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Trust Fall

I have always loved this quote from Neil Gaiman and the question here of “Is it that bad to fail, that hard to fall?” always makes me think about how we design our people experience around failing, do we make it a hard experience or a safe one?

Sometimes when you fall, you fly!

Aren’t you scared of falling? If you do not climb, you will not fall, this is true. Is it that bad to fail? That hard to fall? Sometimes when you fall, you fly

I have always loved this quote from Neil Gaiman and the question here of “Is it that bad to fail, that hard to fall?” always makes me think about how we design our people experience around failing, do we make it a hard experience or a safe one?

When there''s trust, it feels safe to fail

And for me, this starts with trust, deep embedded organisational and employee trust. You will hear people saying that trust has to be earned this means that they are starting from a basic position of distrust or at least a fragile trust – but in reality, is this true? Is this how we operate in our lives?

When we go out into the world and interact with strangers who cook our food, drive the bus we are on, take our credit card details and more we do not, in the main, have a position of distrust, we trust strangers with our lives and our money until they break our trust.

So why could it be different in the workplace?

What influences trust at work?

In the workplace we introduce people to some new dimensions, that influence trust, that might not always be present in the outside world:

  1. Competition: In work, we compete in an arena, not of our design, we compete for an opportunity, for time, for growth.
  2. Social interaction: We are socially interacting with people all the time at work, but we are starting from a different base than how we interact in the non-work world. We work closely with people who have impacts on our ability to do a great job if they do a poor job downstream of your role and this can change how we behave.
  3. Consequence: The impact of making a mistake at work could lead to you losing your job and this plays directly counter to our basic need for safety, remember safety is a foundation of needs and that reduced job security is a driver of dissatisfaction.
  4. Hierarchy: Upwards and downwards hierarchies that we do not have in our life outside of work in the same way. People who impact how you work and indeed when you work.

Trust plays into all of these areas, we need to trust that the opportunities are fair, trust that our colleagues have the skills to do their role, trust that mistakes are not going to result in disproportionate responses and that our structure is there to support us in doing great work.

I think that in the outside of work world you are more in charge of making your decisions, managing impacts, choosing the when and the how and what happens when we fail or fall (Obviously within a framework of stuff that society has chucked in – like the law etc)

What if we started with trust?

So, what if we worked in a workplace culture where trust was the starting point, how would this change the work we do and the way that we interact with our peers, our bosses, our customers and our company?

Risks and Mistakes

I worked for Tesco for a number of years and one of the things I always liked was that within the leadership framework (this applied to all people, not just managers) there was a shared behaviour at all levels that said that we:

“Encourage people to take risks and make mistakes as part of learning”

Think about this for a minute, you have been given permission to take a risk, make a decision, try something new and if you make a mistake it is ok, you have been given permission to fail – as long as you, your peers your company can learn from this.

This starts with a position of trust but also sends a message to the people in the company that you can trust us too. It''s psychologically safe to take a risk and try something.

And the reason this worked was that it was authentic, yes it was written down, but it was also lived and challenged.

Risk-taking is essential to entrepreneurialsm

This translated into true entrepreneurial people changing the world of work to improve it for them, the customers and the bottom line. Yes, sometimes this didn’t work, and mistakes were made but overall it did work, and this is partly how a 400,000+ person company with 6500+ locations could operate and grow the way they did.

This is great anecdotal stuff but what does research tell us about trust?

Research shows trust drives sustainable performance

Research that appeared in the Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organisation called Employee Trust and Workplace Performance, by Brown, S., Gray, D., McHardy, J., Taylor, K. from the University of Sheffield concluded that:

  1. Employee trust has a positive relationship on three areas of workplace performance (Financial Performance, Labour Productivity and Service Quality)
  2. Higher levels of employee trust can act as a bugger and mitigate the effects of uncertainty and volatility in the workplace.

So, if we can remove the barriers at work, the stuff that gets in the way of trust we can perform better as a whole organisation, developing a culture of trust and authenticity pays so many dividends it would appear to be mad to not do this.

Measuring the Experience

When we originally set up The Px Hub we knew that measuring trust was going to be a key metric for us and we have built loads of Trust-based questions into our 250+ question warehouse.

Trust is a foundation of great people experience and key to developing an awesome culture, Trust in the expertise and professional views of your colleagues, trust in your industry, and trust in the integrity of your leadership gets rid of so many barriers that could prevent success.

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