No us without trust

(#1 of our Together-Ensemble series) The fairy tale continues…

This pandemic called on all leaders and institutions around the globe to make unprecedented decisions, which had huge impacts on economic, mental and emotional levels. Adaptation and agility became the norms.

As a consequence, these decisions may have lacked the logic and empathy required to maintain a good level of trust. We see it because we fell into many traps.

For instance, we saw that when trust is lower:

  • We can put more pressure on ourselves, develop a culture of competition, or act as if nothing has changed. 
  • We can increase our sense of control. As a result, we can take more and more on our shoulders everyday not being able to let go and delegate.
  • We can hide more, following blindly narcissist leaders or sociopaths, dominated by the fear of losing face.
  • Or, we can step on each other for the benefits of a bigger purpose or feel the need to challenge things done by others.

In this episode of Together-Ensemble which took place on 29 May 2020, we covered one of the most important learning needs since the onset of this crisis: the need to consider strategies to mitigate the erosion of trust.

Opening conversation

  • Stéphane Baillie-Gee, Complexity management consultant expert looked at trust and bureaucracy.
  • Ursula Hillbrand, a participatory facilitator, process designer and trainer with 25 years’ experience of the European Commission shared her experience about trust building in the virtual world.
  • Claudia Chwalisz (OECD), policy-analyst, expert on innovative citizen participation, explored the paradigm change underway towards a more participatory, deliberative, and collaborative governance based on trust.
  • Florian Schwendinger (European Commission) concluded the episode by sharing what governments need to do to address the erosion of trust.

You can watch the webinar part here. Please note that this is internal “raw” material, not originally intended for external publication, but knowing the difficult context and associated challenges, we have decided to make it available to all. It is offered by the European Commission with a view to encourage everyone to take similar initiatives to encourage a benevolent direction.

Main recommendations from the workshop

Over 120 colleagues from the EU Institutions had registered for this session; of whom about 80 attended the webinar live and 40 took part in the workshop.

  • Clear communication along the way with frequent and open feedback loops. The Commission is a black box for the citizen. Real power rests with governments. Promote transparency. Committees and Working groups are not visible to the public, but are essential to understand how the Commission prepares and manages policies. Promote town halls in national language whenever a request has a given number of signatories (small version of citizen initiative). Show the results of the work (in the domain I work in) as justification to why we need to invest more in the domain. Results should speak for themselves. Make a linguistic audit in the Commission. Speaking so many forms of English affects our own identity and good communication. We are losing a lot. 
  • Authentic leaders reflecting the need to adapt and be agile. We need to show up as a whole person, as truly human. In addition, politicians can do this. Being an example of being human, towards citizens, i.e. with budgetary rules. Some think there is a problem of authenticity within our organisation and that this is compromising public trust. Speak up more about our values, what we believe in.
  • Change the narrative to explain the rationale for these unprecedented decisions. We are in a world of tension between openness and safety. How can we open up if we are in fear? Speak with a true heart. Recognize mistakes. Accept that errors may be done, but the intention should always be to move all together forward, in the most positive way. Move from I to we, brain to heart. Open your heart and do not accept ego driven behaviours.
  • Reinvent the process of decision making to include citizens, such as citizen assemblies and juries (e.g. the French citizen convention on climate, Irish Citizens Assembly on Abortion). Bring together a randomly selected group of citizens, representative of society. Provide the resources necessary to tackle complex issues of a present collective problem. Collectively develop informed recommendations. Decision makers’ role is to provide evidence. Tap into collective intelligence and cognitive diversity. As more ordinary people are involved, this will enhance trust between government leaders and citizens. And remember, alone we cannot do a lot but together we are stronger! Remember also that as long as there is posturing, rivalry and no conversations about opposing ideas or worldviews, we will not be able to have a trust-based relationship. Complex times do not have simple answers. You need to promote new values by creating new models. Increase transparency. Share more information and incite stakeholders’ collective intelligence. Imagine the Future of Europe Conference as a networked, Europe-wide event with a combination of in-person (in MSs) and digital parts (at EU and national levels).
  • Avoid bureaucracy, which adds distance and slowness. There are unintended consequences. People start to distrust themselves to change anything or to trust the others, putting them in a competitive mind-set. To mitigate bureaucracy: Map what is going on, the relationships and look at actions you can implement quickly with minimum results. Define priorities.
  • The notion of trust is firstly reflexive. It all starts with the individual, how we all show up as humans: in our authentic selves. Feeling secure is the basis of self-trust. Do I trust myself? Then, do I trust my team? Can we trust the EU? Can we trust ourselves to impact on a global scale? All the elements need to be aligned. We need to look at the bigger picture. Ask questions and listen. Have a genuine interest and curiosity for what drives others, where do they come from.. React quickly before it is too late. 
  • Create a safe space. Prepare the ground for good relationships and interactions. Build familiarity with people and tools. Work on a more collaborative mind-set, from “I” to “we”. Invent a ritual. Ask personal questions. Share your vulnerabilities. Share your appreciation. Organise a small meeting to develop the collaborative mode, before going to a bigger meeting with more conflictual issues. Develop listening opportunities.
  • Empower experts and delegate may also imply a transfer of power, and that’s the most problematic point. Remember that if we are not able to engage with each other through trust we would never be able, as an organisation, to engage with citizens. Be prepared to change my definition of the problem. Use constructive criticism. Encourage divergent thinking.
  • Be prudent to not raise expectations in the participatory events that cannot be reached (no action taken, or not following the outcome of the process). Be the example servant leader. 

Related links

You got it?! Now is the time to develop healthier relationships and interactions as well as an environment of psychological safety since any system with a strong sense of trust will always be successful!

Tomorrow, your dear troubadour will report on session #2 Navigating Uncertainty Together.

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