Okay. That’s a big topic, and I’m glad you’re working with such things over there on Make Meaningful Work. In this collection of notes I’m gathering on Medium, matters of trust are more likely to show up in the Notes on Participatory or Notes on Conversation once I get engaged with something that yields notes.
In the work we’ve been doing with groups, clients, and slices of systems, trust has at least twice come up as the elephant in the room. And once it was named, everybody breathed a sigh of relief, finding that talking about it was way easier than not talking about it. But I’m not sure those conversations would have happened if we had invited them directly. If we had been “explicit.” The conversation first needed to uh, get pregnant.
That sense of pregnancy happened through activities that moved the conversation from debate to exploring and making together, and from problem-focus to possibility-focus. Once people started to remember that they all cared about the same purposes — the things that brought them together in the first place — and recovered their feeling of “we’re in this together,” trust issues could show up. Once people find their excitement about what’s possible, elephants like trust are seen as barriers to bringing the possibility to life rather than embarrassments to be hidden.
So in planning our work, we try to make room for people to simply see each other as humans, to step back from the rush and see their work in light of a story that’s much bigger than any one person, and to invite imaginative exploration of what’s possible. With practice, we’re learning to get there faster. Almost always, the elephants, ghosts, and booger-bears turn up somewhere in the process. They may have been big, solid, and scary in the imagination, but prove to be much smaller and less substantial in the light of eager collaboration.