Unlocking Everything Through Trust-Centered Leadership With Rick Kitagawa and Lisa Lambert

Skot Waldron:

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Hi, welcome to another episode of Unlocked. I'm Skot, and here we talk about unlocking the potential of people. Today, we're going to do that with Rick Kitagawa and Lisa Lambert. They're co-CEOs of Spotlight Trust, and they focus on, guess what? Trust. Right? It's in the name. They focus everything around this idea of trust and empathy, and they came together, two minds thinking along the same path of how do we build a system around developing more trust and empathy?

We talk about trust and empathy a lot in leadership, and in our companies, and in our society and in our marriages, whatever it is. But how many of us have actually thought about the system of developing trust and empathy inside of our organizations, and for us as leaders. What are the core components that go into that? We're going to get into that. They're very succinct. They're very... They got it all nailed down. I'll just say that. So, listen up for some of those tidbits you can take away. They just released a new book called The Future Is Trust and it's out now. So, you can get your hands on that. So let's get into the interview. You're going to love it. I loved interviewing them and you're going to love it too. I promise. All right, here we go.

Rick and Lisa, the duo, I'm super stoked, because I don't do multiple person interviews ever, but you are a package deal and I'm super stoked to have you both on the show.

Rick Kitagawa:

Thanks so much for having us Skot, excited to be here.

Lisa Lambert:

Thank you so much, Skot, really looking forward to this conversation.

SKOT WALDRON:

So, you just released a book in June and it's all about trust. So, you're saying... Now, I'm going to pick apart your title for just a second, so be prepared. The Future Is Trust, but I'm going to say, isn't the past? Like, wasn't the past about trust too? And isn't the present about trust? So, maybe I'm getting a little bit, whatever, but like why the future? What is that about? What is trust have to do with where we're going?

RICK KITAGAWA:

Well, I think the reason we called it The Future Is Trust is really because we've seen such a monumental shift in leadership that's effective, or I'll say, that maybe the world is catching up to the idea that trust and people-centered leadership is effective and makes the most sense. And we've seen that with the shift from more of a command and control model leadership back from the industrial era, that's sort of a bygone relic. And we're really trying to get people to embrace the idea that there is a different way and a more effective, more humane way of leading, which is really empowering other people to lead themselves. And to then go and inspire future leaders and really get that ripple effect. That's really what The Future Is Trust is all about, is that we're at this precipice where we can choose to try to fight and go back, or we can embrace a new era of trust-centered leadership. And that's what we hope the book can help other people do.

SKOT WALDRON:

Lisa, is there a... So, you and Rick have come together to collaborate on Spotlight Trust. It is your thing. You also do independent coaching yourselves in what you're doing. So, tell us about a little bit, gives us a little bit of insight of where you come from and then what it was that brought you together.

LISA LAMBERT:

Yeah. Great question. Rick and I have some very different backgrounds from one another. So, that's some of the magic of our collaborations, bringing together these different perspectives. I've spent my career in science and tech. I love that space, I love nerding out on really, really geeky things. But also looking at systems and processes and a lot of science and technology is ultimately about collaboration. I think a big learning that I had in that was that work isn't transactional, it's relational and relationships all come down to trust.

That was something that I knew really resonated with Rick. He's got an incredible background from science to art, to design, to teaching and business development as well. So, bringing that together, we collided through Seth Godin, and his altMBA program, we're both coaches on that, and had a chance to workshop some projects together around bringing a practical lens to developing soft skills. They think people can feel a lot times they're really mushy or trying to figure out, "How do I actually learn these things? And how do I internalize these pieces?"

So, we started playing with that a little bit and I shared this framework that I was developing with Rick around trust, and it really resonated with him and we've taken that and ran with it actually just before the pandemic, which could seem like horrible timing. But actually it was really great timing considering all the changes in the workforce happening right now.

SKOT WALDRON:

Yeah. You got that right. I mean, I've talked to so many people, entrepreneurs or not, and it was a huge, unfortunate experiment in work, and culture, and leadership. It was so interesting to see who embraced it, where that trust was established, and that loyalty was built was where the understanding was, where the sympathy was, where the, "I'm going to stick it out with you if you'll have me," kind of thing. And you saw that coming together, which really, afterwards, people started coming back on board. People were coming back into the office.

Well, maybe, depending on where you are right now, that now it's like, what effect did what we did before the pandemic and during the pandemic have on what we're doing now and in the future? Of how we lead, how we organize ourselves as a culture. So, trust is a word that gets thrown around a lot. And you made that the monumental thing, you've revolved your company name around it, you've put that on the cover of your book, and that's the whole principle around that. So, why is it the most important leadership asset right now? So, I'd like to hear from both of you about your perspectives on that, and what does that have to do with where we're going now as leaders in a culture? Rick, what do you think about that?

RICK KITAGAWA:

Yeah, I think trust is just so fundamental to all human relationships. Going back, you had to trust your fellow hunter-gatherer that the berries they're going to give you aren't going to poison you. So, we have trust baked into our DNA in a lot of ways through just many, many years of us being around and really because, like Lisa said, work is relational, it's not transactional, especially when you're now not in the same office or when you're in a mix of some people are in the office, some people aren't. You really have to rely on that trust in order to make anything happen.

So, we talk about trust having kind of magical properties, of being an accelerant, a lubricant, and a glue to human relationships. Because it makes things better, it bonds people together and it accelerates the rate at which you can do work. So, there we go into a bunch of statistics in the book, but trust makes work so much better for everyone. So it's not one of those things where we're advocating for the worker to have managers, you need to be better, you need to trust your employees more. That is true, but also, it's a relationship and how we show up and how we lead our leaders and all of this other stuff. That's really the core fundamental part about how we work together. And I think, for me, that's why trust is so very clearly important to all of the work that you do, no matter what industry, no matter what vertical, no matter what position you're in.

LISA LAMBERT:

And I think too, just going back to a lot of people throw the word trust around, it's actually defining it. And that was our starting place as well. And I think a lot of times people think of trust and they think about vulnerability, but trust is also that willingness to step into the unknown and embrace uncertainty, and knowing that wherever you go with that, there's no guarantee. And that's why it's trust and not a sure thing.

So, having that sense of stepping into possibility, stepping into uncertainty, there's a heck of a lot of uncertainty right now. So, building things where you've got that confidence, or at least knowing that, "Hey, it's okay, we're going to try this out and we're going to figure it out together. And if it doesn't work, that's part of the process too," I think is really transformative, really key right now. And a lot of organizations have been learning that as they move forward and needing to trust in their people, that they don't necessarily see as bums in seats from 9:00 to 5:00 right now, I think those that have not had that trust or taken the surveillance approach, they're seeing a lot of resignations right now. Kind of make-

SKOT WALDRON:

I love what you said. When I've done more brand strategy work and trying to build loyalty with customers, or clients that come and buy your product or service, it was a lot about, well, and every sales person in the world will talk to you about, you buy things from people you know, like and trust. That word's always thrown into there, into that saying. We talk about what are the steps to building loyalty? So, I talk about loyalty as the ultimate goal, and trust is the step right before that loyalty piece, that opens all doors to loyalty. And that's just in my frame of mind, thinking about it. So, we have a checklist in our brain of the literal things.

Like when we're dating somebody, I'm going on a date with you, I'm sitting and sitting across from the booth from you. And all of a sudden, I'm finding out kind of that first interaction that we have. That is going to say if we have a second date, that first interaction. So, that's really important. So, now are you consistent in your communication? Are you authentic in your communication? Now I'm checking boxes. My logical brain is going check, check, check.

Then, we get into the feeling part, we get into starting to feel like, this person's real. I start to feel like this is real. And then the trust piece of, and this is the way I can illustrate it, I love how you said it, it's like, okay, I'm taking risks. I'm going into the unknown with you. Here's my heart. What are you going to do with it? I'm going to tell you things that I've never told anybody before. I'm going to be super vulnerable, things I may not be proud of and I'm going to see what you do with it. Because I don't know what's going to happen. I feel like I know, but I don't really know.

Once I see that you are for me and that you're doing things to build me up, then I become loyal to you. Then there is no other. Then I'm going to go to that pizza restaurant every other time. I'm going to date you for the rest, and then we're going to get married. Then all these things happen. So, I love what you said about trust. It's that willingness to go into the unknown with somebody and do what we need to do. Now, if I may ask you, do you have anything you want to share in regards to that?

LISA LAMBERT:

Do you want to go first, Rick? I really love that you brought up loyalty in this one, Skot, because I think that's a really key area. That's so important. But there's also misunderstanding around it. I think we often think about loyalty as being one way, whether it's towards a brand or towards a person, but it really is a two-way interaction if you really want to have true loyalty, and that's trust, that's trust at play in that interplay of extending and earning trust back and forth.

I really love the elements that you described, where you said the word consistency. So, we break down trust into having five facets. They all depend on the context, consistency is one of them, along with clarity, credibility, consistency is the third, caring and connection, make up these five facets of trust. And also what you're getting at as well, trust isn't a light switch you can just flip on when you need it. We tend to talk about it being more like a plant, and whether it's a seedling or it's a perennial, you have to tend to it. You've got to cultivate it over time and keep coming back and renewing that resource and working on [inaudible 00:13:25]. So, I love the story that you shared in that example, because I think it illustrates all the elements that come together to make trust really strong.

SKOT WALDRON:

Can you list those five things again for me? Clarity, credibility, consistency, care, and what?

LISA LAMBERT:

Caring and connection.

SKOT WALDRON:

Connection. Okay. Love it, yes.

LISA LAMBERT:

And they all depend on the context.

SKOT WALDRON:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure.

LISA LAMBERT:

All Cs, catchy, we know, but it's a easy way to keep it in mind.

SKOT WALDRON:

Love Cs, Rick, anything you want to add on?

RICK KITAGAWA:

Yeah. I think Lisa covered most of it of what I wanted to call in was how much you were breaking this down, how it aligns with the five facets. But I also just want to call in how you talk about, okay, I'm going to go out on a whim and be vulnerable and share my darkest secrets or whatever and see how you react to it. I think what that really speaks to is a lot of people ask us, "Well, how do I build trust quickly?" Because given that I can't just flip a switch, and a lot of times the trust that you have with someone has been built up over small interactions in time, well, how can I rebuild trust? Or how can I accelerate my earning of trust, we'll say.

And really the best way to, and quickest way to earn and build trust is to extend it first. I think that's where a lot of people get this wrong is a lot of people say like, "Well, I want them to trust me." Well, really, you should be trusting them first. And if you extend that opportunity, that is the beginning of building the relationship that will allow them to trust you.

SKOT WALDRON:

And that's why I love that, because I talk about that too. And that goes back about the principle of it starts with us. It starts with the internal, it starts with us knowing ourselves enough to lead ourselves, to be the example, to lead others. You're so right. And a lot of leaders will go out there and they'll say, "I just, I don't know what it is. I can't make any headway with this person. They aren't communicating with me. They aren't transparent with me. They seem like they're hiding something all the time." And I sit there and I say, "Well, what are you trying to hide? What are you trying to avoid in this... Do they feel that you are being open?"

And they said, "Yeah, I did what you told me to do last week, I went and I shared something with them and now they didn't share anything back." And I'm like, "That was one thing over a course of two or three years of you hiding something, it's going to take some time." So, that's monumental. I love that two-way street thing, cool, I love it. I'm going to use it and steal it. Thank you very much, Rick and Lisa.

RICK KITAGAWA:

Please do, please do. Steal away.

SKOT WALDRON:

All right. So, trust, it's this intangible. We can't put our finger on it. But you talk about it as something very concrete. How do you measure trust? How do you talk about something that's so intangible and that it's not just this, especially when you're going to people that are very technical and then they're just like, "That's fluffy stuff. I don't need to know about that." How do you make something so intangible, something that is very tangible, very real and something that is measured and a gauged?

RICK KITAGAWA:

That's-

LISA LAMBERT:

That's... Do you want to-

RICK KITAGAWA:

Yeah. I'll jump in. I think that's a great question, Skot. And that's what we get asked a lot is, well, trust feels like this thing that you know it when you see it. But it's really, at the end of the day, most "soft" skills, which we like to call trust-centered skills, really break down to skillsets or skill... Yeah, skillsets, maybe skill groups or buckets. And really what we like to do... So, on top of having the five facets of trust, we also have what we like to call the three dimensions of trust. And this kind of gets back to what you were saying is the foundation is trust with oneself. Then the second dimension is building trust with others. And the third is building trust at scale.

So, really when you overlay those three dimensions with the five facets, we get 15 different discrete skillsets and competencies that you can actually use to measure and gauge how much trust you have. And the interesting thing about trust is that it's sort of one of those weakest link type attributes where you could have a lot of high credibility and you can be very clear and consistent, but if you aren't caring about someone else, they're not going to care or trust you. So, really it's looking at sort of this grid and seeing where are the weak spots and it helps people really identify the areas to shore up and to celebrate where they're already doing things very well.

SKOT WALDRON:

Lisa, anything you want to tack on to that?

LISA LAMBERT:

I'll maybe flip it over to you, Skot. Because I think we could say that trust is this ethereal thing, we can't put our finger on it, but as soon as you ask them the question and give them a space to, everyone's got an experience with that. So, let's maybe if you're up for it, we can see about from your trust experiences. But I want to invite you for a second to think about a time or a situation or a relationship where you felt trust was low. And what did you notice when you reflect back on that?

SKOT WALDRON:

Yeah. When trust was low? Well, there is a feeling of insecurity, of doubt. There is this questioning of my own identity. And I'm talking more of the sense of when I have heard or when I've felt that somebody didn't trust me. And what the impression was on me from that experience of, wow, now what's it going to take to earn that back? And what's the path in front of me that needs to happen? And then, it's just that unknown, it's that feeling of despair, of hopelessness in a sense. And then, knowing that I've got to work to get that back.

LISA LAMBERT:

Thanks for sharing that. It's a question we ask a lot of leaders, and what you're sharing right now, really maps on to what they've shared as well, it's the things that, it's that feeling of walking on eggshells or it's that anxiety, that sense of dread in your stomach. Or I think the worst one is when you go to bed at night dreading that you have to go to work the next day, because of those feelings of low trust. So, I want to flip this on you, Skot. And I want to now invite you to reflect on a time, a situation, relationship where trust was really high. You felt trusted, you trusted others. What did you notice then?

SKOT WALDRON:

Well, sure. There was open doors. There was a lot of communication. There was an ability to let go, let go of that control. Let go of the worry for the most part, there's always going to be some reserve, I think, in some individuals that they find it difficult to let go of certain things. But I think they feel better about letting go, it's that anxiety that they may feel, but yet it's okay, I know I can depend on you. I know I can let go and let you do this thing.

LISA LAMBERT:

Thanks for sharing that. And I think what you're getting at too is trust is really the foundation for high-performance teams, and it's the root, it's trust plus respect is what equals psychological safety. So, having this in place is so crucial, and this is where I really like our model, not to pat ourselves on the back for it, but combining the five facets with the three dimensions, you get this really elegant, we call it our trust diagnostic, but it's a way to really pinpoint trust issues.

When you unpack most organizational issues, a lot of them come down to trust. So, it's a really handy way to map this out, and then, as Rick was talking about trusting the weakest link issue, to dial in and where's the strategic place to start so we're not overwhelmed with where we need to go? And then looking at those skills and piling it back and linking it to people's experience, like you just shared, between that difference of low trust and high trust context. Because I haven't met anyone who wants to work in a low trust context when they have the choice to develop the skills, to develop the process about the systems and the cultures that can be high trust instead.

SKOT WALDRON:

Right on. I love that. I love it. Rick, can you expand on that system a little bit of how... Because you've systemized this, systematized, what's the word? Systemized, systematized, anyway, expand on that a little bit.

RICK KITAGAWA:

Yeah. I mean, I think really the way we actually, Lisa and I, started collaborating was around building a practical framework for people to practice and develop empathy, because empathy is one of those business words that gets thrown around. Everyone's like, "We need more empathy," and no one goes is about showing or [inaudible 00:22:44] guiding people along a path to be more empathetic. But just things like being charismatic, or being a good storyteller, or being consistent both internally and externally. All of these things, there are blueprints for them. It's just about how do we think about going in and dialing them in and being very conscientious about what we're doing, the context we're doing it in and what is both the intent that we have, but as well as the impact that we're having on other people?

And I think it's really, we've done a lot of work just to dive into each of these, into the trust diagnostic to figure out, well, what is the core skill in each one of those little overlaps that really allows people to unlock trust at scale via credibility, or trust with oneself through clarity, or trust with another through connection?

And by really breaking down, we're able to help leaders, one, hone in on where they might make the most impact. And two, give them a blueprint to walk themselves through, step-by-step, to redevelop and strengthen the muscles that they already have around these areas.

LISA LAMBERT:

And if I could just add three to that too, is then, it's looking at what is their actual organizational culture or their system that's enabling these skills and these behaviors to be practiced in that context too. And this is why we do training plus organizational design and consultancy as well, because it's one thing to go and get trained up and learn all these skills. But then if you go and jump into an environment where they're just actively discouraged, or they're not incentivized, it's really hard to put them into play and actually have lasting change and lasting transformation. So, coupling the two and looking at the system level, which is really where you develop trust at scale is a really powerful combination in actually having effective transformation for leaders and for organizations alike.

SKOT WALDRON:

Super powerful. I'm going to ask you both to think about your favorite part of the book. If you could share anything about the book with me, whether it's a paragraph you love or a concept, a principle, or whether it's Seth Godin's blurb that he wrote about, whatever it is. What is it that you would share with us? Who can go first? Who can think of that fastest first, Lisa or Rick? I'll let you guys decide.

RICK KITAGAWA:

I can start.

LISA LAMBERT:

Do you want to go? All right.

RICK KITAGAWA:

I think, for me, what I like most about the book is I think the brevity, I'm a huge fan of bringing pop culture into things. So as going back to the late '90s, I believe, Sum 41, the punk rock band, has an album called All Killer No Filler. And that's the way I like to think about the book. And just especially we have an entire section that's just like, what's the best way of building trust? It's extending it. And that simplicity of it, I think really emphasizes how trust is so... We often think about how do we become more trusted? How can we extract things from other people? So, if we're more trusted, we can get more business, if we can make more money, and we can do all of this stuff. But I think, at the end of the day, success really comes from generosity. And I think we have been really intentional about pairing down everything in the book to just core essentials. And I think I really just like that one page, that's just like, what's the best way to earn trust? It's to extend it.

LISA LAMBERT:

I like the simplicity and brevity a lot. I think one thing that comes to mind for me is the structure of it. And this might be just my attachment to our writing process for it as well, is when we kind of unlocked, to use your word unlocked, what this structure was, it just seemed to fit together. It seemed to fit together in a way that really resonated with people and giving them a roadmap or a handbook they could put into practice.

The book is divided into three acts, starting with why trust? And getting into what is trust? And making it more concrete for people to understand what actually is this, what are some of the mechanisms, systems, skillsets, mindsets at play behind it, and then the third act, how do you build trust? And being really practical, again, really succinct, as you're saying, and using short stories, using metaphors that are really landing with people based on the feedback that we're hearing.

And they're able to take something that, again, we sometimes think about as being soft and squishy, or we don't think about trust at all until we don't have it anymore. But being able to give people a language to talk about trust, to understand trust, and actually talk it with their team, talk with their organization about the concept of trust and what it means for them. I think that's something I'm really proud of. And I think we did a good job in executing on that.

SKOT WALDRON:

Right on. I love it. I love it. Brevity's awesome. I think there's too much filler out there and no killer. So, going back to Sum 41, well done. All right. Who's this for? I mean, is it... So trust is a universal concept. It's something we talk about forever, all the time, in every aspect of what we do. I love the fact and the idea behind creating a practical tool around trust and empathy to help us build more of that. Because you're right. I think a lot of people go around and they're like, "Rah, rah, rah, we need to empathize more. We need to show more that we care." Especially with the younger generations now. And how do we extend trust? How do we build... And it's one thing to say it a lot, but building a way for us to implement is really important.

I always tell people that I'm coaching, information transfer doesn't lead to transformation. I can tell you stuff all day, but it doesn't matter unless we actually put it into motion, really ingrain it into what we do. So, what I will say, and go back to ask you the question I was going to ask, is who is this for? And why would they want to pick it up? Lisa?

LISA LAMBERT:

I love what you're saying about information transfer doesn't lead to transformation. How we talk about is that, there's a difference between knowledge and know-how. So, this is really about practical skills, practical systems. So, it's really for leaders who care about people who want to show up and want to put things into practice, who wants to develop the know-how, who wants to step into what we call this posture of trust-centered leadership, but who really care about people, who care about the work, doing work that matters, and can set their ego aside and look at leadership, not as a way of building followers or as command and control, or even brute force, but looking at leadership as an invitation to build up other leaders and shift from this power over model that we've all experienced in different ways to this power with, and that happens through practice and through learnings together with our teams. I think if that resonates with leaders, I think they'll really love the book.

SKOT WALDRON:

Rick, what do you think?

RICK KITAGAWA:

I think Lisa said it perfectly. It's anyone who's looking to build trust and make change. Especially if you are struggling right now with leading in a distributed or remote workforce, I think this book can really help unlock the potential in moving forward in a different way that is more effective, more human-centered and makes work better for everyone.

SKOT WALDRON:

So good. And you've earned $15, $5 for every time you set said unlocked in this interview. So, well done and paid off. No, that's really cool. I love that principle. I love the concept. I love everything you've done. I am eager to get to do this. So, basically you're saying it's for everybody on the planet, unless you don't care about building trust or empathy with anyone.

RICK KITAGAWA:

Pretty much. Pretty much. [crosstalk 00:30:54].

SKOT WALDRON:

Okay, [inaudible 00:30:54]. Okay. That's awesome. I love it. Hey, it's been really good having you all on the show, the dynamic duo did not disappoint. I really appreciate you and all you're doing. So, go on. Keep rocking it.

LISA LAMBERT:

Likewise, Skot, thank you so much.

RICK KITAGAWA:

Thanks so much for having us.

SKOT WALDRON:

So, I want to make sure that you caught some of those things. Trust, loyalty is a two-way street. We got to give it in order to receive it. It's going to be really tough for me to say, "No, no, no, no. I don't trust you, but I demand that you trust me." That's not going to fly. So we need to understand what it's going to take for us to be able to trust somebody else to let go of whatever's holding us back in order to build that trust back for us. That's super critical. The five facets, clarity, credibility, consistency, care and connection. I love it. Not only that kind of stuff with the Cs. I love that. But I love the fact that those things are incorporated into how we build more trust and why each one is so important. Then laying on top of that, the three foundations of self, others and understanding how we scale that.

So, those things are going to be really critical laying on top of those five facets and really digging into those components. Then the last thing is talking about that trust and that willingness to step into the unknown. So next time you have a problem trusting somebody think, "What is it holding me back from stepping into the unknown with that person? What is it? What is that thing? Is there a lack of clarity, credibility, consistency, care, or connection? Maybe it's one of those. Maybe there's plenty of multiple things that are holding me back from trusting that individual enough to step into the darkness and go with them on that path."

So, I love it. So, let's think about that as we go forward, not only in our personal lives, but in our business lives as well. So, again, the book, The Future Is Trust. It's out now. Get your hands on it. Thank you, Rick and Lisa for being on the show, I really appreciate you. If you want to find out more about me, you can go to Skotwaldron.com. I've got interviews there. I've got some other things about what I do on my website. You can also find me on LinkedIn, connect there. YouTube, that's where I store a lot of free information. There's tools, there's principles, there's all of my shows, my podcast appearances I've been on, my podcast shows, [inaudible 00:33:50] Unlocked are all on there. So, like, subscribe, comment, do all those things. Thank you for being here. I will see you next time on another episode of Unlocked.

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