The Art of Trust

I recently attended the ChangeBoard Future Talent conference. This was my third or fourth year at the event – and I found it the most interesting and enjoyable one so far. A really interesting, artful day.

The central theme for the day was ‘How we can evolve as individuals and organisations to meet the challenges of the future workplace?’ The word trust hung heavy in the air beforehand, and as part of my preparation for the event I asked people the question, ‘When you see and hear the word ‘trust’, what images come to mind, please?’

The answers were plentiful and varied. Several folk commented on trapeze artists, mountaineers and the like. I drew something similar to represent trust for a client back in 2016, though now I look again – you could just as easily title this piece ‘foolish’, depending on your point of view!Trusting

A particular idea which caught my imagination was the connection between trust and risk, and of the need to give trust.

Tim Casswell wrote: ‘Trust and risk are interrelated. Trust is the most efficient form of human relationship. Trust is something you dare. Something you choose. It changes everything about the way you relate to someone else. It tends to be transformative. People who are trusted find it very hard to break that trust. We are taught to fear and we learn to fear. So most relationships are based on fear and caution. “Trust is a pure transparent sea too deep to fathom cautiously” Trust isn’t something earned. It is something given. One of the most wonderful affirmations in the world. Once upon a time it was how we all lived. Trust is a revolutionary act. And as for images? Some words are worth a thousand images. Maybe trapeze artists?’

Usha Chadha responded:I relate to this strongly Tim. You give trust to strangers as much as you do to people close to you. Every time I buckle up on a jet plane my life is entrusted in a complete stranger to get me to my destination safely, but I trust in the system that the pilot will have been through training and passed his/her qualifications. We all have to blindly trust and depend upon societal elements to function, and when there’s a problem we get frustrated (or die if in a plane!!!), because our trust & faith in them gets broken. So the image of being blind-folded is one I see when we talk of trust.’

Usha was not the only person to offer the idea of being blind-folded, and I found this really struck a chord, and stuck with me. I made several sketches – and as you can see, I struggled to illustrate the idea of being blind-folded as a positive/trusting thing!

Sitting in the auditorium on the day, the following sketch emerged. It signifies trust as a symbol, in this case I was thinking of my own wedding ring.


Part of what interests me about this trust work, is how people respond to an invitation to think in pictures. I never cease to be impressed with the diversity and richness of responses people kindly offer to seemingly simple requests. More to follow, soon…

Working Responsively

I’m sometimes asked to help out with team building activities. When I first think of team building – I often experience vaguely naff ideas floating into my head. Images of groups high fiving each other, doing trust falls, building bridges out of drinking straws – that kind of thing. These thoughts may be a little unfair but they are drawn from years of experience of turning up at team building events and having something done to you. It can be a tricky thing to overcome.

When I work with groups I like to ask people questions which help establish the mood and tone of our work together, as well as what expectations/needs/requirements folk have, from the project, from themselves, each other, and me. This practice helps us get closer to working coactively (doing things with each other) rather than coercively (doing things to each other).

Recently it was my pleasure to spend time with a firm of accountants who wanted to explore how they could use art to enhance their work. Among other interesting things, when we met they expressed a need for spontaneity and a requirement to create art for their office. Neither of these have surfaced in previous sessions – the responses are often much more ‘work’ related.

Here are a couple of examples of how people responded to their invitations to be spontaneous and to create some art for the office. To meet the need for spontaneity we used a basic printing technique to give us unpredictable results.

Art for the Office 1 Art for the Office 2

There is a real sense of adventure, of experimentation in these pictures.

After the session I spoke with the owner of the firm and he reflected positively that by working together, we had overcome that sense of coercion. He also shared that he appreciated me not deferring to him as the leader in the room – but instead encouraging a sense of leadership to ebb and flow to where and to whom it was best suited at the time. What a lovely thing to notice. Even though I’ve been using art as a lens through which to help people explore work for several years now, I’m still learning and being motivated by the benefits people experience when working like this.

Fifty at Fifty

If the importance of survival to a particular age is measured in celebration and an outpouring of generosity, love and goodwill, then staying alive for fifty years is quite the achievement. The lovely people I know have made acknowledging the reality of ageing a total pleasure so far (I only turned 50 on October 28th so there’s time for me to change my mind on that yet!).

In the run up to this milestone, I’ve been accumulating a bunch of brain farts, a few quotes (mostly lyrical) and other assorted things that matter to me. Fifty things sounds a lot, and I’ve tried to keep it brief. As such I’m sure most of these things are unfinished. I sincerely hope something in this pile of stuff I’ve cleared from the attic of my brain resonates for you.

1 – Less hope (hoping?), more action

2 – More now, less future. I am tired of people going on about the future of work. Fix the now of work first, please. I know it’s less sexy, but it’s much more important.

3 – Taking what works for you. I recently watched some interesting TED talks by people I would normally shy away from. A friend recommended I watch the talks and not get hung up on the personalities, just take what I needed. I enjoyed the experience and I will use this method to help me see past my limitations and dislikes.

4 – Counter point: Offer an alternative point of view, it’s usually needed and often wanted too. And if you find that it’s not wanted on a regular basis, maybe get another job?

5 – You are never more dangerous/stuck/scared than at the moment of committing, of making the decision, of believing you are right. At that point you close your mind to all other possibilities and are at great risk of being wrong. People, including me and you, don’t like to admit being wrong.

6 – Absolutes are rarely the answer.

7 – Trust chasm – The gap between what you say and what you do. Mind the gap.

8 – Building Trust – investing time to know your stuff, and knowing when to ask for help. Taking decisions and actions which go beyond self interest, caring about your work and people.

9 – ‘Without People You’re Nothing’ Joe Strummer

10 – Event + Response = Outcome. Your response ability changes everything. I recently heard Jamil Qureshi say this, or something very close to it.

11 – Think, feel, act – in that order.

12 – Mixed feelings. You cannot know joy without despair, happy without sad. Life is a wonderfully mixed bag, and to deny this is unhelpful, even dangerous.

13 – Belief: I’m fascinated by my (our?) ability to talk ourselves into and out of stuff. We all know from experience that finding the courage to have a go at something different can be tough, and we see good things happening to others and without even trying ourselves, we believe ‘that will never happen to me’. Try it – prove yourself wrong. I did.

14 – Meditation…time to just be there. Don’t call it meditation if the word puts you off taking time out for yourself, but please practice the art of being.

15 – Going for a walk – I don’t know may things that can’t be improved by a long walk. Except maybe sore feet.

16 – Willing participants beats hostage learners

17 – Blame looks backwards – responsibility looks forwards

18 – Taking it personally leads to growth

19 – Letting grief work with and through you is a hugely painful, rewarding experience

20 – Coaching is great, and sometimes I just want you to tell me what to do (see trust)

21 – Draw for the bin

22 – Honesty built on sharing your observations of your own shortcomings creates a powerful invitation to reciprocate. Good people don’t expect you to be invincible.

23 – Show your work. Get over yourself – it’s ready.

24 – How much is enough? Only you know the answer – and this is such an important question to ask…often.

25 – Facilitation. Don’t assume. Ask: What is a good outcome to leave here with? What do you need from each other, and from me to make that happen? I attribute this to Meg Peppin.

26 – Write often, draw oftener

27 – Small things make big differences

28 – All exits are final

29 – ‘The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect, so hard to earn so easily burned’ Neil Peart

30 – I just can’t be happy today. Sometimes, feeling miserable is the best option. Give a happiness guru a slap, you’ll feel much better.

31 – Don’t be stingy (see how much is enough?)

32 – Clarity. It’s always on the move, always worth searching for, refining.

33 – Don’t forget to breathe

34 – Try to be kind, and when you can’t, save your unkindness for those who really deserve it. You know who they are.

35 – Most work is coercive, it is done to you. The best work is coactive and cocreative, it is done with, for and by you. It is totally human to want, need and expect that our views be taken into consideration and yet we defy these wants, needs and expectations at almost every step in our working lives. Never do anything about me, without me. I am hugely fortunate to relate the positive aspects of this point to so many people I have worked with and do work with – thank you folks.

36 – We are all artists

37 – We stop being artistic because we are judged. Do someone a favour – suspend your judgement once in a while and watch them flourish.

38 – ‘Nothing is original. Steal with pride and acknowledge your inspiration.’ Yours truly, stealing from Pablo Picasso, Jim Jarmusch, Malcolm McLaren, and no doubt a few others besides. Acknowledge and disclose.

39 – ‘I think I’m in love. Probably just hungry’. Jason Pierce

40 – Grab a pencil and paper and write someone a letter.

41 – Coming up with 50 brain farts at my age is tough.

42 – ‘It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n roll’. Young, Young and Scott. See 41

43 – Want something? Ask for it – nicely.

44 – I went to Summer Brandcamp this year – it changed how I felt about going to conferences, in the best way possible. I encourage you to find an event outside the usual tracks and furrows you plough and invest in it.

45 – Facebook is great for birthdays – real life is greater.

46 – Buy a book, read the book, pass it on. Repeat.

47 – I went to a conversation recently which employed the ancient method of using a talking stick. There were a few other simple conversational guidelines too, but for now it’s noting the stick which is important. I sat and listened in total silence for 45 minutes before saying anything. This experience showed me how much of a battle conversation can become. Thank you Johnnie Moore.

48 – Go gently. With thanks to Julie Drybrough

49 – The road of true love is the best road to follow. Thank you Carole and Keira.

50 – Proceed Until Apprehended. Come on – you were expecting something else?!