Trust and the stories we tell

painting-contractor-portland-orMy grandfather was a painting and wallpaper contractor who worked on his own. I had the good fortune of working for him for many years as I grew up and the stories he told as we worked together were more important than the money I earned or the painting skills I developed. He shared stories on building his customer base, on always putting in a good day’s work, and how to provide amazing customer service. In fact, he never had to advertise for business and always had jobs lined up and waiting. What I remember most were the stories that focused on the people we worked for and how he built relationships with each one of them. Relationships built on trust and a personal connection. We ended up being asked to watch young children if a parent had to run an errand, given keys so we could work in their homes when they were on vacation and often invited to their open houses to show off their new decorating! I have used those stories and the lessons I learned from them when I interviewed for my last two jobs and in my work coaching leaders.

At the ASTD – International conference last week I discovered a book titled “The Slice of Trust” (Link to book) that reminded me of how my grandfather built trust. David Hutchens, an organizational storyteller, and Barry Rellaford, are the co-authors and they bring to life Steven M.R. Covey’s the “Speed of Trust” through story and fables. You are introduced to Simon the Pieman and learn important leadership lessons on building trust with your people.


Simon tackles an issue that I know most leaders struggle with, how to extend trust to others at work, through the metaphor of sharing a pie. His story describes how my grandfather extended trust to me, his young apprentice. One piece at a time! Hutchens and Covey call this “smart trust.” As the leader you need to take the first step and extend trust, but, only one piece at a time! Not the whole pie, until you analyze how you and the other person enjoyed the single piece of pie. I was trusted to paint closets before I was trusted to paint living rooms!

Covey encourages leaders to read Simon’s story and then to reflect on how each of us extends trust in our organizations and to look for opportunities to share our pie.

Todd Thorsgaard


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