Building respect, trust, and partnership

Michael W. Smull



In working with a wide variety of organizations that are seeking to implement person centered plans it has become clear that good plans are not enough. Real implementation requires that the people being supported are respected, that there is trust between them and those who do the support, and that there is partnership. Further, respect, trust, and partnership must be present for those who provide the support as well as for those who receive the support. As efforts in having self-determination move from being the exception to being the norm it is even more critical that efforts be made to help organizations build respect, trust, and partnership as core values. The following set of activities is designed to:

• Have each natural group within the organization define respect, trust, and partnership for themselves (thereby getting buy in for the definitions and beginning to build respect, trust, and partnership);

• Use these definitions to develop surveys that measure the degree to which each are present;

• Develop, with each group, interventions that will build respect, trust, and partnership;

• Use the same definitions and survey to measure the success of the interventions; and

• Continue the cycle (as it makes sense) of assessment, intervention, and assessment.

Cautionary notes

This exercise is still in development. What has been done suggests that this is a potentially powerful and effective exercise. However, this exercise can just as effectively increase cynicism as it can build partnerships. Unless there is a firm commitment to act on what is learned and to continue to learn, do not carry this exercise beyond a first demonstration. Also keep in mind that this exercise will be modified as experience teaches us what does and does not work. If you are reading a draft that is months old or older, contact the author for a more current version.

Getting started

There are a number of equally effective ways to start. The first activity (building definitions) can be done with small or large groups. It can be done at a conference or as an in-service. However, without commitment it should stop with the definitions. The most straight forward way to begin is meet with senior managers to explain, demonstrate, and obtain the commitment to act on what was learned.


Remind people that a plan is not an outcome, that the only reason to do person centered plans is to help people get the lives that they want. While developing plans requires trust between the planner and the focus person, implementing plans requires respect, trust , and partnership between all of the key stakeholders. These values are linked together and overlap. To have partnership requires trust and building trust starts with respect.

Unless people with disabilities and their families feel respected, the trust needed to share what is important and to take the risks inherent in growth will be absent. Without trust there will be no partnerships. Without a series of interlocking partnerships between people with disabilities, their families, those who provide the support, and those who pay it will not be possible to provide supports to all of those who want them nor will it be possible to build community.

Unless the people who provide the direct support feel respected they will not be respectful of the people they support. Unless they are trusted they will not will not be empowered to provide the flexible support that is needed. At the same time, increasing the trust placed in the people who provide the direct support increases the need to know who is being trusted and to establish clear expectations and boundaries.

Point out that it is how each group feels, not how we think they should feel, that counts. Their perception is our reality,


Put up 6 sheets of flip chart paper. Write on each pair in turn -

• How do you know if respect is present at your job?

• How do you know if trust is present at your job?

• How do you know if partnership is present at your job?

Be sure that everyone understands who the questions refer to. For example are you only asking about the presence of respect among the people in the room or between them and some other group? When you start doing this exercise it works best to start within natural groups before you start looking between groups. If you have a natural group present (e.g. the direct service staff who work at a particular site, the senior managers for the organizations) start with the people in the room.

Starting with respect ask them to tell you the answers to the questions about respect, trust, and partnership. Write down the answers as they tell them to you. Use their words whenever possible. Where what have said is not clear or you are just not sure what to write, ask the person to tell you more about what they mean. Usually within a sentence or two they will say something that clarifies what they meant. Help people shorten paragraphs of words to phrases. Keep in mind that the more you record what is said, the more "buy-in" you will get.

After they have talked about respect, move on to trust. Then move on to partnership. Assure them that these are overlapping concepts, Each can be seen as the foundation for the next, so elements of respect will turn up in trust, etc. Do not worry about duplication, just write what is said.

While one person is writing up what is being said on flip chart paper have a second person write the same items on blank survey forms. (see attached scoring procedure). These are lined sheets of paper with space for each item to be written on the right half of the page and 5 columns on the left half. The heading for the columns are:

Never = 1, Occasionally = 2, Sometimes = 3, Frequently = 4, Always = 5.

Point out that this is a simple Likert scale and that most of the items on the list lend themselves to this kind of measurement. Emphasize that everything must be written as a positive statement on the survey - "I am listened to" versus "I am not listened to" - or some of the questions will unintentionally reduce the averages. (If the group is going to do their own internal surveys they should discuss who knows enough about doing this and/or what support they need. Help them develop the surveys or determine how and when the surveys are going to be done.) Remember to define who respect, trust, and partnership refers to. Is it about respect among the group members, between the group members and another group, or some other configuration?

Copy the surveys and ask everyone to fill one out (anonymously). Once everyone has completed it and handed it in, tabulate the results using the attached scoring sheets and enter the results on a spread sheet so that are graphed (see the attached examples). Copy the results for the group. Explain how they were scored and ask people to see where they are doing well. After some discussion of where elements of respect, trust, or partnership are present, ask where people see deficits. After more discussion, ask people to pick one item that they would like to see the group work on. (One way to do this is to give everyone a marker and using the flip chart pages that defined them have each person make a mark next to the item that they would like to start with. Look at the highest vote getters and see if there is a clear winner. If not, are there themes among those that received the highest scores, do several collapse into one? Do you need a run off election?)

Once the group has picked an item to work on facilitate a discussion about what this item means and/or represents. After there is understanding of the issue have the group develop an intervention strategy to deal with it. Wrap up by determining how long the group should have for implementation, determine when they should reassess their efforts (e.g. in 1 month, 6 weeks, 3 months, etc.),and schedule a meeting to do discuss how it worked and to do a re-survey. Make sure that the interventions to build respect, trust and partnership are developed by and adopted by the group and that there is a plan to make sure the interventions are tried.

If the pilot effort goes well, develop a plan to do this throughout the organization. Suggest that this could be easily done with each "natural" grouping of people within the organization, including groups such as parents (who may not be formally within the organization). Some suggestions for doing this throughout anything but the smallest organizations are:

• Start with success, think about where there is commitment within the organization to act on what is learned;

• Start small, try to do it within a small unit, learn from the effort and then broaden the efforts;

• Make sure that the time, energy, and commitment to do this over a period of months and even years are present so this will not be just another fad;

• Remind people to look for the high scores (as well as the low scores), think about what the high scores represent, why they are present, and ask what should be done to maintain them

While this exercise will work as a stand-alone effort it is meant to be done as a part of moving toward self-determination. It is meant to be done together with efforts to learn how the people supported by the organization can move toward the lives that they want. Helping to create a climate of respect, trust, and partnership should improve the outcomes for the people supported. Talk about how you will know if this is true.

For this effort to be truly successful there needs to be a feedback process whereby senior management is learning from each groups efforts. End with determining how this can be done.



Attachment 1

Scoring Procedure for Team Survey


If you’re interested in graphing the results of your team survey, here’s an alternative way to do it (see the attached sample). The underlying idea is to compress the upper and lower ends of the Likert scale into Present and Not Usually Present. This method of summarizing really focuses in one major areas of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Here’s how to do it:

1. Tally the results on the scoring sheet per question under the headings of Never, Occasionally, Sometimes, Frequently, Always.

2. Add up Never (1), Occasionally (2), and Sometimes (3) and write that sum in Column 4.

3. Add up Frequently (5) and Always (6) and write that sum in Column 7.

4. Add Column 4 and Column 7 for the sum of all responses on that question and write that number in Column 8.

Pull out the calculator-

5. Divide the number in Column 4 by the number in Column 8 and multiply times 100 for the percentage of Not Usually Present responses and write that number in Column 9.

6. Subtract Column 9 from 100 to get the percentage of Present responses and write that number in Column 10.

7. If you want totals and percentages for a particular area (e.g., Respect), just add the totals in Columns 4, 7 and 8 for grand totals. Next, divide the grand total in Column 4 by the grand total in Column 8 and multiply times 100 for the grand total percentage of Not Usually Present responses and write that number in Column 9.

8. Subtract Column 9 from 100 to get the grand total percentage of Present responses and write that number in Column 10.

If you click here, you will find the scoring sheets.