In the corporate world, a popular practice or theory is that of ‘workplace alignment’, which relates to how companies can improve their work environment (and in turn, their bottom line) when the values, roles and/or goals of employees are aligned. That’s a great principle, and it can be used to improve relationships in all areas of our lives, not just at work. As we continue our exploration of trust and how it impacts us, it’s essential to talk about goals, perspectives, and the power of alignment.
We are motived to do things for any variety of reasons, be it money, accolades, personal achievement, altruism, and so on. Even when our goals align, however, we may sometimes differ in our perspectives. For example, two runners may both want to get to the finish line first, but one may have a task-oriented perspective and think only of achieving their goal in the fastest time possible, while another may be driven to finish first because their perspective is ‘ego’ based; in other words, they care about themselves and the recognition. Same goal, different outlook. The secret to success is to understand more about each other, our motivations and our goals, then we can work towards finding a common ground and building trust.
Getting on the same page
In the workplace, on a sports team, or in our personal relationships, we find more success when everyone understands the end goal and we’re on the same page in terms of direction. In most organizations, a good place to start is by dusting off the old ‘mission statement’ or values guide and explore what it means to each individual. When the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing (or why), then it creates an environment where people can get easily disengaged, leading to less connection and trust. By empowering others and having strong communication and leadership, we can start to improve alignment, but we also need to understand the overarching values.
Disengagement & friction
Friction between people can quickly escalate into toxic relationships, and the effects on the individuals involved as well as on those around them can be quite destructive and demoralizing. Friction and disagreements can be caused by miscommunication, personality clashes, feeling ‘slighted’, or having misaligned goals. When there’s discontent, it is a lot more difficult to develop trust. The best way to tackle this kind of situation is to focus on areas of agreement before tackling the friction points. Finding out commonalities and shared likes – or even dislikes – is a great way to build relationships.
Another way to help tackle disengagement and friction is to create a safe space where open communication can take place. We need to feel comfortable in order to open up to others. A lot of people live in fear of being reprimanded, badgered, and barked at. When we trust others, we don’t need to micromanage them, and when we feel trusted, the sky is the limit on what we can accomplish.
Taking risks – together
When we share experiences together, we build alignment…and to take it one step further, when we share risks together, we build trust. The more that’s at stake, the more trust that’s needed. Although it’s perfectly normal to feel vulnerable when taking risks, the point is to trust in yourself and others because that’s how all great things are accomplished; it’s certainly not from the comfort of our couches. Go ahead and tackle your renovation project, go after that big client you’ve been eyeing up, start that small business, or white-water canoe up the Nahanni River – you’re not in it alone.
“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway