I came across the ‘trust battery’ metaphor recently when reading ‘It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work’ by Basecamp co-founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. The metaphor was apparently coined by Tobi Lütke, founder and CEO at Shopify. While I don’t agree with everything I’ve seen Tobi speak about in the past, I do really like this as a concept. As it’s been on my mind a bit recently, I thought I’d put a quick post together about it.
The basic idea is that your trust battery is pre-charged at 50% when you’re first hired or start working with someone for the first time. Every interaction you have with your colleagues from that point on then either charges, discharges, or maintains the battery - and as a result, affects how much you enjoy working with them and trust them to do a good job.
The things that influence your trust battery charge vary wildly - whether the other person has done what they said they’ll do, how well you get on with that person, whether your opinions of that person are biased by others you have a high-trust relationship with, and lots more.
Low charged trust batteries usually mean everything is more difficult - decisions can take longer to make, it takes longer to get things done, and performance in general drops. Low trust leads to poorer quality work, fatigue, and in some cases, conflict. In contrast, trust batteries that are well charged usually help teams and individuals deliver higher quality work more quickly and more collaboratively. Performance improves, people are generally happier and they’re left feeling more energised when working with others who have a mutually well charged trust battery.
Sticking with the battery metaphor - if you charge your phone battery little and often, it’s going to remain well charged. Leave it for a while, and it starts to drain. Eventually, it completely runs out. Our trust batteries are exactly the same.
I think the pandemic has changed the way that many of us keep our trust batteries healthily charged with others. Those walks away from the office to grab a coffee with a colleague, small talk waiting for a meeting room, or planning to have something to eat after work have either disappeared or been replaced by a poor imitation of what existed before.
I’m certainly missing the opportunity to have those small-but-regular interactions that go towards building and maintaining trust with my colleagues. I only came across the concept of the trust battery a couple of weeks ago, but just being aware of it has started to change some of my behaviours - and I feel much better for it.
I’ve reconnected with some people I’ve had high trust at work with in the past but maybe don’t get the opportunity to work or talk to as often anymore. The batteries are slowly being charged up again. It’s only taken a quick chat on Slack or a 10-15 minute virtual coffee, but it’s been great to reconnect and maintain those relationships we’ve built over time - knowing it’ll be important for us in the future when we work together again.
It’s also helped me look at the relationships I have with people that I work with regularly now and that I speak to every week - are our trust batteries as highly charged as we’d like them to be? What are we missing that could help charge them up or maintain them? Do we know and trust each other as much as we think we do? How can we work together to improve or maintain things?
Have a think about the people you work with - are your trust batteries depleted? What can you do in the next few weeks to charge them up?
Hopefully the trust battery metaphor will help you as much as it has helped me 🔋🤞