Big Brother and I talked a couple weeks ago perched atop Bascom Hill, the steepest hill in Madison, and I wore my steepest heels. The sun was bright with the resigned smile it holds between summer and fall, and I held on to the edge of my wrap dress, dangerously flirting with the wind. Big Brother stood simply, calmly.
“I make you nervous, don’t I?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said. My weight shifted from one heel to the other. “I feel like you don’t trust me yet.”
“No. I trust you. I have no reason not to trust you,” he said.
I nodded and he nodded and we looked at each other, smiling. When Big Brother smiles, you smile too, like a game of telephone, passing the message on. It’s charisma and it’s indefinable.
Big Brother and I are still figuring each other out. We’re figuring out the trust thing, and the loyalty thing. We’re building it. Because you can’t just say “trust me,” and believe everything will work out. That’s a movie ending, not a business decision. Trust has to be earned. Loyalty has to be created.
Big Brother knows this. He doesn’t use his success to shepherd me into trusting him. He expects that I’ll earn his trust and he’ll earn mine.
Trust and loyalty are big deals when you’re in a position of leadership, because everyone wants to be your friend for specific reasons. And everyone else doesn’t like you, for much of the same reasons.
“Don’t take it personally,” Big Brother told me as we sat across from each other after work. A glass of water sat in rings of sweat in front of me.
“Okay,” I said, running my fingertips along the table and through the water. I was thinking about the meeting I had in an hour, because after work is never really after work anymore.
“No. Look at me in the eyes,” he said. I looked up, amused. He was not amused. “Do you understand, truly? Don’t take it personally.”
“Okay,” I said. I nodded, looking directly at him, holding his gaze until he was nodding back, satisfied that I understood.
Big Brother and I are still figuring each other out. Because real trust and real loyalty takes time. These exchanges put another stone in place. Information is the foundation. Honesty is the mortar holding it together. There is no other way if you want to build a business relationship that can stand the cycle of the game.
There is no happy ending. The game cycle is a constant push and pull of what you build, and what you tear down.