In the last edition of Cultural Intelligence, we canvassed the concepts of ‘softball’ and ‘hardball’. It’s fair to say there are varying views on the extent to which we should focus on each of these in our day-to-day work! We’ll fuel the fire a little more below, with an article by Steve Simpson on the ‘soft’ issue of trust – something that he suspects doesn’t get much air-time in organisations nowadays…
Trust is a word that is not verbalised often in organisations. But in my view, it’s the centrepiece of performance.
While ‘trust’ may not be frequently verbalised, it’s implied constantly. When a manager says she will do something, that person is monitored to see whether she carries out her promise. When a staff member says ‘I’ll keep this in confidence’, people will eventually know whether that’s the case!
I’ve never tested it, but it’s my theory that there is a direct relationship between trust and the level of counterproductive internal politicking. I also think that people perform better when there are high levels of trust.
There are two broad types of trust – cognitive and affective.
Cognitive trust relates to a belief that one has about the reliability and quality of another party fulfilling their role. It’s the kind of trust we have (or don’t have!) when we employ a tradesperson, or when we hand over a job to another person or department.
When trust develops, it can move to the affective dimension. Affective trust exists when the parties make a mutual emotional investment in the relationship. This is where concern and benevolence exist between or among the parties. Affective trust is necessary before people are prepared to take risks without fear of failure. High performance sporting teams often display this level of trust – but it’s all too rare in organisations where people are concerned about how their weaknesses might be used against them..
Of course, it’s the prevailing UGRs (Unwritten Ground Rules) that heavily influence trust. Indeed, there are probably some UGRs in your organisation right now that relate to trust – such as ‘Around here, the senior executive say things are OK, but we know they can’t be trusted…’
It is worth noting that UGRs can be formed from two broad sources. One source is ‘fact based’, where people are justified in coming to the rational conclusion which is the UGR. The other source of UGRs pertains to ‘myths and legends’ spread down over time.
If trust-related UGRs have their origins in fact, then people will need to change their behaviour to earn trust. If trust-related UGRs have their origin in myths and legends, then perhaps the staff need a wake up call!