Employing Differences

Employing Differences, Episode 50: Can we make this decision without trust?

April 27, 2021 Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis
Employing Differences
Employing Differences, Episode 50: Can we make this decision without trust?
Chapters
Employing Differences
Employing Differences, Episode 50: Can we make this decision without trust?
Apr 27, 2021
Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis

"As trust evolves in a group, it's important that you also evolve – and acknowledge that you're evolving – how you make decisions."

Listen on the website and read the transcript

Watch this episode on YouTube

Show Notes Transcript

"As trust evolves in a group, it's important that you also evolve – and acknowledge that you're evolving – how you make decisions."

Listen on the website and read the transcript

Watch this episode on YouTube

Karen:

Welcome to Employing Differences, a conversation about exploring the collaborative space between individuals.

Unknown:

I'm Paul Tevis.

Karen:

And I'm Karen Gimnig.

Paul:

Each episode, we start with a question and we see where it takes us. This week's question is, "Can we make this decision without trust?"

Karen:

So we started our conversation about this before we hit record out of an exercise that I did with a group this past weekend, where we were exploring what the relationship is between trust and decisions. And so I had an exercise where they were thinking about for a particular decision, who would

they want to make that decision:

an individual, a team, an expert, whatever. Then how would they want that decision to be

made, what kind of process:

a vote, a consensus, roll the dice, whatever. And alsowhat sort of transparency around the

decision making:

how much and how it would be done. So that was the frame of the exercise. And after we'd done some examples, and they thought about different kinds of decisions, I then gave them a particular decision, and then said, "Okay, so now imagine that you're in a group where there is no trust, where you don't believe anybody is listening to you, or interested in your thoughts that everyone is just driven by self interest. And so imagine if you're in that environment, how would you want that decision to be made?" So how does that shift that thinking about who and how a decision would be made, and then because we don't want to stay in the dark place, let's look at the opposite of that. And what if you're in an environment where there's absolute trust? Where you really believe not that people will agree with you, but that everyone will listen to you, will care about you, will pay attention to what's important to you, and that there will be an opportunity for you to give the input you want to give, and people will be responsive to that. So if there's really high trust, how does that change how you would want decisions to be made? And the response was very much that it made a huge difference. And in fact, some participants hadn't thought about that before and were pretty surprised at how different it felt to be delegating decisions and in the case of this environment, it was delegating from a group to an individual could make a decision on behalf of the group. If you're a corporate CEO, it might be how you feel about handing off responsibility. The trust that you have between the two yourself and that person would be the influencer. But the conclusion was that it makes a big difference, how much trust there is, how much you're willing to hand off to allow someone else to take that decision out of your hands. And I want to flag one more nuance of this, which is that the more that you're willing to delegate down from a big group to a small group, the more time you save, the more resource you save. Or I'd say the other way is, the less resources required to make that decision. If you're looking like from the delegation from a CEO or a manager down, it may just be the more you can take off of the plate of the manager, which also has value. But that there's a real value in being able to do that and then it's absolutely aligned with trust.

Paul:

One of the things I love about that story and I kind of lit up when you shared it with me, when we were talking before the show is that point where we don't realize how we're thinking about decision-making and delegation and things like that in terms of trust until we frame it that way. Because often, I think people talk about process because that's what we're describing here, we're talking about a process for making a decision. I recognize process is a dirty word for some people. This is why in some organizations, I just talk about "how you do things" or "ways of working" to disguise the fact that we're discussing process. Because we have processes for things. But oftentimes, we think that we have a process, which means we don't need trust. And in fact, it's more about we have the right process. When we have the right process. It's that the process matches the trust level that we have. Because when you're using a really heavyweight process for a decision, that assumes no trust, but you're in an environment where there's a lot of trust, it's the wrong method. And the other way around, right where it's like and I think we get nervous when we're in a situation where the way we're making the decision assumes a higher level of trust than we actually have. And we get frustrated, when it assumes a lower level of trust than we have.

Karen:

They might use a different word than "assumes" there. I might say, "depends upon." I don't think we actually are conscious enough to be assuming a thing. But we're choosing a method of decision-making that depends upon more or less trust, in order to be successful. So one of the places where those decision-making processes will fail has to do with where we've mismatched the trust needed with the trust that we have. And there are two ways to approach that mismatch. So one is to sort of pause and go back and work on building trust to come up to match. The other is to make the decision making more robust. But the cost of that comes to again, is that a more robust decision making process requires more resources to implement. We talk over and over again, about if you get the relationship piece right it actually makes things faster in the long run, and I think this is one of those cases.

Paul:

Yeah. We've talked about trust before. And one of the things that we often flag when we talk about trust is: One, trust is not binary. It's not just I trust you or I don't, right. And also there are aspects to trust. I come back a lot to one model, which is that two of the things to think about in terms of trust are competence and character. I might absolutely trust who you are, and your values, and that we're aligned on those sorts of things, and that we might make decisions the same way. But I don't necessarily trust that you have the skills needed in order to do this thing, when I'm trying to ask you to do a thing or hand-off a task or delegate or things like that. And conversely, it might be the other way around. I trust your skills absolutely. But I don't trust you to actually make the decision because of misalignment around things. I think when we get caught often when we think do "I trust someone" we may be thinking solely about character. And that's that's not the end of the story. I was working with someone recently where we're we're talking more about kind of decentralizing authority and decision making in an organization. This is part of sort of upskilling everybody in this org. And one of the things that they're really doing is giving people a better sense of what is the overall picture of what the organization is trying to do. And so how can everybody make better decisions, because they have access to a broader set of information. They understand how they interact, they understand that. So it's really kind of upskilling the competence piece. But you still have for certain decisions, a couple of people in that organization going they don't say this, but they are saying "I don't trust other people to make these decisions yet." And so they are using a process for those decisions that still relies on a lower level of trust. Now, the cost of that is that it means that they're not going to be able to move to this new method of really decentralizing, of moving faster, of taking advantage of the skills that they're building and people. They're not going to be able to take advantage of that until they change the way they make decisions around that part of the business. And so going back kind of to our first question, "Can we make this decision about without trust?" Yes, we can using a particular method for making that decision. But what's the cost of doing that? Do we want to make this decision without trust?

Karen:

Yeah, and and I think one of the sort of complexities of this is that one way to build trust, is to make decisions that are aligned with the trust level. So if we try to move ahead with a process that relies on greater trust thean we have, the tendency there is for that to result in reducing trust. So it actually makes the problem worse, because people feel run over or left out or that they weren't considered. So all of that breaks down trust in increments, as you say, it's not binary, but that's the influence there. Whereas if we do a process that particularly if they came in with low trust, they didn't think they were going to be heard, they didn't think they were going to be valued or that they'd have an opportunity for input and we match their level of trust so we do some criteria setting and we take time for more discussion and we really engage them, so we've matched the process with a level of trust that's needed the net result of that is actually to increase trust. We gave them an experience where they did get heard, where they did have the appropriate amount of input for what they needed. And so I think we want to be thoughtful of, even if we get a match for how much process so we need for the amount of trust we have for this decision today, even by tomorrow, and certainly by next week, next month, that same decision may have a shift in trust so that a different process is needed up or down.

Paul:

And that's where I encourage groups a lot, one to understand how they make decisions, which is kind of where we kind of kicked this whole thing off is talking about, "Hey, there are some ways of looking at the ways you make decisions and what sort of goes into it" so understand how you make those decisions, and revisit them regularly. Just come back and say like, "Hey, so we used to make decisions in fact, we're currently making decisions using for these kinds of things with this method. Is that still the right method for us to be using?" I recognize that I am one of those special kinds of people who likes process, who values looking at it, who values understanding how the things are done. Not everybody does, and many people get frustrated by having to stop working and thinking about how they work. But I do think that this is one of those things that groups particularly as they work together over time, and they build those stronger relational bonds, and they have increasing levels of trust, they benefit from coming back around, and sometimes they will discover, "Hey, we've actually changed the way we do this. We should actually recognize that we've already changed it. We aren't making decisions in the same way anymore." And just acknowledge that because where it gets problematic is when people from outside the group think that that's how the group is operating, but the group has actually evolved beyond it. So I think that as trust evolves in a group, it's important that you also evolve and acknowledge that you're evolving how you make decisions.

Karen:

And and I also think that in addition to not being sort of static over time, this isn't static even within like, which decision today like. It's pretty complicated, and in the skill to assess, "Are we matched? and "What is a process that would match the level of trust that we have, and also the complexity of the decision, and also the urgency of the decision?" Like there's all these factors that go into what's a process. And what we're saying today is that trust is one of those factors. But I think it's reasonable to assume that many people in your organization actually don't have the skill to figure out what is the process that matches the needs. And this is where I think you want a really skilled facilitator. And probably although there's some input and group process and whole group stuff to be done around that it's really efficient to sort of delegate that decision, the decision about how we're going to do the thing, to a skilled facilitator who can sort of take in, "What's the level of trust overall? What's the level of trust today? What's the level of emotional involvement that then impacts trust related to this particular topic?" and all those other factors and say, "So the way I thought we would do this is..." and then the group can say yes, or no, or whatever. But having that role of facilitator is really essential on this topic. I think it's unlikely that an average person picked out of a group at random is going to be skilled at figuring out whether we can make this decision without trust.

Paul:

And a lot of that is just understanding how decision making in groups works. What are the things that play into it? What are your choices? What are your options for how you might do things? And, oftentimes, we aren't aware of those because we're not used to thinking about them. But also, if we're in a relatively static environment, we've only seen a certain number of things. We we haven't thought about how these decisions are made explicitly, like we haven't looked at the the sort of mechanics of the breakdown of these things. But also, we don't know that there are other choices because we've never seen them before. And so having someone who can help you become more aware, both of what you are currently doing just mapping out what you're doing right now and then also what some options for how you might make decisions, and how to match those to the level of trust you've got in this in that situation, can be really useful.

Karen:

So just to sort of track where we've been, we started with "Can we make this decision without trust?" And I think we started by sort of naming that trust and decision making processes do impact one another. And that really, it's whether the process that you're using matches the level of trust that you have. And then sort of talked about what happens when there's a mismatch and how you can adjust in response to that. And then the value of someone who's skilled at this particular thing to support the group in that way.

Paul:

I think that's gonna do it for us for today. Until next time, I'm Paul Tevis.

Karen:

And I'm Karen Giming, and this has been Employing Differences.