how-to-build-trust-header
Connection, Leadership, Teamwork

How to build trust in the workplace by having better meetings

In business, the word ‘trust’ can easily be perceived as a hallow term. It can be difficult to grasp the real meaning of it. Trust might not be easy to quantify, but everyone will agree that it is worth spending time and resources on. British employee engagement specialist Susan Jacobs, known from the Jacobs Model, defined the following 8 drivers of trust on the work floor:

  1. A sense of belonging: the feeling of an employee being part of a team
  2. Voice and recognition: the possibility to speak up and have a say in decision making
  3. Significance and position: the extent to which an employee feels valued
  4. Equal treatment: the understanding that everyone is treated equally
  5. Learn and experiment: the experience of being able to experiment, make mistakes and learn
  6. Choice and autonomy: the empowerment to make individual choices for the organization
  7. Security and certainty: the sense of being save due to confidence in the team
  8. Purpose: the understanding of how an individual contributes to the whole

Creating Trust | How to organize business meetings?

trust-in-business-meetings
At Sendsteps we often relate to trust, since the audience interaction tool is used in settings where trust is such an important ingredient: during all kind of meetings. Think of team building exercises, strategic board room sessions or shareholder meetings. Clients often ask us questions on how to:

  • … encourage an open dialogue
  • … address anonymous feedback
  • … be certain of data security

Before answering these questions, it helps to get a better understanding of the different roles and characteristics of your individual team members. What is their influence on trust within the team? Obviously, there are many ways of looking into this. At Sendsteps there are a few perspectives that we believe give an interesting view on trust within your team. We cover three aspects;

  1. Karen Stephenson’s theory on trust within office networks. Her theory helps us understand how trust steers information flows within an organization.
  2. A second aspect is that of introvert and extravert team members and how both have different influences on the experience of trust within a team.
  3. And finally, the stage for trust, namely the actual work floor, is of influence for creating a safe and positive atmosphere. We’ll discuss the so-called “open workspace”.

Creating Trust | The roles team members play

the-roles-team-members-play
Karen Stephenson is an American professor and corporate anthropologist who does research into “the anatomy of networks”. Stephenson especially focusses on how information flows within a network. For instance, she helped U.S. Defense to identify the weak spots and key connections of the Al Qaeda terrorist network. But her research covers all kinds of networks: from family, to social, to office networks. With it she contributes to a better sense of community and even helps to monetize trust. In her theory, Stephenson defines three roles that are present within every team and that dictate how information flows [or not, with a lack of trust!]. Keep your own organization in mind, when reflecting on the following roles:

  • Hubs: The hubs are the social butterflies of your team. They know a lot of people, are talkative by nature and bring people together. Tell something to a hub and soon everyone will know.
  • Gatekeepers: The gatekeepers play an important role in passing on information to a next level or to block it. They can either use or abuse power.
  • Pulse takers: The pulse takers can be found on the edges of the network. They might not be the center of attention, yet they have sufficient overview, and enough relationships to get a good sense of the picture.
Karen Stephenson claims that innovative companies have a large sense of trust. There are many connections between the individual team members.

3 tips to make clever use of different team roles:

So what to do with this information in regard to your office meetings?

  1. Define the roles in your team: Take a minute and think of your colleagues: who is a typical hub? Could John be a pulse taker? Let it be clear that these roles are informal and not necessarily related to function levels [e.g. a receptionist can be more of gatekeeper than a CFO].When exploring these roles within your team, it might not come as a surprise that most of the speaking time is consumed by hubs. Now think of all the pulse takers among your meeting attendees; actively engage them by asking them questions, or by letting them pitch ideas.
  2. Spend a team session on roles: Why not spend a team session on defining these roles together with your team? It can be interesting to do so, because the knowledge of these three roles can be a strategic tool for controlling and building the communication within your team.With a clear team awareness about everyone’s role, you might find a new dynamic in your meetings and group interaction. Do gatekeepers speak up more easily? Can hubs count to 10 before replying? Make it a little challenge and see what happens. Experimenting is the first step towards innovation!
  3. Rethink your internal and external communication activities; communicating change traditionally is executed by the communication professionals within your team [hubs]. But in some occasions, there might be other colleagues in the office network that have a much stronger, strategic position within the network [pulse takers for instance]. Can you think of someone else to do the next communication job?

Creating Trust | Introvert and extravert employees

introvert-and-extravert-employees
The next trust aspect we’d like to explore is the difference between extravert and introvert team members. Whereas extraverts can often be found in the role of “hub”, introverts are typical “pulse takers”. Let’s zoom in on our introvert employees – one out of two or three of our colleagues!

Introversion is easily mistaken by shyness. But be aware, “introversion is more about how you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation”, says Susan Cain [an American writer, speaker and former Wall Street lawyer]. Introverts are quietly listening and reflecting. They need time to answer. They like substance over chitchat. They’re often overlooked during a meeting or even on a broader scale; when a new management position needs to be fulfilled. Yet, introverts create brilliant work, are thoughtful leaders and only speak during meetings when things are overthought. But, also here; trust is essential in the communication between both groups. Extraverts trusting the work of introverts and vice versa.

4 tips to engage extravert and introverts during meetings:

When organizing a meeting, keep in mind both type of employees and create a setting where both experience trust;

  1. Don’t rush: Take time for your meeting, but stick to the point. Rather spread a longer meeting over two dates, rather than quickly skimming over agenda items in order to fit them in.
  2. Introduce think breaks: Let attendees have a think-break, so that everyone can process information before answering;
  3. Limit group work: “Stop the madness for constant group work” [as Susan Cain puts it] – quality can also come from solo time and activities. There isn’t always a “need to discuss in pairs”!
  4. Facilitate follow up: Organize a clear follow up; what will be discussed, will be further investigated and processed? Introverts, especially, appreciate their input being taken seriously.

Creating Trust | Open or closed workspaces?

open-or-closed-workspaces
Did you know that 70% of all U.S. offices use open workspaces? Since the mid 2000’s the concept was introduced by many Silicon Valley companies. There are many advantages to having an open workspace. The most important being stronger collaboration. Yet, there are also critical remarks to be made.

In 2005 Jungsoo Kim and Richard de Dear from the University of Sydney conducted extensive research into differences in employee experiences between those working in an open workspace and those working in private offices. They compared 303 offices. Noise, disruption and sound privacy were the most frequent mentioned negative experiences in open workspaces. At the same time, the ease of interaction was valued most. Interestingly, that aspect was not experienced differently by private office workers.

In short and according to the researchers, the open workspaces are not necessarily the engines of collaboration. For extravert hubs it might work better than it does for introvert pulsetakers. Don’t forget also that the currency of friendship is sharing confidence. Funny enough, this is less easy to achieve in an open workspace. So, it seems there’s no one-size fits all and it comes down to finding what works best for your team.

4 tips to engage with your team in different office spaces

When you want to foster interaction in your team then an open workspace seems like the logical step. Yet, when keeping in mind all the different roles we discussed [introverts, extraverts, hubs, gatekeepers and pulsetakers], you’ll need to do some clever thinking of your floor plan so that everyone feels comfortable and experiences the trust to share or to work quietly;

  1. Spread seats for different roles: Seat your hubs in the middle, then your gatekeepers and let the relatively more quiet spaces belong to the pulsetakers.
  2. Create your quiet spaces: A place to focus, to maybe even re-charge; ready for more and better interaction! Solitude is a crucial ingredient for productivity.
  3. Go out! Studies show that business trips boast creativity, social cohesion and interaction in the team.

Conclusion | Meetings with trust

When there’s trust in the workplace, there’s trust to connect. Space for positive team member relationships from where innovative ideas are born. Keep in mind your team’s DNA and in what kind of setting they feel most trusted. Foster a culture where it is good to ask questions and keep it personal. To make it a bit more concrete:

  • Discuss statements [agree/disagree] in which the word “I” is used. E.g. “I believe our team communication style is effective”. Give your introvert team members a think break, let your gatekeepers speak up.
  • Facilitate anonymous feedback to get to the core. Sometimes it doesn’t matter who says what, but the fact that an issue is addressed by itself is positive. Don’t ask “who said that?”, but ask “who likes to elaborate on this issue”? Maybe initiate such a talk during a team field trip – in a relaxed setting.
  • In very strategic meetings it is helpful to know that anonymous is anonymous. Sendsteps technology is ISO compliant and used by Fortune500 companies because of its data security settings.

In short, cultivate an atmosphere where employees’ questions come from a desire to grow and learn. As employer, you can create a perfect setting with proper insight in factors that build trust and with the intention to grow and innovate as a team. Meetings that express trust!