Trustless in Seattle and Elsewhere!



This is another blog on our company values (from our 10 ATBs), a series underscoring a more modern look at value driven organizations.

Story: I used to be able to walk on an airplane at the Edmonton Industrial Airport, five minutes before take off. In fact, I wouldn’t even have to buy a ticket because I used pre-purchased flight coupons. Imagine… No security line-ups when flying. Just walk on the plane and go. Then of course, 9/11 changed everything. We could no longer trust the intentions of others when boarding planes, and subsequently built the massive, worldwide security systems we have today. Inspection is always non-value added, yet unfortunately, too often a necessary activity. The risk of complete trust can sometimes be just too high. This situation has cost airlines/passengers trillions of dollars.

Key Point: For more than 40 years, I have been part of many cost-cutting activities. CFOs and/or CEOs, often lead these initiatives and typically end up cutting people. Unfortunately, it’s the easiest line item to attack. Yet rarely can I recall these same execs tackling their biggest cost: Mistrust. But when one thinks about it, the largest waste in almost all companies is based on this value missing in action. Any type of inspection, redundancy, and reporting there of, is costly inefficiency related to mistrust. Just think about how big the opportunity is.

One of our 10 ATBs is to “Trust and expect the same from others.” We know that if each of us works from the premise of trust, we will do our part and minimize non-value added work. Imagine if we could lend money out, and trust that customers would always pay us back? Imagine how different it would be if we didn’t have to physically and metaphorically “lock things up?” How great would it be if the commitments from other teams or departments were always met? Think of what it would be like if we could always be our true, authentic selves, and not hide things from each other because we could trust what others would do with that insight? What if we could say what we truly felt in meetings, not having to worry about how it might be interpreted? On the other hand, trust, as noted in the best selling book, The SPEED of Trust, by Stephen M.R. Covey, increases speed enormously because non-value added friction/duplication is removed. How great is that? How amazing would it be to work with others where you could genuinely trust first? Why not?

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Think about processes, systems, tools, and policies that are based on mistrust. Ask which ones you might eliminate or change? (Base it on data).
  2. Think about where you have added rules for customers or team members because of mistrust. Often, the cost of maintaining these policies is much more than the occasional violation. Challenge the assumptions underlying these rules. 
  3. Make and meet your commitments, and expect the same from others. Trust first, rather than having others preliminarily earn it. Yes, you might occasionally get burned. And perhaps once in a while, you might have to verify. So what? Living without the friction is a much more gratifying path. 

Speed of Trust in Leadership,


One Millennial View: Unfortunately, I think we can all trust that the utopia of a “trust first” environment is very challenging. I sure know that I don’t want to get “burned,” (literally or figuratively). That said, we have things like TSA Pre, Nexus passes, and tough screening/hiring processes at many companies that give us the ability to prioritize trust over skepticism. Especially for we Millennials, it probably behooves us to lend some speedy trust to our teammates. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis



‘Collabatrust’ & Speed!

Accountability Collaboration Teamwork


Key Point: I promised you ongoing insights regarding how we need to reimagine leadership based on the accelerants and connective tissue driven by exponential technology. My previous blog underscored three big thoughts. So here is another important premise:

Collaboration moves at the speed of trust! In fact, Dov Seidman (Harvard lawyer, CEO of LRN) argues, “trust is the only legal performance-enhancing drug.” People who do not trust each other need all kinds of rules, regulations, contracts, etc. to create a workable platform. On the other hand, when trust in a culture is high, people spend little or no time questioning another’s intent. They start from the premise that people are working for the greater good and purpose (another reminder why having a clear and compelling purpose matters so much). So if accelerants and connectivity is transforming everything, legacy “trust verification systems” rules, inspection, regulations, etc. in organizations must be disrupted too.

If we want to introduce a social platform and tools to drive greater collaboration, we better make sure high levels of trust underscore the ability of people to super collaborate. And the key to building trust is executing what we commit to, guided by very clear and understood values! Both big and little things matter. For example, if a leadership declares a “people first” strategy, the big decisions related to how people are at the front of decisions made establish the foundation of trust. It’s the hundreds of little things, often referred to as “moments of truth,” every day, which confirms trust.

Character Moves:

  1. Evaluate how much you work and live in an environment of total trust.
  2. In a world that is relying more and more on harnessing speed for advantage, what are you doing to create more trust?

“Collabatrust” in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: John Resig of theChive (an extremely successful entertainment site/charity/e-commerce/media outlet), says he only hires people he would like to get a beer with. He prefers that trait over credentials. And he also encourages his team to invite a new employee out each night of the week after they’re welcomed on the team. He says if after the first month, you’re no longer getting invited out, then you’ve done something wrong and you’re probably not a good fit. That method may not work for all companies, but trust me when I say that I can see how that really works for them.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis


The Science Behind a ‘Trust Fall’

Accountability Teamwork


Dr. Trudi Chalmers is the resident performance neuropsychologist at ATB Financial. She received her Ph.D in Neuroscience from the University of Calgary. She was also recently picked as an ATB “spark”; a company catalyst and example of inspired leadership. I’m pleased to have Trudi contribute her second celebrity blog to

You’ve just been assigned a really interesting new project that requires some collaboration with colleagues. You know that you need to depend on them if the project is going to be completed by the deadline… As such, the first feelings that surface for you are likely around trust. Will they deliver what they promised? Will they give their best work? Will they be responsive and engaged..? Can you trust them?

Trust is the backbone of most of our dealings at work, home, and as clients to other businesses and services. And yet, for something so important we seem to have a very rudimentary understanding of it. We easily say “I just don’t trust them…” without really understanding what trust means and why we feel that way. There is a whole science behind trust, and understanding that science may help us understand trust a little bit better.

Colloquially, when asked most people define trust along the lines of “it’s based on past experiences” or “it’s built over time” or “it’s a gut instinct”… None of which are wrong… But, all of which miss some key components. In the scientific literature, trust is defined as an individual’s belief in, and willingness to act on, the basis of the words, actions, and decisions of another. A key component of trust is that there MUST be vulnerability – trust involves a dependence on another person with the potential for serious negative consequences if that person doesn’t act according to our expectations. Anytime that we experience vulnerability you can bet that there will be some pretty strong emotions tied in!

We can’t get through life without having to be vulnerable. So, we’ve come up with ways to unconsciously assess trustworthiness in order to create the best possible outcome for ourselves. A study published in Nature Neuroscience shows that trust in a person can be primed by reading a short biography that subtly outlines good moral character (like, helping a friend in need). Not only did this information increase perceived trustworthiness, but it also over rides actual experience! Even after this person acted ‘unfairly’ the participants in the study continued to demonstrate trust behaviourally – they behaved based on what their initial perception was and seemed to not learn from experience. Thus, a sense of shared morals and values are important for allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and to trust. Furthermore, we want to trust those with ‘good’ morals and values – even when their actual behaviour suggests we shouldn’t.

Generally speaking, life flows along pretty smoothly when there are no violations of trust – to the point that we sometimes don’t even notice how much trust we’ve put in someone until we get let down by violation of our expectations. When this happens, we often perceive that violation of trust as an injustice – or, unfair treatment. Studies that measure brain activity during perceived unfair treatment show that a specific area of the brain (anterior insula) becomes activated. Interestingly, this is the same area of the brain that becomes active when we’re in physical pain. In a very real way, the social and emotional pain that results from violations of trust are experienced the same as physical pain.

Character Moves:

  1. Respect the vulnerability associated with trust. Recognize when someone is putting their trust in you and be mindful of the vulnerability associated with that. Be accountable.
  2. Increase your awareness of unconscious influences on trust. Notice what triggers trust for you. Notice the instances when you trust someone even when their behaviour says you shouldn’t. AND, the instances when someone trusts you and you know you’re not delivering according to expectations!
  3. Remember that the pain associated with unfair treatment and violations of trust is felt physically. Take the trust that others place in you seriously.

Trusting in the Triangle, 

Dr. Trudi Chalmers 

Thanks again, Dr. Chalmers, 


Do Your People Trust You?

Abundance Books Teamwork


Key point: Leadership effectiveness and trust are two sides of a mirror. Establishing trust requires conscious attention and practice. In order to establish trust, we have to work on both our character and competence simultaneously. Are you trusted as a leader? Team member? How do you know? How would you be rated on the competence and character scale?

Upon recently leaving the company I was CEO at for almost eight years, I wrote a farewell note to all team members and thanked them for trusting me at the helm. Trust was their gift to me. They were always there to encourage me in success and pick me up when I failed. It is a privilege to be in a leadership position and one can’t be optimally effective without having the trust of the entire team. To develop additional insight on the trust challenge read the following Harvard Business Review blog by Linda Hill and Kent Lineback, authors of Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader.

Their HBR blog focuses on two significant components of trust; competence and character.

“For people to trust you as a boss, they must believe in your competence to know what to do as a boss. At one time or another, we’ve all had bosses whom people said, “he doesn’t know the business” or “she doesn’t understand what we do.” No one would trust you to do brain surgery because you’re incompetent in that context…

Character is equally important. It refers to your intentions, what you’re trying to do, your goals and values as a boss. If, for example, people think you’re only out for yourself, driven by blind ambition, and don’t care about them, the group, or the work, they will distrust your character, no matter how much you know.”

Character move:

  1.  Be aware and present regarding your competence and character “score” as it relates to trust.
  2. To reinforce competence fully engage the expertise around you. People don’t expect you to know everything, but understanding how and why you make decisions and the extent to which you make that clear to all parts of the organization is a vital trust element.
  3. Work on and continue to develop your character. This is what The Character Triangle is all about. However, we’re not perfect. People know we will make mistakes. They will help us be true to our values if we truly care about them in the most genuine way. Remember that you live in a fish bowl and every act, big or small, connects to define our character.

Trust in the Triangle,



Wanna Buy a Watch?!

Communication Empathy Respect


Regardless of what role we have in organizations, I believe we are all in sales.  Why? Because all of us, more often than not, are in the business of connecting solutions to problems and essentially transferring trust. We are usually convincing other people to buy into an idea, product or service we’re offering. Sometimes the person is internal to our organization; other times they are outside. If we peel away the veneer we usually are helping someone avoid a pain or fear and/or helping them achieve a desire or goal.  I believe the RESPECT value of the Character Triangle is a gateway for successful selling. Why? Because, one of the key subsets of RESPECT is great listening.

Recently I heard a terrific presentation from super sales coach and leader Gerry Layo. Here is the essence of his short course on selling. Gerry says the short course is 4 words:


Too often we are so focused on what we are going to say that we stop listening. Gerry’s contention is that the strongest sentences we can give to customers end in question marks? I believe it’s the same for anyone we interact with; at work or at home. When we can get people to open up, to trust us with their hopes or fears, we can usually help.

Another great sales coach, the legendary Zig Ziglar, said, “They don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” So when we ask the questions we also have to listen with sincere purpose and care.

People who live in the Triangle contribute great value to others …and that is what great sales people are …super value providers.

So you and I can improve ourselves by applying Layo’s short course on selling.

Ask questions and listen with care!

Live the Triangle,