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


Dan Oestrich on Trust

When Dan Oestreich talks about trust he concludes that having faith, believing in others and taking risks are essential ingredients.
He recently worked with a financial services company team on the Year2000 project—facing an absolute deadline, technical dilemmas and a large, complex organization.

Oestreich found that positive relationships within the team and with other teams were critical to success. People were doing their best technically but also needed a high level of trust for the project to be completed by the year 2000. Each member had to follow through on personal commitments and had to trust that others would fulfill their commitments as well, in an environment of rapidly changing decisions, unforeseen problems and a very high-stakes deadline.
“So what is it that we need to do differently? How can we create a higher level of trust?”

The project team answered this question with—enhanced collaboration.

Simply telling others what to do, arguing over the “best” solution to problems, failing to acknowledge others’ work demands and not trusting that others really wanted to help all surfaced as barriers to success. Collaboration—working properly through challenges together—was viewed as the pragmatic alternative.
Trust is often too global a term, comments Oestreich. “When a person says he or she can’t trust you, ask what the person means by this. Ask what they are seeing about you or the situation that stands in the way.” What you may hear in reply may be a negative belief—such as a belief that you don’t really need the product or service by the date given. Such negative assumptions are what damage trust, so it makes sense to try to pull them into the open and respond nondefensively.
“When people adopt negative theories about one another and their motives, life becomes very complicated,” concludes Oestreich.
Another element of trust is involved when people must move fast. Will people cover up their conflicts, mistakes and problems?
High-trust relationships are durable ones, Oestreich explains. Having trust doesn’t mean there won’t be conflicts or hard feelings, but that there is faith in the capabilities and good intentions of people.
“Faith is established in a track record,” Oestreich says. “If I have trusted you in the past and this has worked, then I have more faith. There may have been mistakes and problems, but we’ve worked through them.

Unfortunately, many people feel they have been burned in the past and that they’d be naive to trust people at work too much. Creating more trust means letting go of this cynical baggage and behaving in ways that break through the negative assumptions, including surfacing sensitive ‘undiscussible’ issues.”
But Oestreich adds that we will never find honesty if we are faithless about our capacity as human beings to have positive relationships at work.

This isn’t as much about human nature as it is about cultural norms. Human nature is what people agree to believe it is—this is about culture, not absolute truth.

Oestreich points to an example from his work. “A common norm in many organizations is to assume low trust is caused by somebody else and there is nothing you can do, so no one takes the first step.” He says that the first changes often reside in the deeper levels of self-knowledge and integrity that enable personal risk-taking.
“We need to learn how to get the tough stuff on the table. And this is ultimately a matter of personal growth and accepting a leadership role-—no matter what your job title is.”

August '98 News for a Change | Email Editor
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