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  • Writer's pictureIan Gibbs

A Question of Trust

Updated: Dec 26, 2022

How would you rate your work environment on trust?

Do you work in an environment where people are mutually supportive and look after each other or is backstabbing and oneupmanship closer to the order of the day?

I ask because learning and being in an emotionally safe environment are connected.

Learning involves challenging yourself regularly and that involves breaking down a few barriers, physically, emotionally and psychologically.

And this can lead to some very important and personal conversations. Conversations about how we see ourselves, about our self confidence, about our frustrations, about our failures.

These soul-searching conversations are not easy to have at the best of times. But to move forward we need to overcome obstacles, the external ones and the internal ones.

This is why it’s crucial that in a Learning Club there exists a healthy amount of trust.

A Learning Club is a small group of people who have chosen to be there and who are comfortable learning together.

There exists an unwritten rule that what is discussed within the group stays within the group.

There exists an unwritten rule that although failure is not desirable, a member’s effort is never ridiculed or criticised.

The relationship between members should be one of mutual support, respect, camaraderie and trust.

Each person needs to be challenged to stretch themselves out of their comfort zone. This a risk and failure is part of the process. So when attempts do inevitably go pear-shaped, members know they can fail with dignity and with the knowledge that it is safe to do so.

This is what happens when a group trusts each other.

It's a wonderful thing to experience - to form part of a group where everyone supports you.

Of course, this raises the question of what to do when there isn’t that element of trust.

What does the group do then?

My answer is in two parts.

Firstly, it’s almost impossible for any group to start with a high level of trust.

Trust isn’t something you can demand. It can only be earned.

But given a chance, as the members learn about themselves and each other, as they learn about how supporting each other can create environments where they can start to achieve things they thought were beyond them, then the level of trust naturally gets stronger and stronger.

I’ve seen groups develop an exceptionally strong bond within just a few meetings where a set of relative strangers have come together to form a team so strong that it would be difficult to break it up.

Nevertheless, people are people.

If you do find that someone is causing problems, it has to be dealt with or it jeopardises the whole group.

At first, a conversation needs to be had to draw attention to the undesired behaviour.

But failing any progress, the toxic member needs to be removed from the group with as much grace as can be maintained:

“Thank you for your input but it’s just not working out.”

If you’re not lucky enough to be able to enjoy the safe environment of a Learning Club, you could still support your learning by seeking out the trust of someone around you. If there's one person you can trust, you can ask them to be your supporter who can act as a sounding board or give you a second opinion.

If you’re in a toxic environment where failure is considered a sign of weakness or used as a weapon, it’s much more likely you’ll stay in your safe zone and leave the failing (and learning) to someone else.

So how would you rate your working environment's trustworthiness? Is it helping you grow as an individual? And if not, what are you going to do about it?

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