WLP15 Trust at Work

Today's episode includes Virtual Coffee with Lisette Sutherland, from Collaboration Superpowers. Lisette and I tackle the ever elusive subject of Trust.

00:45 Pilar talks about "the problem with trust" at work and the Trust Equation, created by the Trusted Advisor. (Transcript below.)
10:36 Virtual Coffee with Lisette.
11:20 Pilar and Lisette plug the No Pants Festival. www.nopantsfest.be/
13:00 Lisette talks about her Collaboration Superpowers workshop. 
14:30 Trust at work
19:15 Why does video help to build trust? Likeability and the power of small gifts.
27.40 Should we use "tricks"?
30:48 Trust starts with ourselves. 
33:40 Propensity to trust and our own experiences. 
39:40 Retrospectives and addressing the breakdown of trust.


We always record these in advance and this one was a particularly interesting coffee because we talked about Trust. And the problem about talking about trust is that it’s a huge topic and it can be quite abstract. A lot of material has been written about how to gain people’s trust, how to build trust etc, but it’s till a problem in organisations, because we are all human and because we are all different.

In a similar way to when we talked about Values, in episode 7, it’s always difficult to nail down why they are important and how to address them together with the people we are working with.

This virtual coffee was also different because we didn’t go down the How to develop trust route. Instead it was more, a reflection – so we brought our own experiences into the mix, as ever… We talked about likeability, and its part in the different trust equations; we talked about the “propensity to trust”, that is how much your own tendency to trust someone comes into building a relationship, how not being able to say no can influence how we’re seen at work and other things.

I have to say, we did set ourselves a challenge with this one, especially because the ways to build trust with someone are full of common sense – don’t promise anything you can’t do, be thoughtful of others, etc however, trust is sometimes elusive and sometimes it breaks down and this of course, can impact us negatively at work.

In preparation for this episode I came across a brilliant dissection of trust by Jacob Morgan, who writes about the Future of Work and has a podcast by the same name. In his episode on trust which was aired in September 2014, he talks to Charlie Green of the Trusted Advisor (book and company). Jacob starts the podcast with some statistics which I tried to quote during my coffee with Lisette and just to make sure I give you the accurate numbers, here they are:

According to the American Psychological Association’s 2013 Work and Wellbeing Survey, 1 in 4 people don’t trust their employer. And only 50% of people think that their employer is open and upfront with them. And 1 in 3 people, think that their employer is not always honest and truthful with them.

After listening to the podcast, I searched for the document and saw that there were 1501 people who took part in the survey, all in the US, but there was a mixture of full, part time and self-employed. I also found this interesting bit in the executive summary: “In addition to feeling undervalued, employees also reported feeling unheard. Less than half (47 percent) said their employers regularly seek input from employees and even fewer (37 percent) said the organization makes changes based on that feedback.”

Going back to the role of trust in the workplace, if we’re counting on our people to do their work to the best of their abilities, we must make sure that they feel like they have a role to play in improving our organisation, or else, it’s not just that they’ll never voice their opinion about how we could operate better, pretty soon, they won’t have an opinion at all.

I’m not going to go through the whole survey, which also looks at wellbeing, stress etc but I will mention that on the whole, 70% of those surveyed were satisfied with their job. Which, considering that some people are stuck in jobs they don’t like because of circumstances they can’t really change, is not too bad. A bigger percentage would of course be a lot better. And I also wonder whether if the survey was taken in other countries or with a bigger sample, whether this percentage would be even lower.

I was also wondering whether the term “employer” referred to the organisation as a whole or direct supervisor/manager etc. That’s another interesting part in the equation, the fact that you might trust those working directly with you but not trust the decision makers in the business.

So, you can see the problem with talking about trust, it’s that it seems to affect everything at work and it’s multi-layered. And if we don’t tackle it just as we tackle communication systems, etc, we are missing out on an important factor of a productive working relationship, especially as we move on to flatter hierarchies and things like virtual teams, when we have to give up control in order for them to work. If we want to adapt faster to change, if we want to be more productive, we have to trust those we work with and we have to be trusted. And it’s really important to remember the balance in this: what do we need to trust others, what do we need to do to help others trust us.

To help with this messy process, people come up with models and equations to simplify it, to help us try to identify, when there is a problem, what we might be able to do about it.

Now, I quite liked what Charlie Green, from the Trusted Advisor, was saying in the podcast, and indeed the thinking that underpins The Trusted Advisor as a whole.

He talks about the trust equation, here it goes.

Trustworthiness, how much someone trusts us equals, and I’ll give you the equation first and then the definitions. It equals the sum of credibility plus reliability plus intimacy all divided by your self-orientation.

So the higher your credibility, reliability and intimacy, and the lower your self-orientation, the more you will be trusted. Now, before I go into this a bit further, just an aside. This equation doesn’t have “likeability” in it, which is something we discuss quite a bit in the virtual coffee, so it’s always interesting to see how different people dissect trust.

So, these three factors. Credibility: can I believe what a person says. Reliability: do I believe that they will deliver? And intimacy, do I feel safe or secure with this person when entrusting someone with something, which I think is very close to likeability. Although I can think of some people I quite like but don’t trust, but maybe that’s a question of reliability… As you can see, a broad, broad subject.

As trust is something that requires similar behaviours in the face to face and online world, we started talking about virtual teams, which we tend to do, and then went broader,. However, in preparation to this recording, I was looking at the role of Visibility in virtual teams and how it can impact trust. It turns out that the role of awareness, knowing what other people are doing, is quite crucial to feeling like we can trust someone. So I wrote a blog post about this which, guess what, was my most retweeted post to date, which to me shows that there is indeed an issue with trusting people we can’t see –and I’m talking both up, down and across the organisation – and we haven’t quite nailed it yet – unsurprisingly, because we haven’t nailed down the trust issue in co-located work either. If you want to take a look at the post, follow this link virtualnotdistant.com/visibility-virtual-teams/.

I think that’s it for now, it will be good to see what you think of the episode, I quite like trying out different things but sometimes it’s difficult to know what resonates and what doesn’t, it’s only through feedback – and Twitter – that I can often tell. So do comment on this post or get in touch through the contact form on this site.

Before we move on to our coffee, do connect with myself or Lisette via Twitter, that’s @PilarOrti and for Lisette, she uses the handle @lightling

If you consume podcasts like I do, then check out Lisette’s Collaboration Superpowers and if for some reason you’re interested in Spain, check out the Spain Uncovered podcast.

So get your hot (or cold) drink ready, as we approach our virtual coffee with Lisette.