Simon Fowler's Blog

rLiving Day 4: Corporate Trust (Power)

Posted by Simon on May 3, 2010

This tweet just caught my eye, and had me wondering about the relational basis of trust:

The article by Stephen J. Gill, Ph.D includes this quote from Nick Sarillo, the owner of Nick’s Pizza and Pub, describing how performance and employee turnover was wrecked for a time because of a lack of trust:

Managers trained in command and control think it’s their responsibility to tell people what to do,” Sarillo says. “They like having that power. It gives them their sense of self-worth. But when you manage that way, people see it, and they start waiting for you to tell them what to do. You wind up with too much on your plate, and things fall through the cracks. It’s not efficient or effective. We want all the team members to feel responsible for the company’s success.”

Relational Proximity Dimension #4 is “Parity”. The greater the asymmetry of power between me and someone else the greater the potential for difficult and strained relationships. This asymmetry can be real or perceived, and its affect on relationships can be more about the use and misuse of power than the mere existence of power disparity.

The reality is that Sarillo and all his managers have power. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s what makes them managers, empowered to carry out their responsibilities and make decisions. Arguably, it’s their proper exercise of power that enables others to trust them and so get on with their own responsibilities. And command-and-control is not always in opposition to trust. The armed forces rely on it (not absolutely and not in all circumstances, however).

But a pizza company? The misuse of power and/or the identification of power with status – as in the quote above – resulted in gross mistrust. So in thinking about your relationships with others, to what extent does real or perceived power asymmetry make the relationship harder and erode trust? What can someone with power (whether it seniority, physical, monetary etc.) do to build trust without necessarily giving up that power? I’m 6’2″ and my daughter is 3’4″. How do I exercise my power in such a way that produces a flourishing relationship?

1) Almost all the dimensions of Relational Proximity are important for trust. I’ll likely touch on other elements in future posts.
2) Neuroscience research is telling us more and more about ‘status’ and I’ll likely blog a lot more about that in the future. In fact, David Rock’s SCARF model reveals a lot of interesting neuroscience that I think confirms the Relational Proximity model.
3) Just a reminder: the Relational Proximity model is not mine, and I’ll say more about its origin and application after the 30 days.
4) For why I’m blogging all this, see the video on and what the 30-day rLiving thing is about.


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