Friday, 19 May 2017


This is my attempt to describe the aspects of trust based relations. It might be right and it might not - don't take my views as a form of proposed truth :)

In this volatile world of ours, there has never been a greater need for trust based relations among humans. First off, if you’re going to talk about trust then you need to talk about relations to begin with. What is a relation?
Well, to begin with, relation is knowledge. Nothing else, really. But it is truly big enough to cause trouble.
To me, relations require that we have knowledge about each other. And all relations are based on one form of agreement concerning what kind of knowledge must be present in order for the relation to be true.
A relation revolving around knowledge implies that knowledge always is true. If it isn’t, then it is a lie and therefore not knowledge. Simple enough.
A true relation is always deeply human and earth bound and it is built using human language. We exist in the relation and we are. We are together and as one without judgement in order to exercise relation. Nothing more. When relation exist, then we may start sharing information based on mutual trust and reciprocity.
Furthermore, the core of deep relations are the ability to see what is and not what I want to see through my emotions. It requires clarity of perception and therefor it has to be void of opinions. Free from noise and bias.
But not all men seek trust, and not all want true relations. How do you know which type of person it is that you’re dealing with?
First, we look at basic behavior which can either be actual or desired (from your point of view). This is shaped by three things: situation & environment, culture and personality. On top of that we have agendas and intentions. Once you’ve established these things for the person in question, this is when you start to understand that person (perhaps better then he understands himself).
Next come character identification. This phase aims at identifying what core driving force the person of interest has. I normally divide actors into these five types (and most of us are a blend of these):
  • Engineer, the mechanic. Fixes things, stays in one place both mentally and physically. Searches for solutions and more knowledge in already known domains. This person does not like change.
  • Traveller, the seeker. Understands that some problems are elsewhere and travels to get there often with some risk. This person might suffer for this and may become a leader. He seek to understand and searches for new knowledge to new problems. This person might lead the change process for us.
  • Fighter. Understands that some problems cannot be fixed (compare with objective uncertainties). Might destroy relations or things and infuse uncertainty into the process, searches for right or wrong. He normally has a strong ethos and pathos – that which isn’t always easy to accept for others. This person might force changes upon us.
  • Sentinel species. Canaries/nightingales. These individuals detect bad states before anyone else and are commonly used in order to sense the psycho social status within a group.
  • Reserves. People not of interest at a given point in time.
Now, you can cut this either way you want and there are aspects of character that isn’t covered above but to me these are the ones primarily worth caring about.
So, given the above, what is a trust based relation? Well, to start with it is wanted, desired and personal. It is also not tangible, not an asset and not fixed. It is dependent on your perception and actions as well as something gotten when given. Reciprocity is important. On top of that, it requires a core relation built on knowledge, integrity and respect. Mutual benefit is assumed and it also depends on words and mental models. Sharing means different things in different cultures. And, not to forget, it is easy to destroy, hard to build (maintain). Having a trust based relation does not automatically imply that you like each other as individuals. But it must be built on predictable behavior. Understand all this and you’re well on your way to being able to build and maintain trust based relations.
But for a relation between you and someone else to be true, you need to be true with yourself as a leader to begin with (admit it, you see yourself as a leader, don’t you?). There are basically two ways: the soft and the aggressive. The aggressive approach are often quoted as originating from special forces or similar and tend to look like this:
  1. Create the Best
  2. Dare the Impossible
  3. Throw the Rule Book Away
  4. Be Where the Action Is
  5. Commit and Require Total Commitment
  6. Demand Tough Discipline
  7. Build a Commando Team
  8. Inspire Others to Follow Your Vision
  9. Accept Full Blame; Give Full Credit
  10. Take Charge
  11. Reward Effectively
  12. Make the Most of What You Have
  13. Never Give Up
  14. Fight to Win
That’s all well and good if your job is to exfiltrate soldiers from behind the enemy lines. And it probably works well when running an IT sweat shop or massaging the stock markets. But big words aren’t always smart even though it might look and feel good. If you decide that this form of attitude isn’t for you, then the soft approach might work better for you – and this approach is, to me, more sincere and real than the aggressive one. And it might look like this:
  1. Seek if you want to lead. Be the first to go, last to leave.
  2. Take a stand, be decisive and predictable.
  3. Question what you see – is it real?
  4. Break rules if you have to.
  5. Share perspectives but never hesitate to get dirt under your nails. Produce.
  6. Know how to follow and un-follow.
  7. Build relations where it matters and avoid it if it don’t.
  8. Try to have as little prestige as possible but never lose it all. No one trusts someone that seems perfect.
  9. Accept pain as part of your life – learn to live with it.
  10. Appreciate people rather than liking them.
  11. Avoid opinions – build ideas and share these.
  12. Be courageous.
  13. Know when to back off and let go.
These two approaches are similar in the essence of what they suggest as good behavior as everything is about doing things. But the difference in attitude is huge. The aggressive leader is always making a last stand trying to climb up to the top where he can be seen and worshipped. The soft one is humble but firm and loyal to a fault. The soft one seeks no credit or medals and will attract different types of followers than the aggressive one. Some people can switch between these two and does it well, but make sure it doesn’t make you perceived as unstable or unpredictable. Are you a hammer or a conversation on equal terms? Being both at the same time is probably not a very good idea.
In the end, it’s about striving to be real. To be knurd.
“Knurdness strips away all illusion, all the comforting pink fog in which people normally spend their lives, and lets them see and think clearly for the first time ever. Then, after they've screamed a bit, they make sure they never get knurd again.”, Terry Pratchett
We all, mostly subconsciously, create clouds of ”fluff” in our lives. These things are necessary – being real all the time will break you sooner or later.
It is, however, important to be real in your profession. See real, be real and eliminate fantasies. Sometimes you need help, for example through therapy or leadership training.
But, acting too real tends to put people off. It’s an act of balance and the modus operandi differs for all of us. Sometimes, when building relations, it is important to show that you’re not trying to be perfect or someone else. Perfect tends to make alarm bells go off. Be 80%. Leave the rest just as it is. Therefore, when building relations, do not lose yourself in the process.
Just be. Exist.

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