Trust Manifesto: The Secret Ingredient for Team Success

We yearn for it. To belong to communities and enterprises where Trust is the ground.

Where we get to bring our best selves to work we care deeply about.

Where we are held to our best, with love. This means that our team members care enough to speak the truth when we demonstrate behaviour that diminishes us.

Where robust and passionate debate and disagreement are not considered wrong, but required. Diversity is essential for healthy ecologies.

Where the clarity of how we are with each other is lived, with all ambiguity removed.

Where we become better humans, better teams, better stewards.

Where our shadow and the unreconciled aspects of self are owned in transparency from the beginning.

We want the connection. The experience of being seen. To feel we belong.

We want to be part of something far more significant than ourselves. A purpose that has us look up above the noise, anger, gossip, backstabbing, insecurities, greed and selfishness. Something that provides a path that brings us alive.

We want to become better as we journey—more whole. Kinder. More able to take multiple perspectives. To consider other opinions before we jump to conclusions. To grow up and not be distracted by gossip, conspiracy, untamed ego or drama. To keep the things that matter foremost in our minds and actions. To accept our mistakes and refuse to fall into blame and helpless righteousness. To observe our hypocrisy. To refuse to be a victim or to victimise.

We want to be able to express ourselves in our unique way, without harming others. To sing it or dance it.

We want an ecology where we do not have to cut off some essential part of ourselves to belong or to be connected. We do not have to pretend to be someone else or to walk on eggshells.

Where no one will leave the room when it gets emotionally hot and charged; people will stay in the conversation until the air is clean because we have gathered for something greater.

Where we are vigilant to group think – to ‘consensus disease’ that allows a team to agree to do terrible things through fear of exclusion or retribution, to not speak up and say no against the gravity of yes.

Establishing all of these things is challenging. It takes commitment, participation, agreement and integrity.

Commitment – to trust oneself completely – to be your word. Com – with/together – is the exact com that also lives in community. We can only be in community if we are committed.

Be your word. Know that you get to choose what you commit to. Only commit to what you will do, not what you think you will do. Self-deception, or lying, that you will do something when you have little commitment, is a sword that cuts self the most as it breaks Trust in others.

“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative or creation, there is one elementary truth…that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have believed would have come his way.

Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it.”

W.H. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition


Standing on the sidelines and throwing rocks and insults might feel good. These words are cheap and absent personal investment, commitment, and participation.

We have to get into the arena. This quote by Theodore Roosevelt says it best.

It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Unless someone is in the arena, their opinion, critique, or trolling will be taken with considerably less attention than the person standing beside us covered in sweat or the person who exited the arena and lived to tell the tale and be a mentor.

This also means that we must be the model, in every way, of the change we seek to make. As individual participants and as the collective enterprise.

Agreement – to give consent, assent

To agree, we must have the full context and content of what we agree to. If we do not, this is a form of coercion. We must understand. An excellent agreement is absent fancy words that cannot be understood, and it is clear, accessible, and equally understood by all parties participating in the agreement—no hidden, sneaky clauses.

By agreeing, we are stating that we know and understand what we agree on and the consequences of that agreement. There is no manipulation, threat, or collusion.

Making an agreement is a clear choice, given the person agreeing with the rights of agreement, refusal or renegotiation.

The person agreeing accepts the responsibility for that choice.

Integrity – to hold its shape, to be whole. From integer – one – to be, do, act, and live in coherence and alignment.

**Do Different Better; an appeal to integrity.

Our values, beliefs and world views are reflected in our words, actions, and behaviours, in how we cultivate relationships, enterprises and communities, and in the systems and structures that support us to do the same.

We can be seen and known for integrity when our whole being becomes a transmission.

This is a developmental path, a constant remembering and undoing of all that is not in integrity.

It also requires creating cultures of Trust

In Syntropic Enterprises a Trust Manifesto is used to create this Trust Culture.

Over the last week, I have been considering Syntropic World’s Trust Manifesto. The tool we use as an agreement and commitment threshold crossing for all those seeking active participation in a Syntropic Enterprise.

If you imagine a dart board with the bull’s eye in the centre and the concentric rings around the bull’s eye, the bull’s eye represents the most trusted relationships. Those where the people in this space have each other’s back, will not leave the room when it gets hot, and will hold themselves and others to account against all odds.

This is not a crowded space.

A metaphor for this might be a foxhole in a battle. Three of us are in the foxhole, and darkness falls. We each need to sleep, but the enemy is near. Someone must stay awake to allow the others to relax enough to fall asleep. Do you trust them? Do they trust you?

The circle the farthest away from the bull’s eye is a lower level of Trust.

If we are creating a Trust Manifesto equivalent agreement at this level, it might be a simple verbal agreement.

For example: Welcome to our space. You are invited to participate. We ask that you respect others, and the space, that you leave it better than you found it, and that if you cannot keep an agreement, you let people know as soon as possible. Optional but highly gratefully received is an open heart and mind and radical generosity.

As we progress from the outer circle to the bull’s eye, the levels of Trust go up, by agreement, with commitment, integrity, and active participation.

The Trust Manifesto moves from a very meta-level verbal or written agreement to one where the way we work and respond to each other is precise and more granular.

The journey is like progressing through martial arts, from white belt to black belt. No one is forcing you to advance. You made that choice, and with it, the commitment to the work of skill development. If you desire a black belt, you know the price.

A similar metaphor is the apprentice, journeyman (person), and master.

If we are doing important work for a world with a future, then we will need people in all of the concentric circles of our enterprise and a clear pathway to the highest level of Trust for those who desire it.

The 2-dimensional image is a dart board, but the actual geometry of this is a spiral. As we move towards the centre of the spiral, we are also moving to a higher order of our development.

At each stage of the journey, we need an enterprise architecture that clearly states the commitment, integrity, participation and agreement required. This is more complex than the time given. The level and quality of commitment, integrity and participation agreed to that matters.

What I have learned and I am always learning, sometimes delightfully, and sometimes with difficulty (in recent weeks), is that no matter the context of a relationship, some form of Trust Manifesto agreement is critical to mutually calibrate expectations.

If you are going to build a team where we need the foxhole experience, then go all in with Trust agreements. Better to take your time to get this aligned, coherent and in integrity, than to rush for no reason without building deep foundations of Trust.