Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The head or the heart

One of the concepts we talk about early on in the Cognitive Coaching workshops is trust.  Over and above the fact that trust is absolutely essential in any coaching relationship, we talk about how trust is important throughout a school and that it is everyone's job to develop a climate of trust. Trust is important in the relationship of us as professionals with parents, in the relationship between teachers and the principal, in the relations teachers have with each other and in the relations teachers have with students. What I found interesting however is that different sorts of trust are important in each of these relationships.

There are 3 different types of trust in schools:
  • organic trust - which was defined as felt value
  • contractual trust - what you are expected to do as part of your job
  • relational trust - what our expectations are of others, and what responsibility we have to others. Relational trust is founded on our beliefs and our observation of others' behaviour.
In the Culture Map, 2 types are trust are identified, based on where you are on the trusting scale.  These are trust from the head and trust from the heart.  Trust from the head is called cognitive trust - it's based on the confidence you feel in another person (for example their skills or reliability).  This is often the trust you see in working relationships when people are doing a good job.  Affective trust, from the heart, is to do with emotional closeness, empathy or friendship.  And like everything else I'm reading about in the book, trust is cultural:  the United states separates the practical tasks and emotional relationships - mixing them is seen as unprofessional and even a conflict of interest.  For example you often hear the expression "Don't mix business with pleasure".  Other cultures, for example the Chinese, connect both forms of trust - personal and business ties are linked - and they see a very "business only" approach to indicate a lack of sincerity or loyalty.  This can certainly lead to misunderstandings, with the United States being very task based, whereas the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) being much more relationship- based.  As Erin Meyer points out, "Previously managers working in global business may have felt themselves pulled toward working in a more American manner because the United States dominated most world markets ... but in today's business environment, the BRIC cultures are rising and expanding their reach ... all of these countries lie towards the relationship-based end of the trusting scale."  Today you have to learn how to build relationship-based trust with your clients and colleagues in order to be successful.

In "American-style" presentations and workshops the session often starts with an inclusion/icebreaker activity to build relationships between complete strangers.  Often at the end of the workshop, relationships that were so quickly built are usually just as quickly dropped.  In contrast, icebreaker activities in relationship-based societies are rare.

Another example is that if someone is fired from a job in an American company, the relationship of the other workers with that person are likely to be broken.  In relationship-based societies, that's practically unheard of, as the loyalty is to the individual and not to the company.  In fact often in those companies team members will follow the person to the new company.

And then there is another variable.  Meyer calls this the peach -v- the coconut.  In "peach" cultures such as the US, people tend to be soft and friendly with people they have just met - often moving to first name terms very quickly and sharing personal information.  However it's not so far into a peach that you meet a hard shell:  friendliness does not equal friendship.  Europeans, on the other hand, appear much more stony, or even hostile at first.  These are the "coconut" cultures where there is a tough shell:  they rarely smile at strangers or ask personal questions to those they don't know.  After a while, however, you get through the hard shell and people will become warmer and friendlier.  The relationships built up slowly and over a longer time are the ones that tend to last longer.

Thinking about this I think I'm most definitely a task-based person, though living an expat life overseas for the past 30 yers and having to socialize with my colleagues I've become much more relationship-based.  And as for the peach and the coconut - yep I'm definitely a coconut!

Photo Credit: id-iom Flickr via Compfight cc

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