I watch a lot of action and sci-fi movies, and inevitably there’s a scene where the hero, preparing to rush into a gun fight, turns to his right-hand man (or woman, or Droid) and says, “You cover me”.
On the silver screen, this is a great “trust moment” for the protagonist — yes, they’re the one playing the hero and rushing selflessly into the line of fire, BUT they also realize that they can’t do it all alone; they acknowledge that, to succeed, they’ll needed a trusted teammate to “have their back”.
As true as this is for sci-fi/action movies, so, too, is it true in the workplace. Say, for example, you’re preparing a Powerpoint presentation and when you stand up to begin, you realize that your laptop is on the fritz. Then, as panic arises in your throat, your assistant steps up and assures you, “Don’t worry boss, I’ve got a spare laptop right here, and it’s already loaded with your presentation.” Now that’s having your back!
This “having your back” phenomenon can include emotional as well as practical coverage. A few years back, for example, I found myself standing in front of 80 people at the memorial for my father, Walter. Talk about a position of emotional risk!. Although I had practiced my eulogy numerous times at home, I knew that keeping my composure was going to be a BIG challenge — especially towards the end when the speech had me saying goodbye to my Dad. Without me asking her, my wife (at the time) spontaneously came up to the podium and stood there next to me throughout the entire speech, resting her hand supportively on the small of my back. When I arrived — finally — at the end of the eulogy, my wife was right there, reminding me to relax and breathe. I got through the speech without a breakdown – thanks to the support of someone I trusted, anticipating my needs. Although, in fact, my wife and are no longer together (just as teams often separate over time), I will always remember with gratitude that moment when she literally had my back.
Trust is about being trustworthy–about coming through in the clutch–about doing what you say you’re going to do. But it’s also about anticipating your teammates’ needs and backing them up, whether they ask for it or not.
Who in your life do you trust to have your back in times of risk? And when is the last time you thanked those people for covering you when you were “under fire”?