Trust and building it

Trust and psychological safety in the workplace has been an area of focus for some time now.  Here I offer a few reflections and insights into working with trust and welcome continuing the conversation for ideas and tips and experiences of trust in organisations with you.

Self Score – Finding out your optimal level of trust and what might be possible for you.

Getting an idea of what good trust feels like to us can anchor us.  Most of us have an inner circle, a safe psychological space we can retreat to where we can just be ourselves, where people just get us, where we can be vulnerable, speak our truth and refresh ourselves to return to the organisational stage.   Brene Brown’s comment about trust is about, choosing to make what’s important to you, vulnerable to the actions of someone else.  Distrust is defined as what I shared with is not safe with you.  Imagine all meetings, all email interactions, all responses were as effortless and known as it is for you here.   Why not take a few minutes to feel this quality of trust, and if it is useful to rate it out of 10 for yourself and hold on to this as a personal benchmark…

Trust isn’t a thing, its a process of relating, of risk taking.

Like it or not, we all have an agenda so be curious and share it to build greater trust.

All conversations are a meeting of agenda’s at many levels. For example my professional standards that drive my agenda, my buy-in the department goals and agenda, my buy-in the overall longer-term goals of the organisation.  In holding an open agenda we will be seen as more trustworthy by some than others.  Self-awareness and mastery enable us to listen to our own agenda and own it in our interactions with others and to reach out to be curious of other’s agendas; to be open to influence and novelty and change – to broaden our network and our ability to work with differences.  Our intentions are what drives us and are manifested in our actions and indeed our choices not to act.  Self-mastery is about intentional action linked to higher purpose.  How can we make our intentions more transparently linked to the wider organisational purpose?

Be less tolerant. In organisations people can be clear about what is encouraged and what is discouraged, but it is that grey area of what is tolerated that can be toxic as it allows a drift in terms of wanted behaviours and that in itself can erode trust.  When we tolerate actions that are against our values or purpose, this means employees experience dissonance – they often call it rhetoric and lack of authenticity.  Each time we refresh our goals and our roadmaps let’s look at what we need to stop tolerating too to give them the very best chance of success.  What are you going to be less tolerant about?

Trust is often impolite, gritty, messy and human.  The tricky thing with trust is, it doesn’t just show up on demand.  It cannot be ‘magiced’ up. Trust shows itself as a quality you have with others when you or another is vulnerable and something of value is at risk.  When you feel able to let down your defenses, to share something that is of value to you, a work project, an opinion, an idea, with another.  Lencioni says of teams that trust is a “willingness to be vulnerable”  without this, conversations remain polite as there is fear of conflict and unfiltered passionate debate is avoided.  How many polite conversations are you having?

The Elephant in the Room can serve you well – Trust is not a thing but a process, and as such it is co-created every day on the stage of organisational life and we can be choiceful in working towards greater trust.  Trust is situational, it’s specific to business and as such your elephants in the room or ways of working that are tripping you up are a great place to start to look at what can be done to improve trust.   Clients are often astounded at how the same group of people can shift from being siloed, and dysfunctional to a tight high performing team, where differences and novelty are harnessed and work becomes fun again.  Find out how you are getting in your own way.

Have I got the skills needed to play the building trust game? – Art Kleiner suggested we need to take ownership of our contribution, “We can take direct action, through self-awareness and thinking seriously about our “equity”; the portfolio of resources and talents that we bring to the organisation”. Too often we can get caught up in being fearful, not being able to shine, holding back, blaming others, and withholding our potential.

However, kick-starting the conversation needs to get to a level of trust built on a shared purpose and shared meaning is tricky.  It isn’t an intellectual game, it’s about wanting to face into the bumpy ride of your learning edges and acquiring the emotional intelligence needed to stay in difficult conversations, to hear others, to hear feedback and to work out how best to add value in that moment.  Are you in the zone for playing the trust game?

Trust is something that is co-created, often with the same people, who work together in new ways – Here’s my definition of what happens:

Refreshed ways of relating, built on a shared purpose, enable untapped energies to be unleashed.  New value is offered up and synergies of competence come into play and … audacious things seem to just happen and if you measure your progress, the progress is sustainable … trust me :-).

Written by:
Matt Burdock

Executive Coaching, Culture Measurement, Leadership Development.

October 1, 2019