What does Trust have to do with communication and feedback?

 Enquiring about ‘Are you doing anything special tonight for Valentine’s?’ to a colleague yielded the response, ‘I went out yesterday, it’s awful being     in a restaurant and seeing couples there who don’t seem to have much to talk about’.

I began to think about the times when we are together as a group, as a team, in a meeting and there are things that we want to say but never voice  them because we may lack the confidence to be critical, have a fear of upsetting or hurting other people’s feelings, of those in authority, of reprisals or hope that someone else will say what we are thinking….and so the ‘unspoken’ never gets voiced and behaviours go unchanged.

Last week I was working with a leader who was poor at communicating with his senior team in a timely fashion, cascading information, giving and receiving feedback…In his eyes it was his team who was at fault. Exploring these issues and holding a mirror up to the client helped to raise self awareness and his role in contributing to the problem. This can be quite hard hitting when you are the one receiving such feedback.

One of the ways of dealing with communication issues within a team is to get everyone in the room at the same time to surface and explore the issues from differing perspectives. Silence, tension, conflict, emotions…may arise when such issues are fleshed out in the open.

Fostering a safe space where each person can be heard, has a voice and can speak openly and honestly is essential when facilitating this type of exploration and dialogue.

Listening to other people’s perspectives creates greater insight and understanding which in turn enables better relationships. The result of engaging in ‘difficult’ conversations can help with accountability, ownership, responsibility for behaviours and actions and for some it can be cathartic.

Being open and honest with each other is dependent on trust. You are less likely to be critical, challenge or give ‘negative’ feedback to someone if you don’t trust them.

The Institute of Leadership and Management measures 6 dimensions of trust: ability, understanding, fairness, openness, integrity and consistency in its Index of Leadership Trust (ILM 2011). In creating an environment of trust within the workplace, I would add:

  • Provide regular opportunities for staff to get to know each other
  • Articulate shared purpose and values
  • Set clear expectations and ensure that staff are clear about their roles and responsibilities
  • Demonstrate integrity and respect
  • Maintain open and honest lines of communications
  • Share information and knowledge
  • Include staff in decision making whenever possible
  • Be transparent

Would love to hear your perspective

  • What are your experiences of giving feedback, of being critical, of holding people to account for their behaviour and actions?
  • How easy / difficult do you find this?
  • What is it like to be on the receiving end of ‘negative’ feedback?
  • What are your tips for creating trust within the work place?
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About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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6 Responses to What does Trust have to do with communication and feedback?

  1. Jamie says:

    Cultivating the habit of saying “thank you” when receiving feedback is crucial and helps me to accept it and not be defensive when it’s of a critical nature. Love your blog! Some of our content is similar. It appears that you use wordpress for your website and blog. Correct? I’m considering making changes to mine and would welcome your thoughts on this. much appreciated.

    • verawoodhead says:

      Thank you Jamie for your kind words. I agree that not getting defensive in such situations is crucial.
      Shall check out your blog. Always good to connect with folks who have similar interests.
      Yes, my blog is WordPress but website is not – though incorporating 2

  2. Lis Merrick says:

    Excellent Vera. You’ve hit the spot so accurately with this one. Lis

  3. This made me think about the work of Nancy Kline in More Time to Think. Giving people in teams the opportunity, uninterrupted to voice their thoughts and feelings is a great way to build trust and open up a trusting dialogue at the start of meetings and really does work!

    • verawoodhead says:

      Hi Jan, you are spot on. Having that space and time is so important in not enabling one to voice one’s opinions and thoughts but also to think and reflect. I am finding that in our time constraint world such ‘basics’ don’t take place

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