It’s always been a matter of trust

We recently worked in collaboration with a leadership team and their staff looking to build higher levels of trust within their team. They were focussed on finding ways to increase the likelihood that people would have the conversations they needed to have with one another, identify the link between individual behaviours and team culture and to improve the overall culture of the team. 

We conducted a base line survey, mediated a series of team sessions, had everyone participate in some daily practices between sessions and then conducted a second comparison survey focused on perceived psychological safety. At the end, the results suggest a substantial improvement in self-reported levels of psychological safety. I’ll share some of our techniques within this article. Trying to build trust within your team can have incredible results on the overall culture within a business. 

Measuring trust 

It’s a tricky thing to measure, when looking at trust we classify it in terms of perceived psychological safety within a particular business environment, team or underpinning a particular relationship. Psychological safety is the belief that one can speak up, take risks, and be vulnerable without fear of negative consequences. In a work environment, having a perceived sense of good psychological safety is essential because it creates collaboration and openness that allows individuals to express themselves – their thoughts, ideas, and worries freely, without the fear of backlash. When people feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to collaborate, share feedback, share their ideas and be creative and innovative.

In a psychologically safe work environment, employees are more likely to:

  1. Speak up: When people safe they are much more likely to share their opinions, concerns and ideas. Business es need to strive to create a culture where people feel safe to have open and honest conversations. In this kind of environment, issues can also be quickly identified. 
  2. Take risks: Employees who feel psychologically safe are more willing to be experimental, take risks and try new things. These are the building blocks for innovation and creativity, making sure businesses keep a competitive edge in a rapidly changing world. 
  3. Learn from mistakes: In a psychologically safe environment, employees are much more willing to take accountability, they are more likely to admit their mistakes and learn from them. Having a culture of continuous learning and improvement is essential for businesses looking to evolve and grow or even just keep up with competition. 
  4. Collaborate: When employees feel safe, they are more likely to collaborate with each other resulting in better teamwork and increased productivity.
  5. Feel heard and valued: In an environment where there is mutual trust and respect, people feel their thoughts and ideas to be favourably received and it is assumed that people are behaving with good intentions. That sense of belonging is fundamental to having motivated and engaged employees. 

The questions to ask to gauge psychological safety 

The recent workshops conducted with our client were done over a four-month period, with the initial survey being done up front, and then again at the end of the 4-month period. These are the type of questions that were asked to measure the level of psychological safety each employee felt, both before and after the exercise; 

On a scale of ‘never’ to ‘always/ often’ have you: 

  • Been made to feel isolated or disloyal when I questioned something outside of my area 
  • Admitted a mistake, which colleagues might have learned from to these questions 
  • Held back on giving a colleague honest and critical feedback 
  • Felt that a helpful suggestion from me might not be received positively 
  • Avoided mentioning something for fear of “treading on a colleague’s territory” 
  • Suspected that I wasn’t being told the whole truth, but not confronted the issue 
  • Pretended I understood something I really didn’t 
  • Kept silent about something that didn’t seem congruent with the team’s espoused values 
  • Steered clear of a senior colleague, because they appeared to be in a bad mood 
  • Told a white lie to “keep the peace” 
  • Felt that my ideas weren’t valued

In this work environment; 

  • People say what they think others want to hear, not what they really think 
  • People often form cliques to pursue their own interests 
  • People generally avoid honest, difficult conversations 

The team-building workshops focussed on analysing the general temperature of trust and feeling of psychological safety and also worked on trying to target these specific areas and improve them, overall. It provided great insight into what some of the key areas for improvement that we needed to focus on and our trust building practises were adapted to suit this particular team and their specific issues.  

How do you think your team might fare in terms of answering these questions?

Dedicating time and resources to trust building sessions is extremely beneficial to the cultural health of any business. Time should be scheduled into the corporate calendar to measure the current levels of trust and work on building them. In my next article, let’s explore some adaptations you can make to start building a foundation of trust and respect. 

Could your team do with one of my tailored workshops? Please get in touch today. I’d love to help.

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