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Posts tagged ‘Trust’

the decision to trust

One of the quickest ways to gain everyone’s focus is to say the word “trust” in any given situation: work, training, coaching – the workplace, community organization, or family. We know who we trust and want others to trust us. But we don’t spend much time thinking about how and why we trust others and how and why others trust us.

Have you ever extended trust and gotten burned? Distrust leads to anxiety, fear, and anger. These are associated with processes initiated by the amygdala – the “low road” of the brain. A judgment of distrust immediately sets up the fight – flight – freeze experience in a threat response.

How do you feel when you’ve extended trust and received trust in return? Neurological research suggests that trust is correlated with the presence of oxytocin. This hormone is associated with healthy personal connections demonstrated by reduced fear response and increased well-being. In a trusting environment of relationships, the high-level brain functions – critical analysis, logic, creative thinking, and verbal ability – are easily accessed.

From behind the desk as leaders and managers, we function every day in workplaces where there is never enough time to reach the end of the “to-do” list. We face an unending series of conflicting demands. We are forced to change priorities often, sometimes on the spot. We do not always have control over compensation or promotions. We try to be transparently honest, consistent in our actions, and caring about each person. Yet we wonder why at times people work with an air of resignation, with a lack of trust in our leaders and organizations.

Understanding trust in the workplace:
Trust in the workplace is about vulnerability. In the workplace we are vulnerable in the areas of money, role, or promotions. And vulnerable to intangible things like beliefs, a way of doing things, status, or reputation. We are vulnerable to other’s actions. When we trust, we hope their actions will support and, at least, not harm us.

Trust is the focus of safety, autonomy, and human dignity. When we trust, our reactions include: I am safe. I can be open and curious. I can handle what is happening. I communicate freely, offer ideas, and expect the best. The opposites are true for distrust: I am in danger and under threat. I need to protect myself. I can’t handle this. I complain, withdraw, and expect the worst. I experience fear, anger, and resentment.

When we choose to trust we are making a complex decision. Stating that we trust someone is based on our judgment in four areas: integrity, intent, capabilities, and results.

  • Integrity has become a buzzword. It is invisible. But at its core, integrity is honesty: telling the truth and leaving the right impression. Other qualities that are a part of integrity are: congruence – acting consistently from our values, humility – putting others first while being more concerned about what is right rather than being right, and courage – doing the right thing even in the face of challenges.
  • Intent is part of our character. At its core is sincerity and motivation. To increase trust, intent must be visible. We communicate openly about what we are choosing to do and why we are acting. We communicate that our motivation is to act for the genuine benefit of others. We seek ways to create “enough” rather than function out of stress and scarcity.
  • Capabilities are more than the traditional “KSA” – knowledge, skills, and abilities. They include “TASKS:” Talents – natural gifts and strengths. Attitudes – our map of the world and how we behave. Skills – what we do well, specifically ones that are relevant to our work. Knowledge – learning, insight, and awareness. Style – our unique approaches to work, our personality.
  • Results represent our track record in taking responsibility for accomplishing goals and getting the right things done.

Managing trust in the workplace:
Since trust is a complex decision, as leaders and managers we can begin to understand ourselves by asking, “How am I acting and communicating in ways that build trust in my integrity and sincerity? In my intent and care? In my capabilities and competence? In my results and reliability?”

We manage more successfully when we ask ourselves why we don’t trust someone before we begin having workplace conversations. What are we saying when we say that we don’t trust someone? Do we have issues with their integrity? Intentions? Capabilities? Or, results?

Then we begin the conversation with being specific about our concerns about what they have done, not focusing on what they are. Ask how they see the situation and listen carefully for issues of integrity, intent, capabilities, and results.

Ask what they would do to restore trust. State clearly what actions and attitudes you need to experience from them in order to restore trust. Close by asking how they will commit to act in a trustworthy way.

On the flip side, if we have broken trust, the only antidote is to acknowledge and apologize. Acknowledgement means recognizing the betrayal of trust from the other person’s perspective – even if it was unintentional on your part. Be specific about how trust was betrayed: by integrity, intent, capability, or result. And apologize: take responsibility and state your intent to act with good motives and care for everyone’s benefit and well-being. It always includes not repeating the action and acting to correct the problem at hand.

Practicing trust in the workplace:
Observe your co-workers and begin to distinguish between different types of trust issues. Reflect on what others you trust are saying and doing that makes them trustworthy. Ask, “What do you entrust to others in the workplace? Why? What do your co-workers entrust to you? Why?”

Inspire trust by seeking to understand yourself and your own credibility, and then consistently behave in trust-building ways with other people. Consider how you can communicate so that others do not misunderstand you. Create and hold an intention to be trustworthy. An intention will bring clarity (why I’m doing this), meaning (why it’s important to me), and purpose (why this reflects my values) to everything that happens

Trust in the workplace takes an understanding how others judge trustworthiness, observing language and actions, and setting an intention to be a trusted leader, co-worker, and employee. Relationships based on mutual trust are the foundation for health in our companies, government, communities, and families.

What do you entrust to others in the workplace? Why? What do your co-workers entrust to you? Why?

On Football and Credibility

Lou Holtz, football coach, talks about how he created a team year-after-year. His college football teams changed personnel every year. But, his questions* to each person were always the same: Do you care about me? Can I trust you? Are you committed to the success of the team?

Holtz believed the answers to these questions are best given through actions. When we consistently act in an authentic and trustworthy manner, we will gain trust. But what do those words mean? And, how can we develop authenticity and trustworthiness in ourselves?

Authenticity arises from being yourself, which comes from the story you’ve lived. Being authentic means knowing and living your story. Authentic leaders are steady, confident, and consistent. They are the same person day-in and day-out.

Trustworthiness is made up of several things: sincerity, reliability, competence, and care. Sincerity is honesty: you say what you mean and mean what you say. Your opinions are backed by the facts and sound thinking. Reliability means you keep your  commitments and promises. Competence says you have the knowledge, skills, and resources to do your job. Caring is keeping other’s interests in mind as you act and make decisions. When we say someone is trustworthy, we may mean one or all of these things. Likewise, saying that someone is untrustworthy may mean they have failed at one or more of these things.

Leaders who are authentic and trustworthy have the ability to create and manage teams for each season. They mentor and teach others, developing capacity and connection, calling each person to develop their gifts and skills. They work with individuals, creating a team identity and purpose. They inquire into their team’s experience in order to know and live the team’s story along with their own.

I’ve written a longer article that includes questions for reflection as you consider Holtz’s questions for yourself.

*Holtz quote from “The Art of Innovation” by Tom Kelley, p. 85

Where do we start?

Less than 7% of the Eastern Screech Owls in the United States live in Kansas. Discovering a rather unusual visitor requires dedicated observation on our part and support from friends who watch for his arrival. But his regular return requires the right resources (temperature, hollow tree, water and food, etc.) and trust as people walk past his home and take his picture.

I recently wrote about building a better boss. One of the resulting questions that has prompted an ongoing conversation between Jon and I is, “Where can our organization start building?”

Organizational environments are as complex as natural ones that support the life of this owl – someone would argue more complex because they include people. Yet we return each day to our work and the opportunity to start anew.

The place to start is always with yourself. Here are some questions that I ask our coaching clients that will jumpstart your thinking:

  • Have you identified your personal values and vision?
  • How do these fit with the values and vision of your organization? Of your team or work group? (Note: organization and team values might be somewhat different!)
  • Do you trust others in your organization and do they trust you?
  • What are the top three things that you want to focus on for learning and growth in the next six months?

Starting with leading and managing yourself lays a foundation for successfully leading and managing others. In an age of immersive connections, the first question is, “Are you connected to yourself?”

Top Secret

Last week I spent time doing archival research at the archives of Senator Mike Mansfield. I was searching for information on behalf of an author who is writing about the U.S. Congress and the C.I.A. Now this might seem like a sidetrack from my usual organization development posts, but I found the archive search engaging on many levels. Following this experience, one of the things I am considering is the question of what needs to be “top secret”. I scanned through many declassified documents that even after 50 years made me wonder why they were ever “classified” in the first place.

This is a question that most organizations struggle to decide, “What needs to be kept secret?” Today data is freely available from multiple sources. Even sitting in the local coffee shop finds us “located” by the GPS in our phone, the IP address in our computer, or our credit card swiped at the register. Transparency has become a business buzz word. Yet this is a complex issue, full of paradox. How do we protect intellectual property while encouraging growth and change? How do we retain our privacy when we can be “located” so easily?

While not ignoring the complexity, I would argue that much less needs to be kept secret than is currently under lock and key. Our organizations need truth and trust like our bodies need water and oxygen. We need to act with integrity and honesty. We should be willing to ask and answer questions – and not just the ones we wish others would ask. Our organizations are healthier when openness flourishes.

Research demonstrates that organizational openness is a competitive advantage as measured by employees retained and customer loyalty. Research in interpersonal neurobiology demonstrates that our brains function more effectively when we have certainty about how things function, knowing what to expect. What will each of us do to promote honesty, integrity, and openness? What will we “declassify” within our organizations?

The power of undo

The power to undo has become firmly established in our lives. We press the backspace key or type “Ctrl+Z” to instantly undo typing mistakes. We press the undo button in the word processor to change our minds about what we want to say or how to say it.  If we decide we don’t like a purchase, we take it back to the store. Undo is the power to “make a previous act of no effect.”

I would not want to go back to the days of “white out”. And, I like to be able to return things that don’t fit or exchange them for something more useful. But when we try to transfer the power of undo to our organizations and relationships, our commitments can be conditional; we don’t have to care too much; we don’t have to risk trusting. Indeed, trust may be broken all kinds of ways. A leader offers false praise, gives inconsistent messages, or pretends the elephant in the room doesn’t exist. It can be broken when a customer service representative stonewalls instead of assists or a product fails five minutes after being unboxed.

Yet, no one or thing is perfect. We make mistakes with our clients and employees, families and friends.  And, in our relationships and organizations, there is no undo, no power to “make a previous act of no effect.”  A reader recently challenged me by commenting that we need to do “our best to finish well, especially when we need to ask for forgiveness … understanding and healing should not go undone–if possible.”

Asking for, and offering, forgiveness is part of rebuilding trust. In my experience, repairing trust is possible, but it can take time and requires a change in behavior. Paul Boese said, “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it enlarges the future.” It enlarges by making it possible for me to again risk commitment, love, and trust, – remembering that the power of undo is limited.

Are we there yet?

The road trip continues with over a thousand miles completed. Like kids on a long car trip, organizations are prone to setting goals and then asking, “Are we there yet?”

Setting, working toward, and meeting goals are an integral part of a successful organization. Trust and energy are built when members experience the commitment of everyone to the process and the shared drive to deliver on time and within deadlines. Growth happens as successes are celebrated, new challenges appear, and further goals are set.

For organizations and leaders, goal setting is an ongoing journey with way points. Are we there yet? Yes, we are and we will be!

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