So there I was in full flow working with a group of managers. Good discussions were being had, good insights were being made, and lots of supportive behaviours being exhibited. We had humour, we had been fed, we had a very conducive physical environment.
Life was good.
Everything was telling me the upcoming exercise was being primed in the right way. People were having open dialogue, they were challenging assertions and practices. They were getting clarity and following directions and instructions moving from one task to the next.
I was a happy facilitator.
Then I introduced an exercise designed to give feedback to peers. It was based on the fishbowl methodology and I had confidence in the design of the session that this was the right point in the day to invite the group to participate.
And I was faced with a mixed bag of comfort about doing this exercise. So much so, we ended up doing a different exercise to the one planned.
I can deal with discomfort in a group. I can deal with nerves, anxiety, annoyance, anger, and I can deal with not believing in the model.
Had I failed? What went wrong? How were they not ready to do this? What was missing?
Trust. That’s what was missing.
What I had thought was because I was seeing engagement, and everything was telling me that they were engaged, that they therefore trusted one another.
But they didn’t.
They trusted each other as professional colleagues, but they didn’t trust each other as partners. They trusted each other to do the job they’re there for, but they didn’t trust each other enough to support one another’s development.
Big moment right there.
I can imagine the very same thing happening up and down the country and in organisations all across the modern world. Teams are working together because that’s what they’re paid to do. People are collaborating on projects because it’s a good way of working. Managers are leading on projects because that’s part of their remit. New workers are learning about their new organisations because the induction programmes are better than ever before.
But are they working better? Are they calling out bad behaviour when they see it? Are they celebrating achievements when they see them? Are they challenging each other to achieve better and more? Are they having difficult conversations about performance? Are they innovating and making their products and services better?
Because you need to trust one another to do those things.
These microcosms of activity are a reflection of the wider activity in organisations.
It’s what I’m learning more about in my role as a facilitator and as a L&Der. If I can help move people to trust one another, then I’m already fulfilling the engagement factor.