alacrity in action

I have no idea how many times I have heard people exhort the virtues of trust in building communities and relationships especially in the context of work and communities of work. This message was particularly poignant and relevant during the Spark The Change conference a few weeks ago. I don’t think there was a single speaker or a single participant who would not agree that trust is essential for the success of any organisation. Usually all agree with that. I do.

I pondered over this topic for a very long time (although I’m sure nowhere near as much as Yves) and I always reach the same conclusion. The espoused value of trust is rarely congruent with behaviours in an organisation. People seem to interpret the meaning of trust in multiple ways and often appear to apply it differently in their personal and professional lives.

Just like Jurgen I have long felt that separating private and professional lives is futile and I feel it’s particularly so when it comes to trust.

Model for Trust.

These days, as the best reference point for trust, respect and fulfilling relationships I use family life. Granted, not everyone might be so lucky as to have great parents, siblings, partner, children, etc… yet I’m sure there is someone out there you feel special about. Someone you don’t even have to consider the issue of trust with.

Next time someone talks about trust, try to apply the measure of that relationship to your current context. I call it “the family test”.

  • If I want to spend some money from our shared account should I expect to ask permission from the other person every single time? Would the other person expect to be included in a conversation before I buy a new car?
  • When my partner is planning a night out with her friends should I expect to be asked permission?
  • When we agree that I do the monthly bills should the other person expect me to fill-in a report every time I do it to make sure I haven’t forgotten?
  • If I haven’t washed the dishes for a while should I be given an objective to do it more often? Should I track progress with that objective on paper, report weekly and should my partner consult with my mother to validate that I’m doing it right?
  • When we go away on holiday should we expect to write-up a formal contract and plan in detail exactly how much money we are going to spend, what sites to visit and what food to eat? Do we use a formal appeals policy if one of us doesn’t feel like going out for a pizza one night?
  • Should my partner approve every single update I’m about to post on Facebook?

I don’t know about you but for me the answer to all of these questions is immediately obvious and I know it’s the same for the other person. These answers demonstrate a natural level of trust we have.

You may have also noticed that some of these may have some sort of equivalent in employees’ relationships. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the answers in these cases would be somewhat different.

  • Can I spend some of the company money without asking for permission? Could I just buy myself that new mouse I need using a corporate credit card? Would I need someone to sign off the expense?
  • When I want to go on holiday should I first ask permission from my manager? Do I need to report it in an HR system to make sure I don’t take too much holidays?

I leave the rest as an exercise for you, dear reader. Try it.

Now, you may rightly note there are private, personal things you would happily trust your partner with and would never want to even consider confiding in a colleague.

For everything else this might be a good measure to check how far you are from true trust, how much respect people have for each other, how valuable the relationships are.


  1. Great post! It is also a perfect analogy for so called “team building”. I’d add yo your “family test” questions like:
    – Is there one single person in your family who is responsible for building it?
    – Who is responsible for your relationships with your partner?

  2. I feel the reason why we see the prevalence of this kind of command control is that the finances and day to day state of the business is kept from the employees. Contrast this with Semco where the books are open and employees are even given basic accountancy training if they request it. Then individual decisions can be made in context of the general business climate and employees reflect and consult with their peers. Semco believes employees will make the best judgements they can, and grants them the authority to do so.

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