So much of the stupid stuff we do at work is because we don't really trust the people around us. We don't trust them to do the right thing. We don't trust that they are essentially good and competent or that they want to do good work for our organization. We especially don't trust that they will do the work. That's why we have dumb systems of control in place, like measuring people's "work ethic" in terms of their willingness to sit in a cubicle for 8 hours a day. If you ask me, the people who are willing to do that aren't the people we really want working for us.
Last week I posted about my dream of a world where we'd let people's personal interests and passions be a much bigger driver in the professional development process. I keep thinking about how few of us have that option within the confines of an organization and wondering why that is. At the heart of it, I believe, is a lack of trust.
We don't trust employees. We act as though they are incapable of making "good" choices, when in reality its our fear that they won't make the choices we WANT them to make that's really the problem. Why is it that our choices, the ones we impose on the people who work for us, are somehow better than the ones they might make for themselves. Of course, maybe they don't make the choices we want them to make because of another trust issue:
We don't trust our employees with information. So many bad choices are a result of bad information or incomplete information, or information that isn't presented accurately. Of course we can't trust people to make good decisions if we aren't going to give them the information they need to make them. Why do we insist on blaming people when we haven't done all we could to make sure they have the right information?
We don't trust the process. I'm seriously guilty of this one, constantly checking in to see if I'm making progress and if I'm not, then it must be because I'm doing something wrong. But progress is an evolutionary thing, especially when it comes to professional development. Do we truly believe that the most worthwhile development shows immediate results? The skills that it takes to address the important issues aren't developed during a one-day training session. They are a result of months, if not years of learning and coaching and feedback. And learning that some might view as "extras" or "useless" (like Steve Jobs studying calligraphy) could, in fact, be the most powerful of all. But we'd have to trust the process to find out.
We don't trust in abundance . One of the most persistent mental models we work with is the idea that everything worthwhile is scarce. There are some things that are limited, no doubt--time, oil, episodes of Battlestar Gallactica. But under the right conditions, our potential for growth is unlimited. We just have to develop our faith to the point that we're willing to trust what it takes to create those conditions. Cubicles, meetings, measuring our worth in 8-hour increments and micro-management of learning are not what it takes.
Faith is a hard thing to maintain. Sometimes it's that our faith is being challenged. Sometimes it's that we've put our trust in the wrong things. I can't help but feel, though, that we need to explore our trust issues in more detail to see how they may be interfering with our ability to do what's right or what might work better.
What do you think? How does trust (or a lack of it) play a role in professional development? How can we deal with our trust issues?