Beyond a topical fix – TRUST as the focal point

"Beyond a Topical Fix - Highlighting the need for TRUST in an organization" by Amy Eliza Wong, Executive Coach in the San Francisco, CA bay area

With the velocity that technology is evolving, businesses are continually needing to recreate themselves to stay relevant. As companies channel their resources to keep up and compete for the brightest minds, they are also dedicating resources to their employees’ well-being.

But, I’m not talking about fabulous free lunches, valet parking, or on-site masseuse.

No doubt those perks go a long way to keep folks around and happy, but these nice-to-have offerings don’t necessarily equate to a culture of thriving. Forward-thinking companies are going beyond the perks and are ensuring that the health of folks’ working relationships and teams are a priority. They’re going the lengths to ensure that trust is sustained in their culture.


Leaders and team leads, however, don’t always explicitly identify trust as a necessary foundation for optimal innovation and increased performance.


Usually, leaders reach out to us coaches to coach their teams on these kinds of high-level asks:

  • How do we build better relationships with teammates and cross-functional partners?
  • How can we strengthen partnerships with senior leaders and agree on expectations?
  • How do I get more out of my people?
  • How can we establish communication norms with senior management?
  • How can we improve our listening skills?
  • How might we create an environment for people to be themselves?
  • What would we need to do to facilitate free-flowing ideation?
  • How can we get folks to speak honestly and stop withholding information?
  • How do I get my team to know it’s ok to fail?
  • How can we make giving and receiving feedback not so scary?

On the surface, these asks may seem unrelated. Underneath all of them, however, is the need for a significant level of trust to exist in the culture. According to Judith E. Glaser, founder of Conversational Intelligence®, “To get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of the culture, which depends on the quality of relationships, which depends on the quality of conversations. Everything happens through conversations!”


Trust is created or eroded by the quality of the conversations individuals practice with each other.


Trust is the currency that’s required to evolve all interpersonal and communication-related pain points into opportunities to connect and think empathetically, creatively and strategically together. Sustaining trust requires maintaining a healthy Conversational Intelligence® (C-IQ).

Using the framework of C-IQ to increase the level of trust within a team is exactly what I introduce to organizations when they reach out to transform interpersonal and performance-related challenges.

My recent engagement with a forward-thinking tech company, one that embodies their values at every level of the company, highlights this. When a 30-member team at this particular organization reached out to me to help them strengthen relationships with their cross-functional partners, I was not at all surprised to hear that they were doing a decent job of being caring, candid and courageous with each other. They wanted to amplify what was working and put a finger on the things that could be better. They had the resources and the interest for focusing on the soft stuff, which is often considered the hardest stuff.

In diving into their particular ask for relationship building and communication tactics for better meeting management, I introduced them to the idea that unearthing trust – helping them make the invisible visible about all aspects of trust in their communication patterns – was an opportunity for powerful growth, collaboration and innovation with their stakeholders. That instead of topically addressing relationships and communication, they had an opportunity to create transformative shifts at a foundational level.

I spent a half-day with the entire team stepping through an experience of coming to know their own C-IQ and practice using tools, The Conversational Essentials, to increase trust with each other.


It’s so much clearer now! I see why I’m super successful in certain contexts, relationships, and projects and why it’s harder in others. And better yet, I know what to do now to improve some of the situations I’m in.


Introducing them to “The Three Levels of Conversations” helped make visible the team’s interaction dynamics that were either drawing folks in and opening them up or pushing them away and closing them down. They appreciated practice in mapping all of their typical conversations to the simple and powerful “Levels of Conversations” framework to ultimately move the needle in the direction of increased trust. They discussed how understanding the nuances underneath the simplicity of these three levels yielded an appreciation of the fact that sustaining trust is not always intuitive (big eye-opener for many!) and fortunately very simple.

Concluding our engagement, they all left with a heightened awareness of their intention and impact in communicating, and tools to facilitate their teammates’ best thinking, creating and collaborating. They gravitated towards a plan to ask questions for which they had no answers to spark creativity and innovation, double-click on widely known initiatives and commonly used terms to close reality gaps, and practice more transparency to connect on shared intentions. The team now regards trust not as a by-product of friendships and amicable interactions but instead a living entity that deserves to be nourished with deliberate care and attention.


Trust is like oxygen – we can feel the straining effects when it’s thin, and we don’t give it a second thought when we’re breathing easy.


Without it though, we wouldn’t survive. Trust is oxygen for our interactions and relationships. We notice the negative effects when trust is weak, and we often don’t consider it when we’re optimally navigating, creating, innovating our best solutions.

In today’s world, we don’t have the luxury to accidentally happen upon ideal environments for our highest thinking to emerge. If we’re to keep up with the rate of technological advancement and meet the world’s most pressing challenges, we need to go beyond the topical fixes, put a spotlight on trust, and nourish an awareness and conscientious practice of it. By minding your Conversational Intelligence® by bringing care, courage, and candor to the forefront of all your interactions, you can do just that.

Amy Eliza Wong is an executive coach, life coach, and speaker in the California San Francisco Bay Area committed to helping people and organizations live and lead on purpose. Learn more about working with her.

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