Honesty. Respect. Integrity. Trust.

All human beings have similar wants and needs.  We want honesty, respect, integrity, and trust.  These four are intricately linked together.  We want to belong to something bigger than ourselves and to matter.

Wanting honesty, respect, integrity and trust is about wanting to live in an environment in which we feel safe.  It’s about wanting to know what we’re dealing with so that we can exist on a calm level without having to constantly evaluate what might come next and how we need to protect ourselves from it. 

When we are constantly having to deal with change on whatever level, our physical bodies get caught in an ongoing cycle of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.  These hormones try to keep our physical bodies on alert so that we can deal with whatever change may come by fighting it or running for cover.  Such is the primal biological response wired into our brains.  While we’re dealing with this response, those same hormones draw blood flow away from “less necessary” functions like digestion and our immune system.  After an extended period of time, we may end up in adrenal fatigue – our minds and bodies unable to recover from having been on alert for so long.

Whilst this biological response to our environment may have been relevantly triggered by a sabre-toothed tiger in days gone by, it’s now triggered indiscriminately by traffic, noise, uncertain or unpredictable work environments, our relationships within those environments, challenging emails – and everything else that our subconscious mind may perceive as a threat.

Honesty, respect, integrity and trust are the key ingredients that allow us to build an environment within which we can operate using our whole brain to focus on the matter at hand.  When our brain isn’t focusing on survival (even if that’s a deluge of challenging emails or recovering from the drive to work), it can open up on different levels that give us access to rational thought and creativity.  When our bodies are calm and our minds are safe, entirely different combinations of hormones course through our bodies, and what we’re able to achieve on a mental and physical level is more sustainable and productive.  This is true for our team members, and it’s true for our clients!

If successful business was as easy as just hiring a bunch of labour to deliver a product, every business team would be nailing it.  But business is about transferring energy, regardless of the product you deliver.  Creating an environment within which a team can flourish takes intention and dedication to actively living those intentions until they are exemplified in everything that you and your team do.  Creating a brand, an experience and a relationship that your clients can trust is the product of the energy coming out of your team.

The energy and consistency that you deliver are what earn you loyalty and repeat business, regardless of your industry.  And at the end of the day, everyone wants the same thing – TRUST.

So how do we get there?  We know that trust is earned…but how?  We all want to do fast, repetitive and successful business.  We all want to develop, grow and expand.  We all want to create relationships that last and on which we can build.  We don’t want to always be checking our backs; always checking our teammates’ work; always wondering what people’s agendas are.  What do we need to be aware of when it comes to creating a trustworthy space where honesty, respect and integrity abound? 

The first thing we need to understand is the relationship between them because they’re so synergistic that they’re more of a package deal than individual steps.

HONESTY speaks to our ability to speak up and speak in.  All of us want to live in an environment where there is honesty because it makes us feel safe.  When people are open, honest and transparent, we know what we’re dealing with and we don’t have to expend energy trying to figure out what we don’t know.  When our mind is uncertain, it’s the equivalent of having all the apps on your phone running in the background.  It chews up our battery.  When people are open and honest, we don’t even need to like what we hear or agree with it.  But as long as we know it’s true, we can find a way to deal with it.  The uncertainty of not knowing means our brains spend time trying to imagine what information is missing – and we’re likely to fill in those gaps with the worst-case scenario so that we can prepare ourselves.

RESPECT must come hot on the heels of honesty.  Actually, they should be holding hands.  Nobody wants to be in an environment where people are running around being honest but not respectful.  That would be uncomfortable at best.  Respect means accommodating everyone to the best of your ability and ranges broadly from how you speak to people (your tone and language) to the content of what you say.  If you go forward having set the intention of communicating for connection and growth, then you’re likely to win more than you lose; and if you get it wrong, the fact that you’re trying will generally earn you a second chance.  If you’re not sure how to go about something, ask.  That in itself shows respect.

INTEGRITY means that we’re able to be honest and respectful consistently across all levels of our undertakings, regardless of who we’re dealing with – even when no one is watching and/or there’s no direct gain for us.  Representing ourselves consistently means standing by our value systems and character because alignment with that makes us feel, well, aligned and energised.  Whilst this may seem like a hell of a practice that may come under threat in many different scenarios, it actually takes less energy to do so once it’s become a habit.

If we start with clear intentions as to what we stand for and where our boundaries are when those beliefs and values are challenged, we discern our own personal culture and what we bring to our team.  When we’re prepared to address challenges with dignity and patience as we encounter differing belief systems and understandings, we allow others to contribute to our team culture too.

Professing our values is one thing.  Living by them and defending them is another.  None of us get it right all the time.  When something goes against our values it often riles us and we react.  It takes a strong and practised approach to remain calm and centred when that happens which is far easier when you belong to a team who agree on a central value system and are willing to stand together and have each other’s backs.

Just like children are subconsciously attracted to boundaries, so are adults.  When people know what to expect, they feel comfortable and secure – whether they agree with you or not.  It’s then down to their own choice as to whether they want to be a part of what you display or not, but such is the process that allows your tribe to gather to you.

Understanding how honesty, respect and integrity work hand in hand to earn trust is only one part of the equation though.  Actually, DOING it is the harder part.  How DO you get a team to work together in this way?  How do you create that space?

The first step is choosing how YOU want to show up, and then leading by example. 

The number one thing that stops us achieving this mythical space we all want is that it takes vulnerability to obtain it.  Honesty requires vulnerability.  Respect requires vulnerability – especially if you have to ask what’s needed.  Integrity means vulnerability when you choose to stand behind your beliefs consistently.  Vulnerability is distinctly uncomfortable.  No one wants to be vulnerable in a space that may tear that vulnerability apart.

The funny thing is though, that once one person starts showing it, you give licence and create space for the rest of the team to do the same.  It takes a hell of a lot of courage to be vulnerable.  To be honest.  To be true.  Courage requires strength, not weakness.  Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness, and that courage is what starts to create the safe space we crave.

It takes much less energy to be authentic, honest and respectful than it does to try and negotiate every second of the day differently.  The energy you and your team RE-charge with comes from the same place.  Creating this environment yourself enables other team members to show up more fully engaged and contribute their energy to the growing pool of energy, rather than us all expending energy trying to work out what we don’t know and need to watch for.

All the energy we save is more energy we can channel into being productive and fulfilled.

by Christen Killick

August 7th, 2022

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