Why Mutual Trust and Respect?

September 26, 2009

I have been teaching, preaching, prescribing, and inducing Mutual Trust and Respect (MTR) in organizations for forty years now. I have been studying what causes it to grow or diminish. But only at the last Adizes convention, in Las Vegas in 2009, did it occur to me to ask myself this basic question: Why companies succeed when there is MTR, and when there is no MTR the organizations eventually crumble? The same is true for families, and for societies.What is it that MTR provides, does, contributes?Here is my latest insight on the subject: It all has to do with energy.Every system has energy. Where does it come from? From the people who comprise the organization. That is why managers seek people for their organizations who are energetic, passionate, dedicated.Every organization is a system that needs energy to operate.When the energy does not flow freely—when it gets stuck somewhere, somehow—there is less available energy for the system to operate with.When there is no mutual trust and/or respect it is as if there are barriers in the energy flow; the organization is less energy-sufficient and competitively disadvantaged.MTR makes the system transparent. When there is mutual trust, energy flows. The same with mutual respect.Let us analyze this last point in more depth, starting with mutual trust. MT exists when both parties share common interests, if not at the present time, at least they perceive that there is common goal in the long run. They have faith that one’s giving will be reciprocated by the taking party...eventually.The opposite of trust is a suspicion that the other party will “screw you.” Obviously, with such suspicion you will filter what the person is trying to tell you. The energy transmitted in the communication will be blocked.How about mutual respect? In Hebrew there are two words for respect: to honor and to value. To honor is ritualistic. It is (A) based. To value is (P) based: I value those who contribute to me, those who add value.I chose the meaning of respect as to value. Thus to respect means to give the other party a chance to express their questions doubts and disagreements because you have faith that they will add value to you, faith that their disagreement stems from understanding something you have not paid attention to or have ignored.With such faith it is easy to see how energy will flow. Without such a priori belief—i.e. if you believe that the other party is just wasting your time and there is no chance their disagreement will teach you anything—energy will not flow. It will be deflected.To respect and trust someone who argues with you is painful. It takes energy. It can be exhausting. So why does MTR give energy? Just the opposite would seem to be true, no?Debate takes energy from those who have no respect and or trust for each other. Those who have MTR are energized by the debate.Now note, you cannot act like you are from Missouri, the “show me state”: First show me that I can learn from you and can trust you, and if I am convinced that you are trustworthy and adding value with your disagreements, then I will trust and respect you. It does not work that way, to start with mistrust and disrespect and develop trust and respect over time.Why not?Disrespectful and mistrusting debates exhaust those involved in the debate. Because it is painful, it decreases rather than increases MTR.The other way around does work. Start assuming that the person is trustworthy and can add value with their disagreement. Listen! Give them a chance to interact. Test them. If they are not adding value then stop the interaction with them. (Some people have something to say; others have to say something—avoid the second group.)Same with trust. Give first, but be cautious. Start small and wait to receive later. If your giving is not reciprocated, you found another “taker.” Disconnect.Always start with MTR.It is like believing in God. If you start with not believing and require proof of his existence to become a believer, you will remain a skeptic forever. “For believers there are no questions. For heretics there are no answers,” says the Jewish Talmud.If you start with the belief that God exists, you will find endless proofs of his existence. In every tree, in the sunrise and moonlight. In the smile of a baby. It is everywhere. Even in prison....How you start is important. It impacts how you will continue.Sincerely,Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes