Building Trust in Your Center: A 3 x 3 Strategy

To the relief of pretty much everyone involved, April saw the last of our focused attention on policy development.  We are now digging into a potentially more engaging, but likely more challenging, conversation around how to develop, maintain, and support healthy community culture within shared space.  This month found our intrepid shared space explorers charting a course into the murky depths of culture building within their centers.

We started this exploration with the linchpin of all healthy relationships – TRUST.

Katie Edwards, our lead facilitator for the Roundtable and our guide through this exploration, shared at the outset that there was, in fact, no reliable tool for measuring trust within an organization or workplace.  But, not to fear!  The group was going to come up with a tool!  I just love peer-learning and group process.  Where there’s a gap, a group of experienced individuals can come together to fill it!

So with that, we dug into the concept of trust – what it is, what it feels like when it’s lacking, and how you measure progress.  What we found was that we all had a gut-level sense of what it felt like to trust the people around us.  And we also found that we’d each had significant experiences of what it felt like NOT to have a high level of trust.  To develop a metric or tool by which to gauge relative levels of trust, we started by creating something along the lines of the diagram below – comparing and contrasting trusting versus trust-less workplace cultures.

Culture of Trust

Once we had a handle on our group’s indicators of trust-less v. trustful, we took a deep breath and honestly evaluated where our own workplaces and centers fell along that continuum.  While not an exact science, this informal tool gives us something against which to plot our progress in building a trusting community culture.

As we discussed why and how to cultivate a trusting community, the group landed on three key motivations for building trust along with three key tactics for testing our assumptions about trust.

First off, the motivating factors.  Why even bother with cultivating trust?  The three reasons for investing in trust building we identified were:

  • Trust affirms individual dignity and empowerment.
  • Trusting environments support authentic relationships.
  • Trust – and the relationships and empowerment it supports – lead to meaningful collaboration.

Beyond the reasons why we should bother with it, we also talked about three key tactics for testing our assumptions about the level of trust in our centers.

  • Ask – often, formally, informally, in a variety of modalities, in culturally responsive ways.
  • Consider how you might leverage proxies to gather information that folks might not otherwise be willing to share with you.
  • Be willing to hear the feedback you get from all this asking . . . and be willing to act on it when necessary.

While this initial group investigation doesn’t provide us with the end all and be all of trust building, we are excited to have this framework to build on in the next couple months.  Some say that culture is an organization’s immune system, shielding and supporting us.  Our group agrees that, if this is the case, trust comprises the antibodies that give this immune system its strength.

What are your thoughts on trust?  How does it function in your workplace?