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Trust is ephemeral. Hard to describe, harder to quantify.

It is also not easy to talk about. And yet, every relationship – professional and personal – is enhanced when trust becomes an elemental force in that relationship.

Enter Tobi Luetke, the CEO of Shopify, an e-commerce software company. I was inspired by Tobi’s conversation with Adam Bryant, the NY Times columnist who pens the wonderfully practical Corner Office column in the Times’ Sunday Business Section. At Shopify, they talk about trust.

We talk a lot about something called a ‘trust battery,’ Tobi explains. It’s charged at 50% when people are first hired. And then every time you work with someone at the company, the trust battery between the two of you is either charged or discharged, based on things like whether you deliver on what you promise. (NY Times, 4/24/2016)

And at Shopify, the notion of charging the trust battery is an integral part of the work culture. We decided to create a metaphor, Tobi elaborates, so that we can talk about this in performance reviews without people feeling like the criticisms are personal.

Marvelous.

A metaphor awash with brilliant allusions. A battery becomes depleted and needs to be charged. Most of us desire a long battery life. It behooves us to notice when a battery isn’t charged. If we don’t notice, trouble ensues.

Clear, right? Trust is not a fixed, static entity. There is no neutral, no holding pattern when it comes to trust. Our actions either charge or deplete the battery. Desire more success? Start to view yourself as a trust charger.

I have no easy tip list here. No 5 quick things that will charge the battery. Each relationship is different, after all. I suggest you begin with a little reflection, instead.

  • How am I charging the trust battery in my life right now? How would I fare in the annual Shopify Trust-Battery-Review?
  • What are 3 everyday behaviors I already engage in that charge the battery? Tip: Do them more often, with more people.
  • What are 3 behaviors I engage in that tend to deplete the battery? Tip: Stop them at once.

Have fun with the trust-battery-metaphor. Yes, trust is ephemeral, but it is fueled by our simple everyday behaviors. Conduct your own trust-performance-reviews. Don’t conduct them merely once a year, conduct them often. Make them an integral part of how you “do relationships.” You will be amazed at just how quickly the battery gets charged.