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Trust IS the Glue (part 4)

What Comes First: Psychological Safety or Trust?

In my last LinkedIn post on this topic, a colleague, Bogdan Manta responded with the 5 drivers his company focuses on when it comes to employee engagement:

Choice / Autonomy | Fairness / Equity | Psychological Safety | Learn / Challenge | Voice / Recognition

I, in turn, responded to his comment with the following: “Bogdan, in looking at this list, I feel that Psychological Safety (PS) is the foundation for the other drivers.” I promised to explore this further in my next article and told him I’d love to have his feedback on this. He has promised to do so and I look forward to hearing his thoughts and yours as well.

To begin, I thought that trust and psychological safety are the same. In doing a deeper dive, I’ve come to the conclusion there are some differences but they are definitely interdependent.

In relation to the team or group experience, psychological safety is best defined as: “… a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes and the team is safe for inter-personal risk taking.” Amy Edmondson Or, in other words attributed to her: “the sense that we can share our feelings, beliefs, and experiences openly at work without fear of retribution, loss of status, or punishment”.

Trust is in relation to each other, how we view another. Psychological safety is the belief regarding the norms within the group. In other words: “Trust is personal; psychological safety is a group phenomenon.” I may trust you to get the job done or to be honest about a situation. But do I feel safe to admit when I’m wrong or have doubts about a project, that these will not be thrown back in my face.

With this deeper dive into trust, I discovered there are two elements to trust, which if both are present, builds the psychological safety of the group. Cognitive Trust, is the confidence one has in the abilities and reliability of the other to get the job done. It’s more ‘head based’ or rational. Affective Trust is more heart based and is described as “mutual interpersonal care and concern or emotional bonds”. Our behavior then, towards another, is fundamental in building trust. Both aspects of trust are needed to create a psychologically safe work environment with each other and within the group.

Recently, I facilitated a team session on building personal resilience. Someone expressed their desire to be able to speak freely when something is bothering them, when they’re feeling stressed. To be able to express feelings of overwhelm, when things aren’t going the way they were expected to, is of paramount importance in building a feeling of safety.

With this deeper dive, in looking at Bogdan’s list of drivers to promote Employee Engagement, then I have to say this can’t be achieved without psychological safety as the foundation. Or is it the chicken and egg metaphor? When all the other drivers are in place, then you’ve created a psychologically safe work environment in which employees thrive?

Starting the conversations, listening with and expressing empathy, having an open mind and leaving judgments out of the conversation are just a few essential ways to build this safety. Be curious, be open, be courageous, be non-judgmental. Who then is going to start the conversation? In the words of a Ready for Female Leadership co-author, Archana Wuntakal, ‘if not you, then who?’.

Trust IS the Glue (part 2)

Trust is the Glue: be an emotionally inspired leader!

According to research by Richard Boyatzis, Professor at Case Western University in the US, trust is one of 5 characteristics of an emotionally inspired leader.

Building Trust

Trust is an emotion you inspire in others and it’s essential for a thriving workplace. You can’t demand trust. It just doesn’t work that way.

In a WEConnect International webinar, facilitated by Evoloshen, a TRUST acronym was shared which resonated with me in answer to the question: How do you build trust?

T= Transparency

R= Relationships

U= Understanding

S= Shared Success

T= Truth-telling

Trust also goes hand in hand with traits such as credibility, reliability, openness, confidence, and a focus on best results for your employees and the organization (not for yourself).

When your employees trust you, they will invest time and energy that they wouldn’t be willing to do with a leader they don’t trust. They will dare to take risks, which they otherwise wouldn’t. There is a willingness to ‘go the extra mile’, even when they don’t know what’s around the corner. Trust in your people to do the right thing, and they most likely will.

Remember that trust is fragile. Even so, it doesn’t need to break. Take the time with your team to define what trustworthiness means. You may be surprised that not everyone has the same definition. Create a definition that resonates with everyone. Discuss which behaviors lead to a lack of trust and which lead to a trusting relationship. Calculate the costs for your team and the company, when low trust exists.

In his 2006 book ‘The Speed of Trust’, Stephen M. Covey came up with an equation defining the economics of trust (please click on the image to see it fully):

 “Economists care about trust because it is closely connected to economic activity. Its absence leads to lower wages, profits, and employment, while its presence facilitates trade and encourages activity that adds economic value.” https://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/trust-project/videos/matouschek-ep-1.aspx

Without trust as the glue, collaboration and innovation are almost impossible to achieve. If you don’t have trust in your people, or they don’t trust you, they will only do the minimum it takes. They will do what they’re told. Nothing more.

Trust IS the Glue

My work this past decade has focused on supporting employees in developing healthy strategies to weather the adverse situations which come onto all of our paths. I’ve come to realize what the title of this article says: Trust IS the Glue!

We all know that change is happening at an incredible pace, all around us. Organizational experts inundate us with their research. In order to survive and especially thrive, we (our organizations and the people who work in them, a.k.a. ‘organisms’) need to be adaptable to this change. Change mindsets, open mindsets, growth mindsets are terms bandied about and rightly so: without the ability to adapt to change, we’re going to become irrelevant.

For me, what’s missing in all this dialogue are the essential ingredients needed to ensure this can take place. It’s my opinion that without trust, and without its sister qualities of connection, curiosity and courage, the vulnerability needed to build it is going to be hard to find.

What comprises trust? How do you define trust? You need to know this for yourself in order to know if it exists. How do you know when your work environment is trustworthy? What feelings does a trusting workplace instill in yourself? What behaviors do you exhibit which make you trustworthy?

On the flip side, what happens within organizations when trust is low? What are the costs? To my mind, lack of engagement, productivity, and creativity are just a few of the side effects. Add a toxic environment into the equation and watch your organizational resources dwindle, not least your people.

There is so much to win in building a trustworthy culture, especially with the competition for talent in today’s market. My challenge to all of you who lead others is to give this topic your attention. Today, not tomorrow!