Trust, Transparency, Inclusion in a Culture of Excellence. Living these elements builds ownership, not buy-in…a big difference when you desire engagement, excellence, and sustainability of innovation and change.

Some Benefits of Trust
• Infuses systems with positive energy
• Makes for more adaptive, agile organizations
• Makes one more competitive–one can more quickly engage in change. Without trust, people usually hunker down and do things “by the book” and resist any change from the status quo, even if they know what they are doing is not getting the desired results.
• Utilizes resources to the greatest advantage–for the good of the whole

A Common Understanding
Trust may be different things to different people. Having a common language and understanding of trust is essential in building and sustaining trust. Megan Tschannen-Moran, in Trust Matters: Leadership in Successful Schools, identifies five elements of trust through a meta-analysis of the trust research. These five elements are:

• Benevolence
• Honesty
• Openness
• Competence
• Reliability

What’s going on when we’re in a trusting relationship? We have a willingness to be vulnerable. When we are in a trusting relationship, we are in a situation of interdependence; we are dependent on someone else to come through the way we need them to support us. No one can accomplish systems transformation work alone. When we’re doing solo activities, trust is not relevant. When we become interdependent, we’re paying attention to: Are these people I can trust? We base the answer to this question on the five areas listed above and in more detail below.

Benevolence: The Bedrock of Trust and Relationships

– Unfailing good will: they will not do me dirty, even if they can enhance their own outcomes. They won’t try to get ahead at my expense.
– Empathy and caring
– Offering encouragement-bolstering other’s courage
– Expressing appreciation and acknowledgment
– Being fair
– If life is not fair and out of one’s control, then being responsive to another’s hurt, and their knowing they can count on you


– Telling the truth
– Integrity: unity and alignment between words and deeds
– Self-awareness and consciousness: not deluding oneself
– Authenticity: not just playing a role–know what you stand for–adhering to guiding principles
– Accepting responsibility: don’t blame others–use an inside out approach for how am I contributing to the current situation

These first two dimensions of trust count the most. If these two elements of trust are violated, trust is severely and negatively impacted. The next three elements of trust are extensions of benevolence and honesty.

– Open communication
– Transparency
– Sharing important information–hidden agendas erode trust
– Sharing power
– Delegation
– Shared decision-making–extends trust. People who don’t extend trust, destroy trust

– Keeping promises
– Honoring agreements
– Being consistent
– Predictability–living out of core values/principles–knowing what you stand for
– Diligence
– Dedication
* these are all indicators of benevolence

– Inspiring a shared vision
– Co-creating possibilities
– Striving for results
– Problem solving
– Conflict resolution
– Elevate energy
– Collective Efficacy–collectively and interdependently need to believe that you can do this work

If you compromise these last three elements of trust, you may or may not have problems sustaining trust. Struggles in openness, reliability, and competence may result through possible over-commitment, lack of confidence, and/or communication mix-ups.

As a coach, leader, and/or colleague, paraphrasing and asking clarifying and/or reflective questions in these five areas of trust helps to diagnose levels of trust and intervene before trust is broken (i.e. If a person is over-committed, asking “What might be some possible resources that could support you and your work?” If a person lacks competence, asking “What new learning might support you in increasing your craftsmanship/expertise in this area?” If a person is unreliable, asking “What might be some reasons for your challenges in meeting all of your commitments?”

If there are some INCIDENCES of mess-ups, trust is probably not compromised.
A PATTERN of mess-ups becomes indicators of a lack of benevolence, honesty, competence, openness, and/or reliability. Providing non-judgmental feedback in the form of data rather than judgment, and asking reflective questions to understand what is behind the mess-ups, are important leadership, collaborative, and/or coaching functions.

For more information, training and/or a self and organizational assessment based on these five elements of trust, please email me at:

Another excellent resource on trust is Stephen Covey’s The Speed of Trust. I’ll save that for another blog.

07. April 2012 · Comments Off on Facilitating and Developing Collaborative Groups Through Adaptive Organizations · Categories: Collaboration, Cultural Proficiency, Leadership · Tags: , , , , ,

What does it mean to be a professional learning community? How do we develop the knowledge and skills to support professional communities who are actively learning—shifting to shared leadership, supportive organizational structures and resources, and shared professional practices? Professional learning communities can quickly move from being functional to dysfunctional depending on the knowledge and skills of the group members. The purpose of professional learning communities is to deepen the members’ understanding of concepts that promote, improve, and sustain an organization’s mission and vision, to develop skills that improve one’s professional practices, and sometimes to meet mandates for organizational restructuring.

If we shift our perspective from just the name, professional learning communities, to a new identify, a true sense of being, we become professional communities—learning. Professional communities—learning are dynamic groups that are continually seeking to clarify their identify in an ever changing environment, exploring and making visible their values, beliefs, and assumptions both personally and as the professional community—learning. In some of our organizations, developing learning communities calls for an extreme paradigm shift in how we lead and how we interact with each other. Broadening leadership and moving to shared decision-making many times require new skills, understanding of new concepts, new beliefs and values, and changes in our professional behaviors. Examining our beliefs, our values, our assumptions that drive our behaviors is not a common practice, yet this is the foundation for effective professional communities—learning.

Sustaining and growing organizations requires a clarification of identify that truly meets the changing needs of the environment and those whom we serve as clients. Who is our client? Who do we serve? How is our client base changing? What are their needs? How is our environment changing as we move deeper into the 21st century? Sometimes our changing client base and changing environment require a change in form, how we are structured to meet the changing needs of our client-base or our environment. Sometimes that change in form is to become the professional community—learning. Our change in identity may be from being isolated and autonomous in our working environment to being collaborative and sharing practices and knowledge with our colleagues. Garmston and Wellman, in their book, The Adaptive School: A Sourcebook for Developing Collaborative Groups, name this ability to clarify one’s identify and to be flexible in changing form to address changes in the environment, adaptivity.

As a National Training Associate for Adaptive Schools: Facilitating and Developing Collaborative Groups, let me distinguish “adaptivity” from someone/something as “having adapted.” Having adapted to a changing environment conveys finality. We’ve changed. We’re done. The monarch butterfly is adapted to an environment rich with the milkweed plant. If the milkweed were no longer present, the monarch butterfly would most likely perish. The butterfly has adapted to the environment, but does not have the immediate capability to be adaptive, changing form, to meet a rapidly changing environment. The American school system adapted to the economic pressures of the industrial revolution, shifting from a rural educational system, where students learned in diverse, multi-age learning environments, to where students learned in homogeneous environments, to accept directives, and to be passive learners doing what they were told. The “product” was a workforce to supply factories. Today’s businesses require a different kind of workforce, one that can think critically, solve problems, and work collaboratively. Our schools “adapted” to the economic demands of the industrial revolution. They are not “adaptive” in meeting the changing needs of today’s students and the demands of the global societies of the 21st century.

As we become adaptive organizations, organizations that continually clarify their identity and are flexible in changing form when required by the changing environment, we learn or bring to consciousness distinctions in our language and intentionality in our behaviors. Developing skillful group members that can each take responsibility for facilitating and developing collaborative groups is key to supporting adaptive organizations. The Adaptive Schools Foundations Institute provides training in (a) how to facilitate effective, efficient professional communities-learning, (b) how to be a skillful group member, and (c) how to develop as a powerful, collaborative group that is adaptive, dynamically changing as needed given the rapid changes in today’s world.

For more information, training and/or a self and organizational assessment for group development, please email me at: