Building Trust Across Differences: A GlobeSmart Learning Moment
Looking to help build self-awareness and grow relationships with your colleagues in a virtual setting? In the first of Aperian Global’s “GlobeSmart Learning Moment” series, “Building Trust Across Differences,” Asia Pacific Director of Consulting Mui Hwa Ng explored how the GlobeSmart learning platform could do just that.
Here are some of the key insights from the webinar:
Establishing trust is key to a productive working relationship.
Credibility. The knowledge and skill a person has and how these are shown or conveyed.
Reliability. The ability to do something right, even when the odds are against it. When things go wrong, when the information is not there, and when things are volatile, that person can still be relied upon.
Connection. The mix of rapport, understanding, and care that makes up a personal part of a relationship.
“When one of these elements increases, overall trust also increases,” Mui Hwa says. “However, trust gets brought down when the self-focus of a person is too large and too obvious. For example – I could come across as highly credible, reliable, and connected to you, but if my agenda is more important than your own needs, the overall trust will go down.”
All of these elements – credibility, reliability, connection, and self-focus – need to be in people’s minds when they work with stakeholders across differences and distances.
Self-focus needs to be part of a balance.
As Mui Hwa points out, there must be some form of self-focus within a working relationship. “Obviously, we have an agenda – whether it’s to get more business, to get buy-in, or to influence somebody to make a decision,” she says.
However, if that self-focus is exclusive and doesn’t consider the needs and interests of other parties, everything comes out of balance.
“We need to ensure that while self-focus still exists, we also have to show that we care about other people’s interests,” Mui Hwa says. “We need to take care of the needs of others, and find out exactly what those needs are.”
Understanding different cultures or countries is key to building trust across those differences.
Those working across cultures need to think about those differences that may affect a relationship, including:
What expectations do they have of you?
What qualifies you to be considered?
How do they measure their connection with you, and how do they see you expressing yourself?
What is their specific focus when it comes to a working relationship?
“An example would be someone coming from a very independent culture – Denmark or Australia – working with someone on the other side of the dimensions, from a country like China, Indonesia, or Japan,” Mui Hwa says. “There, people are a lot more interdependent; they may need more time to discuss a group’s needs or the needs or interests of a group.”
It’s those types of differences that GlobeSmart can help identify – and bridge.
“When we look at those differences across GlobeSmart, we can think about credibility, reliability, connection, and self-focus,” Mui Hwa says. “We can see how those would look like through somebody else’s work style.”
It’s not just about differences – but it’s also about distances.
There’s much more to “distances” than just the separations from geography. “There are distances that go beyond geographies for global teams,” Mui Hwa says. These can include:
Context. When two teams get together to work, and there is too little trust, could the problem be the overall way they look at the mission, vision, goals, strategy? Is the infrastructure of the environment or structure of one team completely different than the other? If that is the case, the difference in reporting structures, processes, and policies could be a barrier to virtual trust.
Relationship. Do people feel cared for and understood? Is there a sense of rapport? Is the person that you’re dealing with not just focused on their business needs, but yours as well? The “relationship gap” is very important – so how do you invest in understanding what those needs are in that relationship?
Communication. Distances in communication can affect how people build trust. What communication method should be used? Is the communication always task-based? How frequently (or infrequently) do we speak? What informal “touchpoints” are in place? Establishing that cadence and closing that distance in communication is vital to building productive, trust-based relationships.
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