How To Build Trust - Demonstrate Humility, Go First, Check Motives

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No one is distracted when Coach Boone, played by Denzel Washington, gives a speech to his muddy, panting football team.

Everyone is engaged. Everyone is focused.

With fog and the headstones of Gettysburg soldiers behind him, Coach Boone draws a parallel between that war and the internal fighting of the Titans.

He says, “If we don’t come together, right now on this hallowed ground, we will destroy each other.  I don’t care if you like each other, but you will respect each other.”

It’s a powerful moment. Follow me on this, though. What if this was the opening scene of the movie? It would make zero sense to us, the viewers. Either we’re missing the backstory, someone messed up in editing, or this movie is completely unrealistic. But why doesn’t it work?

There’s no trust built. If there’s no trust built, the whole thing falls apart. The movie, the realism, and the narrative all turn into garbage.

Fortunately for us and the storyline, Coach Boone leads by example. He goes first. He demonstrates what he expects from his players before holding them accountable in the pre-dawn fog of a graveyard.


As leaders, we must start with ourselves. Go first.

Specifically, nail down, as best you can, what your motives are. This might feel like it's slowing you down on the front end because it is.
If you’re reading this, you want to grow, and most likely, you love to win. And you’re ready to implement this concept yesterday if it will aid in growth and winning.


There’s a ditch on either side of these conversations ahead of you.

On one side, there’s the ditch of your selfish motives. And on the other side are your unrealistic expectations.


"Check your heart before you start" is a simple phrase that can be used repeatedly. Each conversation has an opportunity for success and failure. Being aware of the ditches is a massive advantage for you and your team.


A simple place to begin--ask yourself these few questions before introducing healthy conflict:

  • Why am I doing this healthy conflict thing, really?
  • Am I willing to release control to grow in this area?
  • How would I want to be approached (with this new concept) if it was me?
  • What if no one “leans in”, will it still have been worth it?
  • Put yourself in the others’ position--Is there a better time for doing this?
  • Am I willing to say “I’m sorry” and “I don’t know”?  


If you’re daring, have your spouse or best friend ask the questions. You should know quickly if you’re lying to yourself. The point is to expose areas that need work. Expect it to be a little messy. It’s pre-game warmups or “mental reps,” as some of my coaches have said. It seems silly, but it works.


Here’s an easy thing to post on LinkedIn and a not-so-easy thing to live out: Humility is the soil that healthy conflict takes root in. 

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