Reliability, the second element of trust in the BRAVING acronym, is much the same in real life as it is in racing. Obviously, there are differences, because human minds are far more complex than race cars. The conscious mind is a tiny percentage of the brain's processor power, so there are myriad things happening under the surface of people's minds that get in the way of reliability.
In the sense of being an element of trust, reliability is defined as 'doing what you say you're going to do when you say you're going to do it.' This makes sense in the context of last week's Soulcare Sundays on boundaries, found here. If someone has good boundaries, they will decline things they don't have time for, and be reliable with the things they take on.
These two points of the acronym are inextricably linked. Without the ability to prioritise our time and energy in the ways that we can when practising healthy boundaries, we cannot possibly be reliable. We simply can't say yes to everything and get everything done.
As Simon Sinek has pointed out, people can be habitually unreliable in some areas of their lives, and we'll still trust them in other areas. For example, I tell confidential details to people who regularly arrive late, because I trust them to keep my secrets to themselves. I may tell them to show up at three o'clock while planning for them to arrive around five, but their habitual tardiness doesn't diminish the trust.
Stepping away from the perspective of personal friendships, this point is crucial in a work context. If you're building a race car, and the parts need to be on the plane to the next race by a certain time, doing what you say you're going to do, when you say you're going to do it is vital to the manager's planning process. The more moving parts in an organisation, the more important this area of trustworthiness becomes.
In teams of several hundred – even several thousand, in some cases – small delays get compounded as they go down the chain. In some cases, a super-efficient, super-reliable person picks up the slack for someone who is brilliant at their work but awful at deadlines. In other cases, someone needs to cut a corner to meet the target, and mistakes are made. Larger teams take this so seriously that they have reliability engineers – people whose entire job is to detect mistakes and fix them before race day.
I'll be the first to admit this isn't one of my strong suits. Of the three things mentioned by Gaiman, I'm scoring two, with 'observant of deadlines' being the falling-down point. I over-commit, and therefore I'm far from perfect at getting things done on time.
There are other reasons for reliability issues. Sometimes someone up the chain from us doesn't follow through on their word, and we end up missing our target as a result. Sometimes they outright lie about their progress to save face, and by the time we find out the truth it's too late to fix it. These – particularly the liars – are people to eliminate from your work chain, or at least find ways to minimise their impact.
As an example of this, cast your mind back to when Hulkenberg was at Sauber and went without pay for two months. In that instance, Sauber were being unreliable. They were being unreliable because they themselves hadn't been paid, so were unable to pay their wage bills. They clearly learned from the experience, because there haven't been stories like that one in recent years.
In what is possibly my favourite speech given by by Neil Gaiman, (around the 14 minute mark, although the whole speech is delightful) he said people keep working, 'because their work is good, because they're easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don't even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. People will forgive the lateness of your work if it's good and they like you. And you don't have to be as good as everyone else if you're on time and it's always a pleasure to hear from you.'
This isn't about a quest for some kind of personal perfection, only associating with people who tick all seven boxes on the 'trustworthiness' list, and beating ourselves with a giant stick every time we slip up. It's about making progress. I picked being kind and doing things I was proud of as priorities in my work; there sometimes isn't the bandwidth to deal with all of it, although I do try.
So now over to you. Are you reliable? If not, why not? Are you relying on unreliable people? What can you do to minimise their effects in your life?