Five Letter Words

Five Letter Words

All too often when it comes to social impact work, organizations get caught up focusing on solutions. The hard work of earning trust among all stakeholders involved is overlooked or skipped. Solutions fall flat because of this. In this piece, Energize Colorado’s CEO Wendy Lea talks about the importance of collaboration as the foundation of Trust. Collaboration and Trust are two of the most overused and abused words in business. While in some settings, they can be given lip-service, in Social Impact related environments, they are paramount. Collaboration must be done in a way that creates belonging, meaning structures, a way of working…only then can Trust be earned.


Five Letter Words

By Wendy Lea, CEO, Energize Colorado

People used to talk about “four-letter words” – often a euphemism for a word more likely to be profane and vulgar. The swear words of our youth were most often four letters. Today, through games like Wordle, we search for the “five letter word.” Today we want to talk about the ultimate five letter word in our personal and professional lives: T R U S T. 

Sometimes our DNA or the way we were raised determines our interpersonal skills and attributes. In the South, where I am from, children are often instilled from the youngest of years to trust family, friends, neighbors, and classmates. Not everyone has that core value engrained from an early age.  

Leadership often requires a widespread trust, in hopes that the well-placed trust will be fortuitous and fruitful in business and for the bottom line. In many of life’s undertakings, trust is key – it is about having a firm belief in an organization and their talent, and is borne from a legitimacy, where ability and reliability are indicative of the truth of which they speak. Building this type of trust is ongoing, never stopping…if it is sincere. 

If you think of trust in levels, competition is the base, cooperation is found in the middle, and collaboration rests at the top. Competition is full of opaqueness, little transparency, and basically – no trust. Too often, mind games and power plays lead to a standstill. But, if you can get beyond this place, cooperation will give way to the beginnings of trust. Cooperation is often organized and not very creative, but moving from competition to cooperation begins a conversation that may finally lead to collaboration. In that apex, there is finally a basis of not having to prove that you can be trusted; it’s clear you can be, because the understanding of goals, problems, and needs have been revealed. The language and behavior become intertwined and support an explicit trust where patterns are recognizable and noticeable, so trust becomes stronger. 

United Way is a special example of a broad based organization that has successfully surmounted the inherent challenges of trust, internally and externally. They understand and support an ever-changing landscape of nonprofits that provide for a host of community needs. Their giving is not rote, it is not always repetitious. Rather, they give across the many vectors and dimensions within many particular communities. Needs change and so can the styles of giving. 

Trust is fluid. It can be as swift as the digital age in which we live. Our best interactions are still visual in some shape or form. Our forms of communication have shifted, but the essence of trust will need to surmount and adapt to the varying venues in which we live, work, thrive, and hopefully... B L O O M.  


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