YOU Are The Change You Are Waiting For

YOU Are The Change You Are Waiting For 1080 565 Jason Lauritsen

I’m not sure how or why it happened. I’ve always had a high capacity for trusting other people, often before I have any idea if they are trustworthy. I can probably credit my parents and grandparents for that, plus a bit of luck early in my life. 

But regardless of how it happened, it happened. 

And here’s the interesting part, most of the people in my life have proven to be pretty trustworthy. This has been true of my friends, business partners, significant others, and colleagues. 

As I look back on some key moments in my life, I put trust in others even when it may not have been wise to do so.  

  • When my starter marriage fell apart, we only had one lawyer to represent us both. I never even appeared in court. And it worked out just fine. 
  • When one of my early business partners and I arrived at an impasse where we had to part ways, I trusted him to be fair with me on my exit even when he held all of the negotiating power. He was. 
  • When a former boss and I arrived at a point where it was obvious that it was time for me to go, I trusted that she would do the right thing to ensure I could care for my family as I figured out what was next. And even though things had gotten really tense between us, she came through.

These stories are all about the end of a relationship when trusting the other person can be really difficult. But it seems to have paid off in my experience more times than not. 

But that’s not the only time it’s happened. 

I’ve been vulnerable with people I wasn’t sure I could trust and have rarely been burned. I’ve extended my heart and emotions in relationships without any guarantee they’d be returned. Even when they weren’t, the other person was generally pretty decent about it.  

Sure, I’ve been burned a few times. But, those feel like rare exceptions when I look at the sum of my experiences with other people.

Am I just lucky? Maybe.

Is all of this just a result of my privilege? I’m sure that’s part of it too. 

But I think there’s more going on here.

It’s not just about Trust 

While being more trusting seems to have resulted in people being more trustworthy throughout my life, this power of expectation has shown up in many other ways. 

When I tried to make sense of this in my younger years, I would often say, “You teach people how to treat you.” 

It was my way of describing my experience that what you expect of others has a significant impact on how they show up with you. 

This wasn’t just in my imagination. I’ve written about the Pygmalion effect before. Our expectations of others actually can have a profound impact on their behavior, particularly if we are their manager.  

So it’s likely true that my positive (and perhaps naïve) expectations that others would be trustworthy, reliable, or helpful has had some effect on how those interactions have gone. 

But I have come to realize that there’s another force at work as well. 

Karma

When Joe and I wrote Social Gravity, one of the six laws of social gravity we wrote about was “Use karma to your advantage.” 

We invoked the word “karma” with our very western understanding of it. To us, it simply meant that what you put out into the world will return to you. 

Karma was a simple way to help people understand the awesome power of reciprocity in human relationships. 

Reciprocity describes our strong desire to repay a favor or return kindness to others. This is often described as a social norm, but it’s so common across cultures and through history that it’s thought to be a core part of how we are wired to intereact with each other as humans. 

We like to keep our relationships with others in balance. When you do something helpful or give me a gift, you make a positive investment in our relationship. This creates an imbalance that I am keen to rectify by repaying you in some way. 

You can probably think of a bunch of examples of this in your own experience. 

That time when someone unexpectedly picked up the bill for lunch, or the two friends who showed up to help you move, or that coworker who recommended you for a promotion.  

You remember these experiences because those people now have a credit or two built up in your relationship that you’d like to repay. You want to restore the balance.

Reciprocity has certainly played a big role in my experience of people throughout my life. Because I gave away trust first, it was repaid to me. And because I was taught to be helpful, that help has also come my way.  

Reciprocity is powerful and universal. It’s something you should use as a leader with great intention.  

The Moral of this Story

As a manager, when you consider how to shape or encourage a particular kind of behavior on your team, remember these two incredibly powerful mantras.

1. Use your expectations wisely.

People will live up to OR down to your expectations of them. 

2. You go first.

Harness the power of reciprocity by investing in your team the exact things you hope they will return to you (and others). Be the change you want to see in your team. 

It is a harsh reality that most of the things that challenge us about the people we manage are born from our own expectations of and attitudes about those same people. 

Change yourself first, your team will follow. 

 

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