It begins with trust.
We are on an exhilarating journey at DX. Every day we learn something new and we are being challenged to do something new by those who trust us. It has taken years of hard work to gain the trust of senior executives and senior talent development professionals. Their trust was earned, and it could be lost in a heartbeat if we do something unexpected that fractures that trust. Unfortunately, it would take twice as many years to regain their trust again.
It’s no different in your personal life. It takes a long time to gain the trust of your other half, and you can very easily lose that trust too. Whether it’s a spouse, a partner, a friend or a team member, when you have trust, they trust that you have their best interests at heart.
We have spent the last 12 months creating a blended learning approach to support the genesis of true feedback cultures for organizations that want to see it modeled the right way. Not just talk about but DO…in the right way.
We learned a lot on our journey. Here’s the most important lesson we’ve learned. And, it’s a true story.
We were running our half-day feedback habit-forming experience with a client earlier this year. During Round 1 of the experience, we witnessed the usual display of everyone’s naturally bad feedback habits. Some forced their opinions on others. Others were judgmental. A few spoke too long and were not specific. The list of bad habits is long. Once we helped them realize their bad habits, and after they had become self-aware, we began to drip feed the great habit of giving and receiving feedback as a gift.
By the end of Round 2, when free-flowing feedback starts to form, we begin to talk about trust.
Boom! That’s when the eureka moment happened for someone who experienced a deeper insight!
Here is what they said:
“You know, I am a big believer in the feedback model we are using. I use it whenever I give feedback. I have been getting frustrated with one person I give feedback to regularly. I was using the model as we are prescribing it, and yet every time I give this person feedback they look at me blankly, as if it went straight through them. Now I know why. They don’t trust me!”
Think about it for a second. Are you are giving feedback, coaching, mentoring, or talking to people every day? If those people don’t trust you, what you’re saying is going in one ear and out the other.
Straight past go. No one is collecting $200.
In an article published in Harvard Business Review, author Laura Delizonna adds more context to the need for trust in teams:
“There’s no team without trust,” says Paul Santagata, Head of Industry at Google. He knows the results of the tech giant’s massive two-year study on team performance, which revealed that the highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety, the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake. Studies show that psychological safety allows for moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, creativity, and sticking your neck out without fear of having it cut off — just the types of behavior that lead to market breakthroughs.”
Psychological safety is of extreme importance. Psychological safety is a proxy for trust.
What is psychological safety?
Psychological safety is defined by William Kahn as, “being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career.” In other words, team members feel accepted and respected within their current roles.
Thanks to Google, we now realize how important psychological safety is. Google wanted to find out what it takes to build the most effective team possible, so they launched Project Aristotle.
The project consisted of hundreds of interviews and the analysis of data taken from over 100 active teams at Google. The key finding was that above all else, psychological safety was crucial to ensuring that a team works well together.
In other words, trust matters.
With trust, constructive feedback is viewed as a gift of continuous improvement. In fact, everything you say will be viewed as a reward. In this scenario, there is no such thing as negative feedback. Many people view all feedback as a threat, as they don’t trust the person giving it. No threat, just reward.
Once you gain a person’s trust, they will listen to the feedback you give them.
It’s time for all of us to work on developing trust and psychological safety. Trust is about caring for those we serve, or work with, or live with.
After much research, DX’s resident Chief Learning Architect, Dustin Johnson, came up with a simple brain-based model called CARE™ to support gaining trust:
The framework on how to use CARE™ to develop trust:
Clarity – Be clear. Be concise. Let people know where they stand. Reduce ambiguity and ensure clear expectations are set so people know what is expected of them. If people don’t have clarity, they won’t trust you because their brain isn’t clear about expectations. Going to work and not understanding the role you play in the bigger picture is neither fun nor motivating. Ambiguous expectations don’t work for anyone.
Autonomy - The brain craves control. Give your team the choice of how they will achieve their goals and how they go about their daily activities. If you try to control the brains of those you work with, they are not going to like it. If you are a micromanager or a control freak, they won’t ever trust you. Telling everyone what to do doesn’t work, so don’t do it. Allow them to have ownership.
Relationship – Get to know your team on a personal level. Maintain a sense of community in which people feel included, trusted, and important. Say thank you. Take them out for dinner. Don’t treat them like robots. They are humans with feelings, so help them feel good about their role on the team.
Equity - Be fair between people. Be transparent and consistent over time. Having a favorite go-to person on the team or rewarding one person more than others isn’t equitable. And, hiding things from them isn’t authentic either. Your team will see through it and their brain will go into threat mode. Your trust will be lost.
If you are a leader, (by the way, we are all leaders even if we don’t have direct reports), can you safely say you are using all four CARE™ elements in your interactions with other people? If even one element is missing, the feedback you give to others will be received as a threat because you haven’t yet gained their trust.
The same goes for your family and friends. Gain their trust by using the CARE™ framework. Avoid losing their trust, for you may never get it back.
Feedback is a gift of betterment. We can only get better if we do more of what we do well and do less of what we don’t do well.
The only way to find this out is by getting feedback. It’s not an ugly word, it’s a gift.