Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My Vespa: A Lesson in Self-Trust

I used to believe that self-trust and confidence were something you were born with. Now I know they are things you can develop. I learned a valuable lesson when I crashed my new Vespa.

You know that feeling you get when you’ve been dreaming of something for years and you finally get it? That lovely welling up of gratitude, appreciation and love! That is what I felt when my husband gave me the Vespa I had always wanted for a milestone birthday. I was excited beyond belief when they delivered it to our house.

“Do you know how to drive this?” the delivery man asked. When I told him I didn’t have a clue and asked him to please give me instructions, I should have realized that 5 minutes wasn’t going to be enough. He made it look so easy.

After he left, the VESPA was sitting in the middle of the driveway and I decided to move it out of the way. I mean, how hard could it be, right? I stood beside it, turned the key, hit the throttle full on, and immediately lost control. My brand new bike, with not even 1 mile on the speedometer, flipped over on its side and one of the mirrors broke off. The bike was scarred and so was I.

I was heartbroken… and scared stiff to drive it.

The Vespa sat for 2 years. Yup, 2 full years. I wanted to drive it but I lacked confidence. I felt like such a loser. Seriously, it was a scooter and I was afraid to even get on it.

I speak at conferences all the time about self-trust, but I didn’t connect what I talk about with what was happening within me. The Vespa made me feel incompetent and guilty, and those feelings didn’t help build positive trust in myself.

I started questioning my ability in other areas. If you’re rolling your eyes, I don’t blame you - I was doing that myself. It was looking at my goals and vision that gave me a wake up call. If I couldn’t succeed at this, how could I possibly succeed at bigger goals?

So this summer, heart in hand, I signed up for a motorcycle class. I was a little concerned that I would be the oldest one in the class (I was) and that I would feel out of place and uncomfortable (I didn’t). Within the first few minutes all of us rookie motorcycle wannabes had bonded. Within the first day we were starting our motorcycles and driving them around in a circle. At the end of the week I had a motorcycle license. Whoopee! I was ready.

When I got home, my husband was pleased. “You’re finally going to ride your bike!”

I know… you’re thinking this is where I tell you I got on the VESPA and drove it 100 miles through a storm and didn’t flinch.

That didn’t happen. I still felt frightened when I looked at my scooter, even after the time on the motorcycles. So, the first day I went out and sat on the seat for 10 minutes, and then I walked back inside. The second day I turned the bike on, and sat there without moving it. The third day I drove it to the end of the driveway. It took a full week before I had the confidence to drive it out on the street.

Building self-trust is like learning any new skill. You build trust by gaining confidence in doing something well. And you do something well by practicing and working at it. I’m happy to tell you I’m riding my Vespa on a regular basis. I’m still staying pretty close to my neighborhood, but as my trust in my own ability builds, the distance I travel grows. Isn’t that just like life?

More trust means more success at work and in our personal relationships. I can help build the trust in your organization. If it's your time to tackle this difficult issue, I'm here to help. Get in touch.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

3 Tips to Become a Trusted Communicator

How do you know people trust you? Did they tell you? Chances are it's not something that comes up in regular conversation. Yet trust in a leader is one of THE top benchmarks of a leader's power and influence.

Here's a quick trust assessment – and three powerful tips in case your scores aren't quite where you want them to be.

Trust Assessment

Indicate your personal score using a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is extremely low and 10 is extremely high.

___ Others would say that my words and actions are consistent.
___ I am truthful when I share information with my staff.
___ I listen to staff regularly to find out their viewpoints.
___ After any meeting, I could share what others felt was important.
___ I am certain my staff understands the important information that they need to know about our organizational goals.
___ Nearly everyone I work with trusts me to a high level.

Add up the numbers from your 6 responses to determine your total score, and then review the rating to identify your communication score:

50 – 60 – Trusted Communicator
40 – 59 – Effective Communicator
20 – 39 – Good Intentions
06 – 19 – Time to Revamp

Ready to Earn More Trust?

"What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson-

Followers watch to see if a leader's words match what he says. If what he says is, "I trust you," but what he does is micromanage and hover to make sure things are done his way, what people hear is, "I don’t trust you." ASLTW (Actions speak louder than words.)

Imagine asking your staff: "Are there tasks or decisions that are made up the chain – that you can take care yourselves?" And then imagine giving them the authority to do so. What would it tell them? It may mean they fail, but a great leader allows their followers to fail and supports them to learn from their mistakes. If you allow them to fail and learn from the start, they fall a millimeter and not a mile.

To do so, you need to make communication safe.  Try these three tips:

1. Tell why you can't tell

Employees should be given as much information as possible on what is happening in the company. Yet there are many times when a leader has to manage what he says and even that needs to be communicated. The best leaders share what they can when they can and also explain why they can't.

When I was interviewing Harry Herington from NIC, he told me about a townhall meeting where he was asked a question about an investment. Harry said that before he answered, he wanted the audience to carefully consider whether or not they wanted to be told - because once they had that information it would affect what they would be allowed to do with their investments (since they'd now have insider information). He was ready, willing and able to answer, but they withdrew the question. How many leaders would have said, "I can't tell you that," without an explanation? Not surprisingly, Herington is known as a High Trust Leader.

2. Respond even if you disagree

I've always been someone who seeks feedback. But I don't always take the advice and I haven't always been good at getting back to people about why. Sometimes I wasn't able to afford to implement their great ideas. It would have been better if I told them that. Instead, the message that I sent was, "I don’t trust or like the quality of your input." Learn from my mistake. Share why you chose not to follow advice, whatever the reason.

3. Check the telephone game

Communication is two ways. Unless people understand what you are telling them, you are the proverbial tree in the forest. Ask yourself, "Could they explain to others what I just told them?"

Remember the 'telephone game' we used to play as children? It had us whispering something in the ear of the child next to us. They in turn had to whisper it in the ear of the child next to them, and so on and so on until it had gone around the room of the 30+ in the class. The last child had to stand up and say what they had heard. It showed us how even simple messages could get twisted around. Become such a great communicator that the message is the same in the first ear and the last.

The Bottom Line

Communication is an essential skill for trusted leaders. You have to communicate that you care by listening and talking to your staff. Be consistent in your message, committed to communicate not once, but until there is understanding and competence in how you word the message.

I read a great quote by Ralph Beslin of Beslin Communications Inc.:

"Communications can't make a person trust someone who is basically untrustworthy. But it can help create a culture in which trust can thrive."

If you want to be a leader that followers follow, become a commanding communicator.
More trust means more success at work and in our personal relationships. I can help build the trust in your organization. If it's your time to tackle this difficult issue, I'm here to help - get in touch.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Managing Trust using the Emotion Roadmap

It’s wonderful to be able to work with someone you’ve admired for many years. I had that opportunity when Chuck Wolfe and I co-wrote a workshop on trust. With Chuck’s permission, I’m sharing his Emotion Roadmap that we use in our workshop. It has been an important part of  being able to help people in the class learn how to trust themselves and trust others.

When we were getting work done on our yard, I was feeling increasingly frustrated with the lack of response from the landscaper. Calls and emails were going unanswered. I felt ignored, and increasingly suspicious and distrustful. We had given them a very substantial deposit and I was worried they had taken our money and were having a party at our expense. The promised start date came and went and, although the administrative assistant assured me they were just delayed, I didn’t really believe her. My husband didn’t seem to be concerned so I stepped back and used a tool that my friend Chuck developed.

Chuck Wolfe's Emotion Roadmap was conceived as a result of a strategic alliance with the pioneers of emotional intelligence, Dr Peter Salovey, President of Yale University, Dr Jack Mayer, Psychologist at the University of New Hampshire, and Dr David Caruso, also affiliated with Yale. This group sought Chuck's assistance in 1999 when they asked him to develop ways to make their scientific discovery useful to people at work. Along the way Chuck found that the Emotion Roadmap tool was effective for helping others manage their emotions, improve their interpersonal relationships, and work through issues or problems.

Emotion Roadmap

First I had to figure out what everyone was feeling. I knew I was feeling frustrated, dismissed and disrespected. Avi, the landscaper, seemed to be feeling indifferent. He was busy, had my money, and didn’t feel any need to get back to me. I wanted to fire him before he had even started.

Another contractor I trusted had referred Avi to me so I hadn’t researched to find out what others had experienced. If I had I would have discovered what I learned the hard way. His work received top marks from everyone who had hired him, but the biggest complaint was that he didn’t communicate very well. In fact, all of the bad reviews were from people who had not hired him, but had been turned off by his seemingly indifferent attitude toward them.

I wanted him to feel accountable and engaged. Sending him emails and even leaving messages didn’t seem to work. So, I went to his office. I told him how I was feeling. The look of shock on his face reassured me he wasn’t trying to run away with my money.

He apologized and asked me what I needed to know. We agreed on a start date with a promise from Avi to inform me of any changes, problems or delays. The problems that came up were discussed with my husband and I, and we were really happy with the finished job.

Try using this tool the next time you’re in a difficult situation. If you’re like me, sometimes the most difficult thing to do is to step back and actually think about feelings. Trust me, this works.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Feeling of Trust

Since trust is a FEELING, an important skill for leaders is to be able to build and grow trust by becoming more intelligent with emotions. One way you can raise the emotional intelligence, or EQ, in your organization is to start asking people how they feel. Insist on getting feelings as the response, not thoughts disguised as feelings. (Examples of thoughts in disguise: I feel like..., I feel that..., I feel as if...)

Here are some steps to follow:

Step 1:

Start with these feelings. Ask specifically, on a scale of 0-10 how much they feel:
▢ Respected
▢ Appreciated
▢ Supported

Then wherever the number is less than 10, ask what it would take to raise the number.

Then do it.

Next, ask about how much they feel:
▢ Criticized
▢ Controlled
Ask what it would take to lower the numbers.

Then take action.

Step 2:

Start expressing your own feelings. Begin sentences with: "I am afraid....", "I feel confused about...", "I appreciate..., "I feel concerned about..." Again, don’t confuse expressing your feeling with stating an opinion or lecturing. If you say "I feel that...", you are giving them an opinion. If you say "I feel you should..." then you are giving a directive or lecturing.

When you express your feelings, be authentic and honest.

Step 3:

After expressing your feelings, let your employees figure out what to do. Don't tell them. Don't underestimate their intelligence and rob them of a chance to feel good about themselves.

Let go of control.

Step 4:

Start thinking about the impact your words have on their feelings. Remember we all do our best work when we feel good about ourselves.

Respect them.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Banking on Trust

photo by NCinDC / Flickr
Do you trust the institution? Or the person you are dealing with at the institution? It seems like one attracts the other.

When my husband and I were transferred to the States, I thought our credit rating would be transferred along with us. Wrong! Buying a house or even getting a credit card was a long, laborious process that, at its best, was frustrating. At its worst it caused headaches when deposits were held resulting in overdraft fees or payments returned NSF.

At one point I was told that a check from a client was going to be held for two weeks before it could be deposited. I was livid. I went on social media and complained, and flippantly said that I expected someone to get back to me to straighten things out. That’s when I got a call from Jason. So, what’s the big deal? Someone from the bank responded. Well, at that time Jason Thacker was the Market President of TD Bank in Pennsylvania. I was impressed.

I asked Jason why he got back to me personally.

Jason said, “I realize how difficult it is to move internationally. I understood your particular situation because I've gone through it. You (Lea) were able to articulate the issue really well. We want to help every one of our customers. We talk about TD being the ‘Human Bank’ and this was a circumstance where I could do just that.”

I've often wondered what influence a company has on the trustworthiness of its people.

There is a lot of documentation on the collapse of Enron and at the heart was its corrupt and untrustworthy culture. People believed it was OK to lie, in fact the culture allowed it. Those who wanted to speak up were afraid to, and it didn't matter how people made their numbers as long as they made them. But organizations don't need to be untrustworthy to be successful.

Case in point, a question I had for Jason was about how he got people to trust him. “You have to demonstrate trust. You have to bring your best self to work every single day. My team sees how I operate. It will show in the development conversations we are having. It will show in the day-to-day interactions, how we talk to each other and how we treat each other. What is my level of respect for the complexity in their day? Am I just doing things because "I" need them? Or is there a broader set of objectives that considers their needs? I've attempted to always interact with the team in a way I would want to be treated,” Jason explained.

His response answered the question I had at the beginning: Do you trust the institution, or the people in the institution? In order to succeed, you need both. What do you think?

photo by NCinDC / Flickr

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Strength Training to Build Stronger Trust

I don’t jump into a heavy workout until my muscles have been warmed up. The same holds true for those heavy conversations. I don’t jump into the middle of a difficult conversation without preparation and a warm-up to gather as much information as I can about the situation, the other person and my own attitudes and emotions before going into the conversation.

Like in a lot of my newsletters I often write about what I need to know. I wanted to have a conversation with a colleague that I trust and respect about a subject that felt uncomfortable and possibly damaging to our relationship. So I did what I usually do when I’m not sure about something. I Googled information about good communication, talked to wise friends and went back to books and courses I had read on communication skills. Do you do the same?

My friend Ann gave me great advice. Ann is a sponsor at Al-Anon and has had experience with difficult conversations. She said she tells people to HALT and walk away from a conversation if these things are present. The acronym HALT stands for:
  • H – Hungry
  • A – Angry
  • L – Lonely
  • T – Tired
When I did a check in with my own emotions and state of mind I recognized that I felt three out of the four points. So I had something to eat, figured out why I was angry, and moved the emotion of anger to one of curiosity. I connected and talked to my wise husband, who also happens to be my best friend, and got a good night's sleep.

When I’m at the gym I am correcting my posture and position throughout my entire workout. I know I can do serious damage to my back if I lift wrong. The same holds true in communicating. If I don’t position myself correctly I can do damage to my relationship. I didn’t want my colleague to feel criticized and judged. I wanted to feel heard and respected.

On the day of our conversation I was feeling pretty anxious. I did a quick meditation to calm myself, and focused on a positive outcome instead of what I didn’t want to happen.

John Gottman’s research shows that for relationships to work, there must be five positive comments or interactions for every negative comment or interaction. He said, "The reason why so many additional positive comments are needed for each negative one is important: people are conditioned emotionally to absorb the negative more deeply than the positive."

I’m really glad I read that one before our talk! The conversation had a few rough patches but overall it went really well. I know that we have a deep and trusting relationship, and will continue to grow and develop it.

This is what my communication workout looks like:
  1. Warm up - I start out by recognizing the emotions in everyone concerned.
  2. Visualize - I visualize and write down what the best possible outcome looks like.
  3. Position - I consciously keep the communication moving in the right direction. If I see the conversation and communication going south, I look at how I am positioned.
  4. Strength - Afterward I look at the relationship and figure out what I learned. Did my communication skills become stronger as a result of the conversation?
Trust is important to me and I don’t always get it right. I expect that I’ll be working on my communication core to keep my relationships strong for the rest of my life.

More trust means more success at work and in our personal relationships. I can help build the trust in your organization. If it's your time to tackle this difficult issue, I'm here to help - get in touch.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What You can Learn from High Trust Leader, Michael Scott

High trust companies are more productive than low trust companies. But how do you find the top trust companies? Well, I was interested in talking to Michael Scott after I heard him speak at a breakfast meeting. At the time, his company placed in the Top 100 'Great Places to Work'. In fact, they were number 8 on the list.

I was curious. I knew that inclusion into the 'Great Places to Work' list was based solely on assessments done anonymously by employees. But I wanted to know what the leaders for these top companies did differently. Here’s what I learned from Michael.

He makes good hiring decisions.
Michael spoke of a person who was referred to him as being extremely competent and highly regarded. During the interview the person did nothing but speak of themself. Michael realized they would not fit into the team because they were too self-focused. “I had two candidates, but one had a degree of curiosity and asked good questions. It’s one of our criteria that they (candidates) ask good questions.” Scott won’t fill a position until he’s satisfied the person will fit in with the rest of the team.

He makes a lot of policies using consensus.
“We’ve done an extraordinary amount of fundamental decisions by consensus here. An example is our storm policy. At what point do we decide to close shop and tell you that you don’t have to come in? Some pointed out that they couldn’t get out of their driveway. Some were ready to come in. What is fair? We put the whole thing to the company at large. There was a grassroots conversation that happened. We (the management team) had them figure it out. The principle was we trust you to do the right thing. Everyone bought in and it was never an issue."

He treats people fairly.
Michael pays attention to people and listens for what their needs are. When he is listening, he doesn’t do anything else - no multitasking. He focuses on the individual in front of him. Michael believes the people who work in his company deserve to be treated with respect and he answers their questions without steam rolling over them.

He discovers their strengths.
As well as placing people in their traditional roles, Michael looked for people’s passions and strengths, and how those skills fit with their role and the company's needs. People are happier and more productive when they are able to use their skills and are passionate about what they are doing.

He is a masterful communicator.
When a company is small, it’s easy to communicate with everyone. As it grows, communication needs to be crisp. Michael makes sure people know the 'WIGS' = Wildly Important Goals. He balances empowering people and not being too loose so things get overlooked.

During our conversation Michael and I talked about the amount of appreciation that he saw demonstrated between people. When I was walking through the hallways, I heard laughter and felt the camaraderie.

Although this conversation took place in 2011, the lessons I learned from Michael are timeless.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Trust Yourself First - What Leaders Know

Do you trust yourself? Are you trusted by others? I've had the privilege of speaking to many strong leaders in business, government, finance and education, and asked a question that’s changed my understanding of leadership and the role of trust, particularly self-trust.

I do not trust people who don't love themselves and yet tell me, "I love you." There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.
~ Maya Angelou ~

The question: If you had to make an important decision and the information told you one thing but your intuition and your gut strongly told you another, what would you do?

The answer: Every single one of the leaders I spoke to said they would listen to their gut. They also emphasized the importance of gathering data.

Take away: The best leaders listen wholeheartedly to themselves and to others.

Over and over I've heard the story: The ability to trust myself is what made me a leader. What about you? Do you have deep trust in yourself?

The Miriam online dictionary gives the following synonyms for self trust:  aplomb, assurance, self-assurance, self-assuredness, self-confidence, self-esteem. To me they don’t completely describe or explain what self-trust is. (And seriously, what the heck is aplomb? I’m thinking it’s not something that is purple and sweet to eat.)

On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you rate your self-trust right now? Would you like to improve that score? Here are some things you can do to increase your self-trust.

#1.  Develop an unconditional positive self-regard.
Carl Rogers, founder of the Humanistic approach to psychology talked about the need for unconditional positive self-regard. It doesn’t mean that you won’t continue to improve yourself, however when you completely accept and love yourself, you open yourself to trusting your instincts and judgments rather than being controlled by others. You can start by monitoring what you say to yourself.

#2.  Only promise out loud what you can deliver.
It’s great to set goals and there has been a lot written on the power of focusing on what you want to achieve. What is often overlooked: what setting unobtainable goals and failing does to our self-trust. I don’t want you to quit making BHAG goals (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), but I want you to break them into small bite size goals that you can achieve. With each victory you will trust yourself more.

#3.  Work from your strengths.
If my self-trust is built around my ability to write a symphony, then I will forever doubt myself. Learn what your strengths are. Instead of trying to improve your weaknesses, build on your strengths and use them to honor your position and what you can achieve in the world. If you don’t know your strengths, then ask those that know you best and have unconditional self-regard for you. Accept your strengths.

#4.  Be congruent.
Congruence + Self-love = Authenticity
Don’t be afraid to show others who you are. It is a strength to show your vulnerabilities, not a weakness. Read Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability. When you try to be someone you are not, you are telling yourself that you are not good enough. You come across as being phony and you get the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.
~ Brene Brown ~

Self-trust is not arrogance. It is born of knowing yourself, and respecting and loving the person you see in the mirror.

Bottom Line: If you really want to trust others, you have to trust yourself first.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


There was a New Year's special at the gym close to our home so I signed up. It was such a great deal that I could justify it six ways from Sunday in my head. As a signing bonus I was given a free hour with a personal trainer. Yup, got me! I signed up for a personal trainer, as well. It is the best impulse buy I've ever made.

I work out harder than I have before. Tom and I chat during my workout and I feel like he’s becoming a friend. I am getting a much better workout because of him. He earns part of his income because of me. He’s a kind and warm man. And I trust him to gently, and sometimes not so gently, push me to my limits.

What I see happening in my relationship with Tom is Ubuntu. I was taught this word, thought, philosophy - this way of being - when I was in South Africa. Ubuntu means “I am because of you” or “I am because we are”. It encapsulates all the beauty of trust, kindness, community, sharing and kinship.

One memory stands out from the presentation in South Africa when I was learning about Ubuntu. The professor from the University of Nelson Mandela said that when you are practicing Ubuntu you try to see who people really are and you acknowledge them. That, if you were walking down a hallway and passed someone without making eye contact or a greeting, you are in fact saying, “To me you don’t exist.”

Do you wonder, like I do, if our technology is somehow making people disappear into themselves? The very opposite of Ubuntu. When was the last time you looked at someone and showed them that you saw who they were and accepted them? I can tell you that when you get - or give - that unconditional acceptance, it ramps up the trust index by a 100%.

The very best leaders practice Ubuntu.

They realize that their own well being is deeply tied to the well being of others. Ubuntu asks that we open our hearts and share. In the tough world of business, do you wonder if this is a bit too touchy feely? Not according to Kouzes and Posner who list “Encourage the Heart” as one of the top tenets of Great Leaders.

Are you willing?

photo by Jan Truter / Flickr

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Would You Trust this Leader?

For 4 months they had been putting in 12-16 hour days, 6 days a week. Birthdays were missed and relationships suffered, but the spoken and unspoken message was that the experience gained on this - a complex international project - would be a boon to their careers. Then rumors started surfacing that there were going to be layoffs.

A few weeks later they were stunned to silence when the boss flew in from head office, brought the team together, and said, “We’re going to re-interview all of you since we aren’t sure we have the right people on the job. If we find you aren’t right for this position, we’ll find something else for you.” Some knew that the client they were working with had faced him with a difficult decision and he had been backed into a corner. The interviews were at the client’s insistence, but he was judged by the impact of the deed and how it was communicated.

The next day, he flew back to head office and left the interviews for an HR team. He wasn’t available for any questions or support, and his absence was viewed as uncaring and self-serving. If there were pressing reasons for his disappearance, he didn’t communicate them. In the absence of information, people filled in the void and, true to human nature, they believed the worst. After the interviews, a number of people were let go and told to find another position within the company.

Trust within the division was at an all time low. It could have been very different if the boss had applied the 5 C’s.

The boss made a commitment to help the staff that was laid off. Resources should have been made available instead of letting everyone flounder. If he couldn’t keep the commitment, he needed to let people know why.

What a difference it would have made for his reputation if he had scheduled time to talk to each of the employees who were laid off. Flying in and out as soon as he gave the bad news was seen as cold and uncaring.

What was said and what was done didn’t jibe.

People will question your competence if they don’t see it in action. He didn’t communicate his reasons for decisions that affected his staff’s livelihood and he was the person who had put them in their positions.

All four of those competencies are based on a solid foundation of communication. In face to face communication, 55% of what is communicated is visual, and only 7 % are the words we use. The tone of your voice accounts for the other 38%. When you are having a conversation with someone, do they have your full attention? Are you making eye contact? Are you allowing the frustrations of the day to affect the tone of your voice? If one of your staff comes into your office with something important to say, close your computer, come from behind the desk, and give them your full attention. It’s one of the many small things you can do to build trust.

The recipe for trust building is to make small agreements, keep them, and make larger commitments and keep them. Clarify expectations since unclear expectations can undermine communication and trust. Always communicate immediately if you cannot keep a promise and clean up broken commitments immediately. As a leader you will make promises that others need to carry out for you. You will be judged by how well you follow up and your character will be judged on how well you accept responsibility.

If you follow the C’s of trust - Commitment, Caring, Consistency and Competence - and make sure that you Communicate them, you will be the trusted leader that others want to follow.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Trust Troll

I don’t know when or how he became the troll living under the bridge. I’m sure it started slowly. I noticed that every year he had a bit more hair growing out of his ears and his stoop was getting more pronounced. The rules for crossing over the bridge were getting much more complex and usually involved a riddle: “You should know why I’m upset.”

Nights were spent trying to solve the riddle. “What did I do? Do you think it was when I didn’t agree with him over xxx?” Tentatively I would creep up to the bridge. He was a tricky troll. Whenever I figured out one answer, he would issue another challenge and we’d start all over again. “You should know what is expected of you.”

Sometimes I’d try and reason with the troll. “Shouldn’t we be able to cross the bridge without the riddles?” That was before I found out trolls are really hard to reason with.

Although my troll was male, there are an equal number of female trolls. No, they are not called trollops!

Do you have a troll in your life? Here are some examples of troll behaviours.

  • They are rude and abrupt to the people who report to them.
  • They criticize and belittle people in public.
  • They block the way to anyone else's advancement.
  • They are quick to find fault, but don’t praise positive results.
  • Rather than have a personal conversation with someone, they hold a meeting and talk in riddles, inferring they aren’t happy and changes need to be made. People are left trying to figure out what it was about and why they had to listen.
  • They are very vague about goals and expectations, but expect people to know what is required.
  • They are quick to take offense at any slight and hold a grudge.

How about you? Do you know or work for a troll?

It’s almost impossible to trust a troll, especially if they are not willing to change. If you’ve ever read stories of trolls, you should know not to engage them in their game. In the end, it is the honorable knight or valiant warrior who destroys the troll and doesn’t let them block the bridge. It takes someone who has power to take on that role. In fact, sometimes it takes the whole village to rise up to defeat them.

If that isn’t a possibility, find out what you can trust about their behavior, even if it is trusting them to be who they are and preparing yourself.

Don’t allow them to stop your progress.

Find another way to get to your destination, even if it means leaving and finding another bridge to cross. Find your happy ending.

photo by Michael Matti / Flickr