Sadly, it seems that all of my thinking is stimulated by negative headlines regarding our political elite. The latest is the apparent intention to introduce Brexit legislation that would change the Withdrawal Agreement and break international law. Many commentators have been talking about how important trust is in any relationship and this, it would appear, is the death knell for any trust that UK plc might have been developing with adjacent nations.
That led me to thinking about the nature of trust.
It's hard-wired into us and boils down to security: security that allows you to develop as a human being in the first instance, to trust that your caregiver will keep you safe emotionally, physically and mentally. In fact, as caregivers that’s the first experience of leadership that babies encounter.
At some time as we develop, that trust is betrayed either in reality or perceptually. It could be a tiny thing such as trusting that food will be produced at a certain time and then not receive it, or a major incident but we learn from those experiences that the world is not completely trustworthy. And so we modify our behaviours and beliefs in proportion to the amount of trust we have been exposed to. It shapes who we are.
Let’s come then to adulthood and the workplace. Our first area of trust is our employment contract, that we will work the hours stated, be paid the salary stated, our tasks will be as described. We trust that our employers will treat as fairly and equitably; that they will allow us to develop our skills and abilities to expand our knowledge and the capability of the organisation. That’s redolent of good leadership.
Of course, that’s an ideal world and we know that these areas of trust are not inviolable despite it being fundamental to how we operate. Not all employers are scrupulously fair to their employees, leadership is poor, and that in some instances we have to ‘put up with it’ because we believe there is no alternative. It’s when this breakdown of trust occurs that problems arise in terms of poor performance, poor communication and poor delivery of goods or services.
Perhaps most importantly it is the breakdown of trust between individuals that impact on us, and our organisations, the most. This is why when we develop a Thinking Environment and Time to Think that trust becomes one of its most uplifting success stories. Because we emphasis the mantra of equality, of attention, appreciation and the power of diversity of thinking, trust blossoms so vividly. Surveys put developing trusting relationship as one of the top benefits of the methodology. Because there is trust that your thinking will be viewed as important as others in the room and you are given the time to think, the thinking becomes more profound, more generative for the benefit of all involved. And from that generativity we become more productive whilst our behaviours and beliefs too become more positive and outward looking.
This then is the most depressing part of the recent headlines. That the breakdown of trust is shifting people’s attitudes and behaviours to one of negativity instead of positivity and opportunity for all. There is an old saying that trust takes years to build and seconds to destroy. Perhaps we should encourage all our leaders to take a leaf out of Time to Think and start to introduce a Thinking Environment into all of their activities so they can rebuild trust – and this time not take years to do so.
Laura Murphy blogs about things that interest her. They might not interest you but read them anyway. It might even change your mind.