ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

August 1998 / Special Feature : An Issue Of Trust

An Issue Of Trust

In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash

All You Ever Really Need To Know About Trust You Learned In Kindergarten

Furnishing Trust And Empowerment

Eight Organizational Strategies That Build Trust

Trust In Whom

by Peter Block
Trust Columns
John Schuster

Cliff Bolster
Joel Henning
Dan Oestreich
Felicia Seaton-Williams
Trust Interviews
Trapeze Artist
Emergency Room Physician

Air Traffic Controller
Police Officer
Park Ranger


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Book Review


Joel Henning on Trust

Ask Joel Henning about trust and he rolls his eyes and sighs. “In my work it is one of the most frequently used words and the difficulty is that so much is wagered on it. When you bring up trust it is such a heavy moment—a unique bonding that will forever define this relationship.”

Trust has so many hidden meanings, particularly around the issues of self-disclosure. “If I tell you what I really think or what I want, will you do me no harm? At a deeper level, when people use this hidden meaning of trust, they are really asking us to behave in ways that are to their advantage and in essence exerting a subtle form of control.”
The real challenge becomes dealing with those moments of disappointment. How do we behave when we have disappointed one another? “Trusting each other is not as relevant as whether you can maintain this relationship in goodwill even with disappointment,” says Henning. And that is a difficult conversation to have because the first lie is the promise we make to not disappoint one another. “People will by nature disappoint—it is the nature of the human animal. In some sense, trust is not for human beings.”

Giving up on this naive understanding of trust might be a better solution in Henning’s eyes. The truth is that human beings are not going to live their lives the way we want them to. Instead, in the work situation, we should set up systems around what are we going to achieve and what are we going to do and who is accountable.

“A recent client of mine was the leader of a large metropolitan newspaper and a very loving patriarch. The newspaper was in serious trouble and all of the employees wanted a promise that he would save them. They wanted to trust that he would do that. And being a good patriarch he wanted to do that. I counseled him that he would be going down a very rocky road and encouraged him to be honest and authentic about the condition of the paper and what he saw himself capable of doing or not doing.”

Honesty is key to developing trusting relationships. Henning would prefer, even in intimate relationships, a lifelong commitment to being honest about your life and what is meaningful, as opposed to a lifelong commitment to just being there.

August '98 News for a Change | Email Editor
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