Often used in comics and older movies, the rug pull is a classic slapstick move which involves grabbing hold of the rug someone is standing on and quickly pulling it towards you. The unsuspecting individual finds their feet going out from under them as they fall to the floor. This visual trope is the origin of “to pull the rug out from under them” or “rug pull,” meaning to put someone at a disadvantage by suddenly withdrawing support from them.
Last week, we witnessed a significant rug pull as the creators of the digital currency SQUID, based off the popular Netflix series “Squid Game”, cashed out, causing the crypto currency to fall to $0 and effectively stealing at least $2.1 million from investors. SQUID had surged as high as $2,861 before the crash.
I’ll leave you to determine for yourself the wisdom of investing in the current rash of digital currency and NFTs. What I want to talk about is the rug pull. It is easy to see what happened with SQUID as unethical. Reading the stories, it becomes obvious that the people behind the crypto currency intended from the start to defraud their investors. Losing money is a hard way to experience a life lesson, but the greater loss is trust.
Trust is hard to build. Each of us must bestow a certain amount of trust in the people around us, our leaders, our co-team members, even people in the broader community. We do this almost without thinking as it is necessary to function in a civil society. However, while we may “trust” the person driving next to us on the highway not to suddenly smash into us, we wouldn’t give them the keys to our home or the password to our bank account.
True trust develops over time as the result of many small events where the person we are trusting behaves in ways that are consistent with someone who respects and cares for us. As each opportunity presents itself and the other person responds appropriately, our trust in that person grows. Like a tree growing in our yard, it is hard to see the change from day to day, but over time the sapling becomes a tall shade tree we cherish and enjoy.
When someone we have trusted suddenly fails to support us, or worse, actively withdraws their support, we feel like the rug has been yanked out from under us. That beautiful tree has been chopped down, leaving an ugly stump where it once stood. It will take many years to regrow, that is, if we choose to replant, and the stump will be there forever as a reminder of what it felt like to have trusted and been betrayed.
Like me, you may be thinking, “I would never pull the rug out from under someone.” I hear you, but are you sure you can claim that? Remember the definition, “to put someone at a disadvantage by suddenly withdrawing support from them.” Want to rethink your answer? I know I do.
Have you ever given someone the responsibility to accomplish a task or goal without giving them authority to do it? Sometimes this looks like standing over their shoulder, which causes others to look to you instead of the person you gave the task to. Sometimes this looks like second guessing their decisions or changing things they have done. Delegating without giving authority and letting them do the work is a rug pull.
Are you great at communicating what you want or need, but often unreachable otherwise? If you are talking to your team but not letting them talk to you, are you really supporting them? Assuming that your communications are distinct and understood and then holding people accountable without open and clear access to you is a rug pull.
When someone tells you how great you did on a major project, what do you do? Leaders who take the credit for what their team accomplishes are, at best, a little arrogant and, at worst, are stealing from their people. Without humility, understanding, and equality of value, it is easy to pull the rug on team accomplishments.
Great leaders support their team members. They communicate clearly and often what the goals are. They demonstrate their appreciation in words and action. They share the glory and the rewards of work well done. They help people find their path for growth. They invest in their team’s professional and personal lives. They are humble and respectful, listening to and understanding their team. And finally, they create a safe space where people can trust them for consistent support.
Getting the rug pulled out from under you is a scary and potentially harmful event. It can result in a lifetime of isolation and mistrust. I want to be a person that other people trust. I want to live in a community where I am not looking out for a rug pull but thriving in the full support of those around me. If we are trustworthy, we can make a tangible difference in the lives of those we serve, and it is The Kimray Way.