I’m an ’80s baby, which means John Hughes films were required viewing. “Pretty in Pink” and “The Breakfast Club” were extremely influential, but nothing compared to my love for “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” One of my many favorite lines from that movie is when Ferris and Cameron are handing Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari off to the parking garage attendant. Cam stands over the car looking forlorn, and the attendant says, “You fellas have nothing to worry about. I’m a professional.”
Regardless of the attendant’s professionalism, Cameron did not have the desired level of trust to leave the car and likely would not have without Ferris’ goading. People are in situations daily where they rely on trusting other people to effectively do what they say they are going to do, a trust that’s easier for some to accept than it is for others.
I became fascinated by the concept of trust when it emerged as a key finding in a recent research project. We were looking to form a deeper understanding of how organizations could/would/should carry out a hybrid working model for their employees when the pandemic eases its grip. We engaged stakeholders in 13 organizations to collect data and ultimately write a playbook for establishing a hybrid workplace.
When we started the project, we had our own preconceived notions of what our guide might include and the order in which it would be presented, to help organizations develop a plan for this. We thought the first thing leaders would need to do was figure out their safety plan, then maybe address real estate and technology. But as we dug deeper into how people already working in a hybrid model were getting along, we realized their success (or failure) actually hinged on one factor: trust!
Organizations and teams who are successfully working hybrid have individuals and managers who trust each other. Unsuccessful groups would say things like, “I don’t trust my people,” or, “My manager doesn’t trust me.” Once we learned that trust—and its counterparts, psychological safety, accountability and equity—were key performance indicators in the hybrid model, our entire outlook changed. We effectively scrapped our original plan and began the book with a chapter titled, “Let’s Talk Trust.”
We not only start this book on how to hybrid with identifying trust, but we use it as a requirement to check our decision making against all other sections of the book. It became the through line for success. We did this because we knew that, if leadership at the highest level of an organization could set this tone and effectively create these criteria for decision making, then all teams could have something consistent to follow and still allow them to build their own framework for hybrid with their team, department or business unit.
In the end, maybe we are all in a coming-of-age movie right now, about to triumph through our hero’s journey and re-enter the workplace in a whole new way. We are realizing that we won’t be in high school (working from home) much longer, and we will have to learn some new behaviors, take some risks and probably prepare to fail a bit as we take the next step in our lives (our new hybrid journey). Together, like Cameron after pulverizing his dad’s beloved sports car, we will have to take the heat of our new situation.
Have a good summer.
Keep in touch.
Julka is founder of Indianapolis-based DORIS Research, which uses design thinking to organize workspaces.