Businesses are run by human beings and to be successful, a business needs to cultivate positive relationships. This is exactly what the Relationship Chakra aims to do. This step of the program is based on the Heart chakra that exists within the human body which corresponds to love and compassion. In this case, we focus on relationships, trust and connections.
In order to cultivate positive interpersonal relationships we utilize:
What is Psychological Safety?
In order for a member of an organization to cultivate positive relationships, they must feel comfortable presenting their truest self. This means feeling that they are free to express their feelings/emotions, ask questions and deliver bad news or failures without fear of potential repercussions. This is exactly what Psychological Safety aims to provide workers and organizations. A definition of Psychological Safety from the Center of Creative Leadership reads as follows “It’s a shared belief held by members of a team that others on the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish you for speaking up”. Psychological Safety is a process that is not only core to this step in the program but is fundamental in creating healthy and wealthy organizations.
One of the most notable thought leaders on Psychological Safety is Amy Edmonson who is a prolific organizational psychologist, author and long-time professor at Harvard University. Edmonson describes Psychological Safety as “a belief that the workplace is safe for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, and even mistakes. It’s a sense of confidence that your voice is valued. You can think of this as a sense of permission for candor. That the workplace is somewhere we count on your voice being heard, because you never know when you will have had the observation that someone else missed that will be mission-critical”. Edmonson is keen to make it clear Psychological Safety does not mean there will be no conflict, she predicts that there for sure will be. But there will be an open dialogue where employees feel safe being direct and candid. She sees psychological safety as a “commitment to excellence” and that psychological safety is one of the avenues that can help get you there.
Psychological Safety Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic
The pandemic was a moment which provided the need for Psychological Safety like no other. As businesses were being shifted to remote work and organizations needed to recalibrate how they do business, the need for open and honest communication was essential. This was a moment where many questions were being asked about how to do business in the pandemic era, one of those was posed by organizational psychologist Adam Grant “If we’re not all in the room together, how do we make sure that people feel like they can take a risk without a penalty?”. This was a moment that called on Psychological Safety like no other and the tireless work that people like Amy Edmonson have been doing for decades had been recognized. However as Adam Grant points out, while the pandemic was the point where Psychological Safety was most needed, the distance created by the pandemic made it the most difficult time to cultivate it.
Tips for Psychological Safety
Amy Edmonson (Professor and Author)
Admit what you don’t know
Get comfortable with new tech
Have a sense of purpose
Frame the work as a learning problem, not an execution problem.
Acknowledge your own fallibility.
Model curiosity and ask lots of questions.
Respond productively to problems
Pictured: Amy Edmonson (Source: Hicue Speakers)
Adam Grant (Organizational Psychologist)
1. Be open to problems, not just solutions.
2. Adopt brainwriting, not brainstorming.
3. Advocate for "burstiness", set aside time for flow.
4. Share your own shortcomings and mistakes first.
Pictured: Adam Grant speaking at a TED Conference (Source: TED)
The Importance of Trust:
Establishing Trust is essential the second half that is essential to harnessing the Relationship Chakra. In order to build healthy relationships and teams, trust must be established. Each person with the organization must know that they can count on the other to make good on the word and can be trusted with sensitive information.
Brene Brown is likely the leading voice on trust in the modern age. Brown has written several books on trust such as Dare to Lead. Brown describes trust as “Trust is choosing to make something important to you vulnerable to the actions of someone else”. This definition is inspired by research from Charles Feltman, who has sought to narrow down what trust actually is. Alternatively, Brown describes Distrust as “Distrust is what I have shared with you that is important to me, is not safe with you”.
Pictured: Brene Brown (Source: University of Houston)
The Anatomy of Trust:
Brown’s philosophy on trust inspired a system she refers to as “The Anatomy of Trust”. The Anatomy of Trust is presented through an acronym known as “Braving”. This acronym was chosen because as Brown puts it “when we trust, we are braving connection with somebody”. It includes “Boundaries”, “Reliability”, “Accountability”, “Integrity”, “Non Judgement” and “Generosity”.
Being able to set boundaries and have those around you respect those boundaries is an essential component of trust. This in turn means that others can set their own Boundaries and you must respect them as well, just as they did for you. “There is no trust without boundaries” according to Brown.
“I can only trust you, if you do what you say you are going to do”. In order for trust to be truly cultivated, one must perceive the other as reliable, they must feel confident that if the other says they are going to do something, that they make good on their commitment. Brown uses data and science in contrast to interpersonal relationships to make a point about reliability. When conducting research, the data must be consistently reliable. She references a scale and how when you go to weigh yourself it needs to be accurate 100% of the time, not 25% percent of the time, otherwise we cannot rely on it. However we are only human, there are only so many hours in a day and only so much we can do. This is where honesty comes in, it is important to be honest and realistic about what your limitations are and what time constraints you may be working under. Those who do this will likely be seen as reliable. Remember, it's not about being seen as someone who completes the most work, it's about the consistency in which you make good on the commitments you have made.
In our previous case study we outlined the importance of accountability. We stressed that for leaders it means that they are responsible for cultivating an open and positive company culture which fosters confidence and self-reliance among its employees. For employees it is to know your duties, complete the required work and even when you make mistakes, you own up to them. Brown considers accountability to be a key component to trust as well. “When you make a mistake, you are willing to own it, apologize for it and make amends. I can only trust you if when I make a mistake, that I am allowed to own it, apologize for it and make amends. No accountability, no trust” says Brown.
A key element of the “Anatomy of Trust” is what Brown refers to as “The Vault”. This concept revolves around the idea that when you share something with someone, that information is sacred and should not be openly shared with others. When someone shares information with you in confidence, they have entrusted you with that sensitive information and you should do the same for them as they have presumably done for you. Brown refers to things like gossip as being “counterfeit trust” as it is an attempt at connection through sharing information that was not yours to share, it is a betrayal of trust. The Vault is what Brown refers to as a “Vault of Trust” when someone shares sensitive information with you, they are trusting you and that information should be locked in the vault right away. Making sure that this information stays locked in the vault will build trust.
Integrity is a key element of fostering trust within your relationships and in an organization. Brown's definition of Integrity is based on three pillars.
“Choosing courage over comfort”.
“Choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast or easy”.
“Practicing your values, not just professing your values”.
Non Judgement is based around a mutual acceptance that we can struggle and ask for help without fear of judgement – a behaviour which goes hand in hand with Psychological Safety. An organization that preaches Non Judgement tells its people that “I can fall apart, ask for help and be in struggle without being judged by you. You can fall apart, be in struggle, and ask for help without being judged by me” says Brown.
Generosity is a trait in which you assume the most favourable scenario of what may have occurred because ideally that person has never done anything that would cause you to assume the opposite. “Our relationship is only a trusting relationship if you can assume the most generous thing about my words, intentions, and behaviours”. Then if I make a mistake, you will approach me with the most generous interpretation of why I made that mistake” says Brown.
Trust the Numbers
We have established the importance of cultivating trust. However it is important to understand what people consider to be the behaviours that cultivate trust the most. Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman aimed to answer this through examining human-centric data and research that aimed to pinpoint the three elements of trust that people covet the most. Understanding what people are looking for when it comes to trust is key to establishing it. The findings by Zenger and Folkman should be instructive in doing so.
The following is based on research conducted by Zenger and Folkman through 360 assessments from 87,000 leaders. Based on the data collected, the two narrowed the findings down to three elements that came up the most when leaders were asked what trust means to them.
They were as follows:
1) Positive Relationships
Respondents prized being in touch with the concerns and issues of others, balancing results with concern for others, cultivating cooperation, conflict resolution, and providing helpful/honest feedback.
2) Good Judgement/Expertise:
Someone with good judgment when making decisions, trusts the ideas and opinions of others, whose knowledge and expertise make an important contribution to achieving results, and can anticipate and respond quickly to problems were key to establishing trust for them.
The respondents felt that consistency made a significant impact on the degree to which they trust someone. This person is a role model and sets a good example, walks the walk, honours commitments and keeps promises, and are willing to go above and beyond what needs to get done.
Establishing these processes will ultimately culminate in stronger and healthier relationships within your business. An organization who has a fully aligned Relationships Chakra will truly flourish and the proof of that can be seen plain as day. See below for visual representation of some of the things that you are likely to see at a workplace with an aligned Relationships Chakra versus an unaligned one.
All of these elements that we have discussed will be pivotal in establishing strong and healthy relationships within your business. Stay tuned for more on the Relationships Chakra!
The Fearless Organization by Amy Edmonson (2018)
Dare to Lead by Brene Brown (2018)
What Is Psychological Safety at Work? - https://www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/what-is-psychological-safety-at-work/
Adam Grant on leading teams in a remote work world - https://futureforum.com/2020/10/08/adam-grant-on-leading-teams-in-a-remote-work-world/
Brené Brown on What it Really Means to Trust - https://www.mindful.org/brene-brown-on-what-it-really-means-to-trust/
The 3 Elements of Trust - https://hbr.org/2019/02/the-3-elements-of-trust
The importance of psychological safety: Amy Edmondson - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eP6guvRt0U0&ab_channel=TheKing%27sFund
Photo Sources (In order of placement)
Washington Speakers Bureau
University of Houston