It all starts with trusting yourself

trust 3

When I started out on this class project, I really wasn’t sure where I was going. Having worked in community management for over five years, I knew trust was a significant part of the equation for employee participation, but I didn’t really have much external reinforcement to back up the anecdotal evidence I was seeing. I was very curious to see what I’d find when I went looking. And thankfully I took my instructor’s excellent advice to heart. I didn’t necessarily rely on only scholarly texts, but took inspiration from many places. For this post, I’m pulling from many very disparate sources, and I think perhaps viewing them from different perspectives than the authors. As we’ve all heard repeated, you often see what you are looking for.

Oddly, the first time the idea of trusting yourself really struck home with me in the context of this blog post series was during a sermon at my church. It was about having the strength to face very difficult circumstances, and trusting that you won’t be given a task so difficult that you can’t overcome it. The latter bit is so very important – if you don’t believe in yourself, trust that you can do it, you are already defeated. That was where the pastor’s first story started – with a woman who was so overwhelmed that she no longer believed in herself, instead choosing to take her own life. The story ended at the cemetery, with a picture of her children looking skyward, afraid to face their future. If we go back to my original definition of trust as a lack of fear, what I see here is a struggle with trust in oneself. Those poor kids had seen that mom wasn’t up to the task, and this might logically make them lose faith in themselves – trust themselves a little less.

I had also reached out to John Stepper, who I knew was close to publishing his book on Working Out Loud. I had no idea if it contained anything about trust, and to be honest, when I talked to him he said he didn’t think he reference it directly. None the less, he was happy to give me a pre-release version if I thought it would help. I love John’s work, so I dug right in. And I was far from disappointed! He tells a story in Part 1 – For a Better Career and Life about a woman, Mara Tolja, who was in a job she hated. Seemingly by accident, she found something that spoke to her by using the her corporate collaboration system. By focusing on that, and working hard in to also help others in that arena, she ended up carving out a niche and creating a job for herself that she loved. Again, to me this spoke of trusting in herself. Mara didn’t walk away from the challenge when she felt inexpert. In her words,

“I didn’t feel like an expert. Who am I to speak to these people? But when I talked to
more people, I realized I knew more than I gave myself credit for.”

So she trusted in herself, speaking at major conferences all over the world, including some for her firm, and now has opened up a whole host of new opportunities that would otherwise have eluded her.

Beyond this specific example, the people who John has coached trusted in themselves enough to start his coaching program. In a similar way, entrepreneurs exhibit significant belief in themselves. Thinking about all of this, I then went looking for quotes on self trust, and so many great authors and thinkers have spoken eloquently on the topic. For example, Norman Vincent Peale says,

“What the mind can conceive and believe, and the heart desire, you can achieve.”

and Jane Austen,

“We all have a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”

and Unarine Ramaru,

“If you seek happiness through someone else’s perspective, you might as well get comfortable with sorrow.”

Finally, in my program at Northwestern, Christina Pedulla’s graduate capstone (as referenced in the Jive Community), says:

“the most cited reason for sharing knowledge was to help others….”

While she states that personality traits don’t influence sharing behavior, this reasoning still presupposes that one trusts in ones own knowledge enough to feel sharing it would be helpful to others.

Unfortunately, I’m not really sure where all of this leaves me in terms of my originally stated goal of creating a roadmap to help people feel comfortable contributing to a corporate social network. It is helpful to understand that trust to participate begins with trusting oneself, but how do you go about helping others to develop trust in themselves? The only thing that comes to mind is to model it as best you can yourself, and to reinforce it when you see others exhibiting it; to appreciate the gift you’ve been given, both in the form of the knowledge as well as the act itself.

I guess as with so many things in life, I’ve ended up with more questions than answers. But I’ve uncovered some great wisdom in my pursuit, and hope that having shared that will help me trust myself a little more.


  1. Jeff Merrell · May 27, 2015

    I’ve learned a few things while reading your journey down the back roads of trust. This last post gets at one of the key ones: How do you get people to trust in themselves?

    I’m adding this to the list of great questions you also posed in your previous post: . You cover trust in leadership and in the community/network at large in those questions. Love those questions – and it resonates with some themes that have emerged from other discussions I’ve been part of, with other ESN thought leaders. For leaders: It’s not that they need to learn how to trust their employees, it’s what have they done to earn their employee’s trust? For the community/network: Is the culture of the community (you get at this) one that values the trust it creates among its members? Meaning: You do appreciate everyone’s contributions, you don’t use other people’s stuff for personal gain, etc.

    This last one about getting people to trust themselves I also find really important. For different roles – community manager, organizational leader, instructor – a related question is: Once you get people to actually trust themselves – to take that leap and post something and make some contribution – how do you not screw up that important moment?

    That’s a really tough one, especially at scale. You and I have both seen those moments. People in class finally cross that line and share something. It’s big for them. How do we not screw it up, by letting it just linger there unrecognized? It may be one of our best chances to model what a trusting, safe, learning environment looks like, and to convert a former non-believer.

    I know I personally struggle with that one a lot. Somehow the right path seems to be one you pointed out earlier – that community management is a lot about culture building. With a large community or network, maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is: Have I helped foster a culture where someone, somewhere in the community will recognize those big moments when a new contributor finally trusts themselves – and responds with appreciation?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. tracymmaurer · May 27, 2015

    At scale – that’s the real key, isn’t it?! When the community is new, and not that many people are posting yet, it is easy to watch and like and reply and provide that important personal touch. I remember a time when I could recognize when there was a post from someone new; being able to say off the top of my head who the top contributors were. But that all goes away at some point, and perhaps that is where a lot of communities falter, and sometimes fail.

    Putting this in context with what a group of us in The Community Roundtable were just discussing, perhaps one of the keys is to convince lurkers of the value in indicating their appreciation of the content they read and use. Comments are great, but even a few stray likes can make all the difference to someone. And without that feedback, the quantity and quality of posts can easily decline due to people perceiving a lack of interest in their contributions. Yes, it is also important for management and others to do this. But the percentage of community members who consume content is so much larger that they could have a greater overall impact.

    Thanks so much for the thoughtful response! It helps to get sent down paths that I might not have otherwise found.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s