by Kjetil Sandermoen

1.   Overview

The fundamental Adizes characteristics, Respect and Trust, have dimensions beyond their linear meaning.  As a minimum, two avenues for each exist; they are feelings and behaviors.  Thus, at least four possible options for interpreting the meaning of respect and trust come forward:

Respect, behaviors

Respect, feelings

Trust, behaviors

Trust, feelings.

2.   Respect

a.   Respectful Behavior

The Adizes use of the word Respect engages the rules of the learning environment, the recognition of individual sovereignty of thought, or in other less flattering words, allowing the idiots across the table, to say what they want to say without interruption.

b.   Respectful Feelings

Respectful feelings are NOT part of the Adizes Respect terminology.  But often, these respectful feelings (or lack of them) confuse our understanding of the word respect in the Adizes sense.

For we can behave respectfully, following the Adizes rules, yet our thoughts and feeling may not be respectful for the individual.  I believe that all of us can give examples of our behaving respectfully according to the Adizes rules, with a person for whom we do not have respectful feelings.

c.   Combining Both, The Inescapable

In fact, this dichotomy illustrates the power of the Adizes method.  Adizes focuses on behavior.  Doing so allows us to behave respectfully, to have manifestations of respect without getting bogged down and hitting blockages that frequently develop because of negative (disrespectful) feelings we all seem to harbor for some people.  That is, combining both is inescapable – we behave respectfully despite our emotional lack of respect for certain individuals.

This allows us to channel conflict constructively.  Feelings often lead to destructive conflict whereas behavior, following imposed rules forces us towards constructive conflict.  If we left it to feelings alone, there would be little constructive conflict.

3.   Trust

a.   Trusting Behavior

By sharing a common vision (which can be specific common goals), we can instill trusting behavior.  But this requires risk – enormous risk for some, a movement to feelings.

b.   Trusting Feelings

As babies, our survival depends on maintaining a trusting relationship with someone who will provide all the care for us, since a baby cannot care for itself.  The essence of dependency is trust: trust that the adult will be there to help the baby when required.  As trusting entities, the trusting baby becomes willing to be curious, to learn, to explore – all required for its healthy growth.  If the trust is lost for any reason, the baby becomes fearful in new situations and hence passive rather than anxious to learn.  Losing trust means the babies cannot remain dependent; they must develop some independence prematurely.  It is my opinion that, at this, and at later stages of life, trust can be viewed as synonymous with love.

Why would the trust be lost?  Some parents, (for reasons that harp back to their own childhood and other life decisions) are needy themselves.  An alcoholic, for example, has a constant need for support of other family members, often, younger family members.  Needy adults may provide inconsistent care giving as they wrestle with their own problems (again I stress, usually derived from their own dysfunctional childhood).  Or the needy adult may provide no care giving at all.  In the extreme, the adult may physically, emotionally or sexually abuse the child.

Children losing trust will become anxious, angry or depressed.  They learn they cannot sustain themselves through love, the ingredient they need so badly.  With this imprint, they will anticipate abandonment or rejection in their relations with others. They will pick up on the adult’s damaging signals very quickly and react to protect themselves from further hurt.

The childhood memory banks mean that our care-givers will create permanent impression on us that will last forever.  It will signal us to react to protect against the lost trust.  Trust is the key.  The impressions come from a whole collection of associations from the many incidents of the child’s lifetime, where time is perceived as much longer.  It connects back to an overwhelming earlier experience when we were helpless or in a very traumatic situation that overpowered us.  The impressions serve us well as a child, but as an adult they do not serve us at all.  In fact, they come out to haunt us when we least expect it.  Thus, each of us in adult life carries different degrees of trust, depending upon our childhood experiences.  For example, some people are very trusting; we sometimes call them naïve. On the other hand, some people trust no one; we call them suspicious.

Inherently we develop trusting feelings of different degrees.

c.   Combining Both

As before, behavior through the application of rules transcends feelings.  A similar dichotomy between trusting behavior and trusting feelings reinforces the positive power of the Adizes methodology.  The Adizes focus on behavior allows us to behave trustingly, to have manifestations of trust, albeit with certain trepidation (feelings).  But we are progressing down the trust path (behavior) without hitting blockages that develop because of negative (distrustful) feelings.  We all naturally harbor distrustful feelings to strangers at work, each us to different degrees.  That is, combining both is inescapable – we can behave trustingly despite our emotional lack of trust for certain individuals.

Restating what we posited before, the trusting behavior allows us to channel conflict constructively.  Feelings often lead to destructive conflict whereas behavior, following imposed rules, forces us towards constructive conflict.

d.   The Time Element of Trust

Trusting feelings have to be earned over a long period of time.  Yet, they can be destroyed in minutes as a self-protective measure.

The give and take scenario of prisoners emphasizes this.  One prisoner says (or thinks) to the other: “I will give to you (by extending my hand) and I will trust that you will give back, (by extending yours).  I will judge and if is not a trusting response (extending of your hand) I will cease to trust you and set up my protective defenses (I will punch you with my fist before you can attack me)”.

Another example illustrates the fast-destruct point.  Perry was the number two person in my software consulting company who had worked with me for two years, diligently and effectively.

We had a terrific relationship, trusting and respecting each other with the most sensitive of issues.  Perry had had a violent childhood, but that had not affected our working together other than my noting that those who ‘crossed’ Perry were subject to his unbridled anger.

While Perry was out on a project, I assigned a new client, that had come into the office that day, to Bjorn, Perry’s co-worker.  Perry arrived, at the office, opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate his successful winning of a hard-fought contract.  We were all elated.  Then I casually mentioned to Perry that I had assigned a new enquiry, Sperry, to Bjorn.  Perry slammed down his champagne and left the office.  The next day he did not show up for work.  I spoke to his wife by phone as Perry would not take my calls.  I finally got him to talk to me so I could at least understand what had happened.  Perry, unknown to me, had been developing Sperry as a client.  My passing it to Bjorn immediately destroyed our trusting bond in Perry’s eyes.  He felt I was fully aware of his Sperry work.  The trust built over two years was destroyed in an instant.  Bjorn, understanding the situation, was happy to give the client back to Perry.  (In fact, he said “I won’t mess with Perry over anything.”)  The trust was slowly re-established.

4.   Combining Respect and Trust

Clearly, in the Adizes sense, we are only talking about the behavioral aspect of respect and trust, not the feelings or emotional aspects.  That limitation keeps the argument and the implementation of the behaviors easily within our grasp.

Respect and trust are mutually enabling.  Surely, if you operate in a respectful environment, it is much more conducive to one’s taking the risk to trust.  If it is not a respectful environment, how could anyone even start to trust?

5.   Age Old Question: Which Comes First – Trust or Respect?

Respect involves short-term action.  One can impose the rules for respectful behavior and see the positive results, if not within minutes, certainly within hours.

Trust, on the other hand, involves the long term.  Common goals set as the mechanism of promoting trust must await the outcome of some progress towards those goals to reinforce the trusting behavior.

Thus we can operate in a respectful environment relatively quickly but we must bide our time building the proof of trust.  And, as noted above, the trust, built up over the years, can be destroyed in an instant.  Whereas respectful behavior, if it fails, can be re-instated quickly by imposing ‘hard rules’ which always, in my limited experience, has re-established respectful behavior.  And, as noted above, with respect in place the door is open to building of trust.

Just as short-term “P” and “A” behavior will dominate long-term “E” and “I” behaviors in a crisis, so too the short-term aspect of respect appears to lead the long-term aspect of trust.

Conclusion:  Respect comes before trust.