Do You Have Their Back?

by | Oct 12, 2022 | Thought Piece Series | 0 comments

Trust is talked about a lot, and it can sometimes feel like people keep banging on about it. It’s also a difficult thing to define. What does it actually even mean?
Brene Brown’s BRAVING is an excellent way of turning this elusive intangible concept into something that has you say “oh ok, now I know what do to”.

In this post I want to share, from personal experiences, little examples of trust, using the idiom: having their back.

Do you have their back?

As I write this, I’m aware of what a strange sentence this is to write and read. In conversation it’s totally natural, yet I see this as my blog title and it just looks weird.

So I googled is there another word for this, and got:
Got you
I’m with you
I’m on your side
I’ll back you up
I’ve got you covered

Isn’t it wonderful when you are with others and this is what you feel?
And doesn’t it suck when you experience being left out to dangle?

This past weekend I gathered with fellow leaders and entrepreneurs to learn about leadership from horses. More on that to follow.
And having each others back was a topic that came up.

She had my back

There was one beautiful moment when I had started to talk too much, over explain, trying to stress the importance of the proposed action (see how it’s creeping in here? I confess I have been known to go on a bit when I really believe in something).

And out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone give me a little head shake and a wink.

It was such a delightful way of telling me to shut up. I said “thanks, and I’ll stop taking now”. And we all got on with things.

It was a moment where I felt fully backed up. She wasn’t going to let me drone on. She helped me stop at my moment of positive impact.

And I’m grateful. I had a little laugh at myself, and was happy that people were engaged and took my suggestion on board.

Left dangling

Earlier that morning, in response to a call to action, I went out on a limb and spoke on a highly delicate issue. Radical candor is how I’d describe it.
The person I addressed batted it back like it was the final shot at Wimbledon.
And I was left dangling by my team.

Just silence.
Then moving on to the next thing.

What usually happens (in teams everywhere)

We all move on to the next items.
Afterwards, someone will come and give you their support, tell you that you were right, or that they agree, or commiserate.

And something funky is left in the air.

What having their back can look like:
Maybe I was way off the mark, maybe I was spot on. But when you want a team to have high performance, you want the individuals to be able to innovate, be creative, take risks. And for a person to do that, they need to feel you have their back.
So when they take a risk, you’ve got to be there with them.

In this example, it could have been:

  • I’m not sure your message is clear Amber, maybe the two of you take time to discuss and understand each other when we are done here.
  • Hey X, there’s some new information for you here for you, that you don’t see yet.
  • While this is important, this isn’t the place of this conversation (so politely telling me to shut up)
  • an offer of help: how can we help you two with this?
  • A smile, a nod, to either of us, letting us know we’re not in this alone.

When you stop to think about it, there are so many options to let your team know that you are still with them.

Rebuilding trust

We are all human though. We make mistakes. We miss opportunities. And sincerely dislike the concept that we have to get it right the first time.

I’m a strong believer in “when you notice it, do something”.

The next day another leader there came up to me to say “I missed an opportunity yesterday. I thought something, and didn’t say it. I regret that, and I’m saying it now”.

This rebuilt trust between us.

And I was reminded of something so central to why we accidentally break trust.

They assumed I knew that they had my back.
And in general I know they do.
But we don’t live in the general. We live in the moment. And in that moment I was left dangling, and it slaps like a b*tch.

Wrap up

  1. it doesn’t take a lot to show someone you have their back. A glance can be enough.
  2. even if they know you have their back, show them anyway. don’t assume they know.
  3. if you miss the opportunity, do it as soon as you can. It’s never too late

If while reading this you start thinking of someone or a situation, then let them know you have their back. They need it. Trust me.

This is part of my Thought Piece Series where I explore topics related to leadership and provide both answers and questions. My intention is to start meaningful conversations that help us move forward. Want to connect? Click here

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