Trust was the topic of conversation with Justin Shaddix at Mentera’s online workshop with Lifelabs Learning, a research-based organization that conducts training for managers, executives, and teams across the globe. Lifelabs has impacted more than 2,000 organizations and more than 450,000 learners.
The purpose of this workshop was to educate attendees on how they can build trust quickly among their teams and maintain that trust through times of change and uncertainty. “Trust is essential when it comes to working with high-performing teams, and it is something that does not happen by accident,” says Shaddix.
When it comes to building trust, Shaddix says it’s important for individuals to demonstrate vulnerability. “[V]ulnerability is about exposing oneself to harm. And it is an important part of actually building strong, trusting relationships, whether that’s at work or with our loved ones. So essentially to be human is to be courageous because vulnerability is absolutely necessary to building those strong relationships.” Ways to display vulnerability may include asking for help, admitting mistakes or that you don’t know a specific answer, and discussing personal issues, such as weekend activities or even mental health issues, if you feel comfortable.
“Of course [at work] there are boundaries you want set around [personal] things,” says Shaddix, “But I think common sense can help [you] navigate that.” He says some of the simplest ways to build vulnerability at work are through what he calls “vulnerability loops”—celebrating wins and losses, sharing an idea or acknowledging failures. For example, says Shaddix, “Person A, sends some kind of signal vulnerability. Now this can take a lot of different shapes. This could just be like, ‘Ugh, I am so frustrated about this project right now.’ Or, ‘Wow, that meeting was incredible, I loved it.’ Or ‘Hey, this weekend I went and saw one of my favorite music artists.’ It can be lots of different things that we are kind of opening up, sharing our thoughts, sharing our emotions, sharing personal things about us. So that’s where we start from.” Once Person A initiates that vulnerability, it’s up to Person B to detect it.
Person B could interpret that as, “Oh the meeting was frustrating” and shut down the conversation, so no growth occurs. Conversely, Person B could concur or offer a different perspective. And this exchange is simply an acknowledgment that Person A was heard and seen. “It’s like we’re batting the ball back and forth. It’s like, I hit the ball to you, you hit it back to me. Fantastic. So we establish this norm. Trust is created, greater connection is created, and the loop continues,” he says.
Small talk, Shaddix notes, is a simple example of this loop—those short moments in the elevator or in the hallway that may seem awkward but work to build trust. “What I want you to do is keep this model in mind, and as you go out there and navigate life being a courageous human, just notice when people are opening up a little bit, expressing some vulnerability and noticing that, and then taking the opportunity to return that signal.”
When opinions differ—on new projects or company decisions, for example—he suggests normalizing the fact that people have different points of view. “This is a normal part of human collaboration….And what’s important here is about mindset. Am I in a mindset of curiosity or am I in a mindset of judgment? So this person, they’re feeling frustrated about a decision that I think is a good one. What would happen if I got curious, [instead of becoming upset or judgemental]?”
Amy Edmondson is a recognized expert on trust, or what she calls psychological safety. She defines psychological safety as a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. “What I love about this definition is the fact that it’s about, hey, it’s you and me on this journey together to accomplish a similar goal….That we are on the same path, we are headed in the same direction. How wonderful when we can have this at work,” says Shaddix.
He notes that there are two different types of trust: relationship-based trust—which can take a longer time to build–and task-based trust, which is based on whether or not you believe the other individual to be credible and reliable.
“[Task-based trust] is much quicker to either build or break,” he says. In fact, it can happen, he says, based simply on a first impression. “You got a new colleague, they show up to the meeting, they’re on time, they came prepared. We build some task-based trust with them in that moment. Or conversely, they’re late, they don’t come prepared. Oops, we’re already kind of taken away from that task-based trust.”
To learn more about building trust among your teams, listen to Shaddix’s entire workshop at LifeLabs Learning | Mentera (joinmentera.com).