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Build trust

Improve relationships with Self-awareness.

Learning outcomes

Developing this skill will help you:

  • build trust-based relationships
  • maintain trust through conflict
  • create psychological safety
  • lay the foundation for team building


Trust is the foundation of productivity in teams.

Of course, we all form trust-based relationships automatically with people like us. It just clicks.

High performance requires the collaboration with people unlike us. Exactly here we need to learn how to build trust-based relationships.

When we trust each other, we dare to speak up when things aren't right. Relationships based on trust can even leverage conflict for positive results.

You goal in this skill is to develop your style of forming relationships based on trust.

Credits for these stairs go to Edgar Schein.

In most cases, that means a step up from role-based relationships:

  • Level -1: Objects & things. This is where slavery happens. Don't ever go here.
  • Level 0: No relationship. Everybody you don't know.
  • Level 1: Roles. Socially expected behaviors and little else.
  • Level 2: Trust. You connect to a fellow human.
  • Level 3: Friendship & Intimacy. Very important in life. Try to avoid in business.

Moving from role to trust-based relationships looks simple. It's just one step up the stairs...

But trust is given to us. In other words, to take that step you need to become more trustworthy.

\text{Trustworthiness} = \dfrac{\text{Vulnerability} + \text{Credibility} + \text{Reliability}}{\text{Self-orientation}}

Vulnerability: Emotions. The degree to which you share your humanness.

Reliability: Actions. The confidence others have in your words.

Credibility: Words. The amount of truth spoken by you.

Self-orientation: Motives. The number of times you support the interest of others.

Your learning journey

We'll do four exercises each on the two major drivers: vulnerability & self-orientation. Being vulnerable increases your trustworthiness. Decreasing your self-orientation has the same effect. The remaining four exercises round of your trustworthiness with reliability & credibility.

These exercises focus on self-awareness to develop your way of being trustworthy.

Not every exercise might fit your personality or your comfort zone. We encourage you to try them once anyways.

You won't know how these exercises deliver until you genuinely try.

Go stretch your comfort zone.

More vulnerable

You are human. It's ok. Your crewmates & colleagues are humans, too. Be brave and show them what is going on in your life.

Exercise #1: Know thyself

Self-awareness is the first step for us to become more vulnerable. Once we see ourselves more clearly, we can muster the courage to share our feelings with the world around.

Here is the key to knowing yourself instead of just thinking about yourself:

  • Don't as Why-questions. They trap you in the past.
  • Ask What-questions. They move you forward.

Let's apply this and answer the 7 pillars of insight:

  1. What values govern the way you live?
  2. What projects and experiences are you passionate about?
  3. What do you aspire to achieve or experience?
  4. What environments make you happy?
  5. What patterns of thinking, feeling, & behaving have you noticed in yourself?
  6. What strengths & weaknesses do you have?
  7. What impact do you have on others?

You might not like every answer. But from here you can begin to accept or change yourself.

Exercise #2: Share more

TMI - too much information.

It feels dangerous to share too much of ourselves with others. And who would want to burden somebody else with your crazy view on life?

There is a balance between not sharing at all and TMI. Increasing your vulnerability means sharing more. Let's find that balance by gradually sharing more when you answer the following question:

"How are you today?"

  1. Fine, thank you.
  2. ...
  3. ...
  4. ...
  5. ...
  6. ...

Write answers 2-6 gradually sharing more of yourself. While answer 1 is completely role-based, answer 6 is likely TMI.

How do you feel, when you say each answer out loud?

Exercise #3: Say how you feel

Role-based relationships are not equipped to handle feelings and emotions.

People are.

When you begin to say how you feel, you immediately connect to the person behind the role. And you'll be amazed how sincere they'll react.

Pick three situations from last week, where you felt strong emotions.

With the help of the cheat-sheet below, find different ways to tell others how you feel.

→ https://www.hoffmaninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/Practices-FeelingsSensations.pdf

Bonus: Practice actually saying these feelings out loud.

Exercise #4: Discover your expectations

We all have expectations about things to come. That is part of being human. Being aware of our expectations helps you communicate them clearly to others.

Look forward to the next three meetings you have:

What are your expectations for each of these? Then write down how you can share your expectations in each of these meetings.

Notice the use of a What-question to reflect about yourself ;)

Less self-oriented

Remember that trust is about the relationship between two persons. You should follow your own motivations. But you can only become trustworthy when you acknowledge and account for other peoples motives as well.

Exercise #5: Explore expectations of others

Let's make things less about you and more about others.

Looking at the next three meetings you have:

  • What are the expectations of each participant?
  • What can you do to meet or exceed these expectations?

Exercise #6: Show some respect

There is a difference in respecting roles and respecting people. People deserve due regard for their feelings, wishes, and rights.

What can you do to show respect individually?

Exercise #7: Ask for input

Sure, you're a genius. Chances are your cremates are just as brilliant.

Make a list of all the things you're currently working on.

  • Where have you deprived yourself of the input from somebody equally smart?
  • What do you need to say to get that input form them?

Like always: be as specific as possible. This is for you, you've already passed the test ;)

Exercise #8: Ask for troubles

To complete this section, we'll return to feelings and emotions.

Everybody is so used to "How are you today?" that it only produces a knee-jerk reaction. By starting with these four words you signal a role-based relationship.

That's fine, if you want that on purpose. Luckily, you're not limited to just these words.

Find your way of asking about concerns and troubles. Take the five people you'll meet next and prepare for each how you'll connect to the personally.

More reliable & credible

These two are the easiest, most often advised on elements of trustworthiness. Unfortunately, they really only matter once vulnerability and self-orientation are settled.

Exercise #9: Review deliverables

Reliability is all about actions and results.

Take an inventory of all your pending deliverables.

  • What patterns emerge?
  • What can you do to deliver closer to expectations?

Exercise #10: Monitor pending

Systems help us increase our reliability.

Looking at your inventory of pending deliverables:

  • What can you do to track your pending work?
  • How do you prioritize what gets done next?
  • What can you do to prevent promises you can not keep?

Exercise #11: Give credit

This is about your ego.

Make others shine and you gain credibility. Easy in principle, inconvenient in practice ;)

Take a quick inventory of the work you're currently doing.

  • Where are you standing on the shoulders of other giants?
  • What can you do to publicly or privately give credit to these giants?

FYI, researchers provide citations for the very same reason.

Exercise #12: Say "I'm sorry"

Again credibility through ego-taming.

We all make mistakes. It is ok that you do, too.

Pick three situations, where you should say either:

  • I'm sorry.
  • I don't know.
  • I need help.
  • I made a mistake.

For each of these situations, find your way of saying it.

Bonus: Go and actually say it. Then notice how you feel afterwards.

More resources

→ Tasha Eurich: Insight

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