August 1998 / Special Feature : An Issue Of Trust
Trust In Whom
by Peter Block
Emergency Room Physician
Air Traffic Controller
Cliff Bolster on Trust
When one asks Cliff Bolster what trust is, he takes a deep breath and pauses, contemplating his word choice.
Trust has to do, in some deep way, with predictability, with the ability to feel or predict what someone else is going to do or how theyre going to be.
Trust evolves from the more one knows about someone else. This balances on how open and reliable a person is. Bolster questions whether that person is able to fulfill the promises made.
Trust cannot be given, Bolster answers. It must be earned. You cannot command or direct a person to trust you. Once you prove yourself trustworthy, then, and only then, do you receive my trust in return.
A single ounce of trust is gained when you are open with someone, when you share something with that person that may be embarrassing or that lessens you in some way and yet that person does not use it against you.
But trust is a big problem.
Even if you trust others on a personal level, it is very difficult to do, because our systems have been built around a judgmental concept of distrust.
Trust is a huge organization problem. It is very expensive, but how do you calculate the cost of distrust?
Within our society, within the workforce, within our own personal lives, we set up enormous systems based on a fundamental assumption that people cannot be trusted. But we rarely calculate what the cost of these systems are. Leaders and followers are entwined in these systematic structures.
There are three characteristics for trusting behaviors that Bolster supports. First there needs to be a behavior that invites and involves the individual, followed by the capacity to listen without judgment and finally, the willingness to be open.
You cannot achieve trust without at least one part risk. Yet we seem to want the absolute result without the risk.
Many leaders of today dont trust others due to their own insecurities. They feel that no one can do the work as well as they do it already, Bolster explains.
So control is the opposite of trust. But how does control relate to trust? The purpose of control is measurement and feedback. Control does not inherently demonstrate distrust however, if control is based on the assumption that people cannot be trusted, it will be perceived as evidence of distrust.
Financial matters are an area of high control and low trust.
Thats why you have to have four different people approve a payroll
document before it is completed. This is based on the assumption that people
cant be trusted to handle the organizations money responsibly.
The decision to trust is completely within the control of the individual.