Simon Sinek ’s theory about Performance vs. Trust, which is a part of a chapter called ”trusting teams” in his book ”The Infinite Game”. According to Sinek everyone has different level of both performance and trust in a team. The ideal situation is that you perform well and you have high trust. Where I found myself as I read about this theory, was in the top left corner. I realised that the whole spring I had been this highly performing team member who doesn’t trust at all. Almost every issue I had was based on this weird but so important thing; trust.
I didn’t trust that people wanted good for me that spring. I didn’t trust that I was going to get the gratitude, that I so much thought I deserve. But I expected the worst myself. I didn’t even believe that I would get it. I made assumptions and lived by them. Thoughts have a huge power. I was living in my head and that stopped me from seeing what others actually thought of me and how much they appreciated my work. It is typical for a high performer of low trust, to be quick to blame others (Sinek, 2019). That’s what I did a lot. Blamed others for my own uncertainty.
Sinek also says that if you don’t trust, you easily become a toxic team member. It felt really bad to read this, but afterwards I understood what it means. I put myself first that spring cause I was doing all to only get respect from others and advance personally. Doing it for myself and then blaming others for not giving me credit, made me look really selfish and especially didn’t make us a stronger team. I see it now. It didn’t matter, how much I worked. I was concentrating on the wrong things. According to Sinek performance is about technical competence. I was doing well at that line. I was just missing the humility part. I forgot to be there for my team mates.
I have now learned that my team trusted my ”technical skills” but they didn’t see me so much as a trustworthy person. It’s the difference between physical safety and psychological safety (Sinek, 2019). The last one is really trending at the moment. That spring I still had this mindset, that our team is as good as its individuals. I thought that if I’m really great (performance wise), we could be better as a team. But that was the issue. I was concentrating on being the best myself and searching for that respect. But how about others? I clearly didn’t trust that they would perform well. It made it hard for them to thrive (Sinek, 2019). It also made it hard for them to give appreciation for me. That’s why my actions were so toxic, even though I pushed our team forward at the same time. Things just were not in the right order. If I can’t trust my team members how can I ask them to trust me. How can I ask them to see good in me, if I cannot seem to see anything good in them (or myself). All that was just me having hard time to trust anyone.
You don’t manage with technical skills anymore. You should not think you deserve appreciation, if you haven’t been good to people. PEOPLE indeed. Learning to trust is hard but it has to be done. Work is in change. World is in change. Those places where you get hired or promoted only for great performance (= you might be even a dickhead) are getting lost (Sinek, 2019). More and more people know that highest performance actually comes from trust. If you are like I used to be, performing well but not trusting at all, you are not gonna be in those teams, who perform the highest. It was hard to realise for me too. I know it hurts. But the truth is, even The Navy SEALS value trust higher than performance.
As I earlier said, our part is challenging. Usually getting feedback from the things above bring up defences. For me it took a long time to get down and admit things. The whole summer almost. Good thing is, that I still started to repair the lost trust instead of taking down my performance. That’s also common for people with low trust. (Sinek, 2019). So if you realise these things now, just know that you are allowed to take time! It is just so important to understand why things went how they went and how your actions actually affected everyone around you. For me this text is kind of my way of showing how much I’ve learned personal accountability. And also getting to hopefully help others. What I recommend is that you write about your experiences. Even if it happens almost a year after. It’s never too late.
So you high performer of low trust! Hi! You have a issue, that is not your fault. Don’t blame yourself, it really doesn’t help. Clarify things, look into your past and admit stuff. Show your vulnerability. That is the first step of trusting people. Talk to them and let them know you realise you are not perfect. You will earn the trust, the appreciation, the gratitude and all you grave for when you start showing those things yourself first. You get what you give. Trust goes both ways.
Thank you for reading this!
- Sinek, S. 2019. The Infinate Game. USA: Portfolio/Penguin. Luettu 20.2.2020. Viitattu 24.2.2020