Posts

Carnival of Trust for June is Up

Carnival of Trust

The Carnival of Trust is up for the month of June, hosted by Dave Stein, and it provides a wealth of perspective on the state of trust at the midpoint of 2009.

For those who don’t know him, Dave Stein  is a consummate student of sales. A former sales consultant, trainer and author, he now runs ES Research Group http://www.davesteinsblog.com/esr/ from the hardship environs of Martha’s Vineyard. Think of ESR as the JD Powers or Consumer Reports of the sales training field.
I have gotten to know Dave over the past year and found him to be ethical, smart, insightful, sober (thinking-wise anyway), and possessed of fine judgment.
Just the person to host the Carnival of Trust.

Dave has selected a tasty sampler of things trust-related. Just a few:

And that’s just five. Check the full Carnival of Trust to read those items and the other five, and Dave’s commentary on all of them.

Many thanks to Dave Stein for hosting a solid, content-rich and thought-provoking Carnival. Drop on by and treat your brain to a feast.

Managing Trust Metrics

Trust is hot; particularly in the last year.  Measurement has been hot for the past 10 years.  So it shouldn’t be surprising that lots of people are getting excited about measuring trust.

The question they should ask themselves is: why?

One knee jerk management mantra these days is, “You can’t manage it if you can’t measure it,” or “what gets measured gets managed.”  Well, yes—and no.

Early (by which I mean 5 years ago) trust measurements included things like buyer ratings on eBay, and they made sense.  Today, measurement/management mantras get applied in undiscriminating ways.

Trust Trends: Precisely Measuring—What?

Consider the statement: Trust in CEOs is down.  Does it mean that people are less trusting these days? Or that CEOs are less trustworthy?  Or both, and the second interpretation caused the first?

And what do you do about it?  If people are less trusting, then fixing CEOs won’t much help.  If untrustworthy CEOs are the problem, then it will.  But which is it?

My accounting professor, Richard Vancil, when asked the definition of “profit,” replied, “it’s the last line on an income statement.”  Meaning it was a question with no good answer.

I think longitudinal trust attitude questions are much the same: what they measure is the shift in answer to a given question over a period of time.  The question itself isn’t clear, nor does it suggest clear policies.

How’m I Doing?  Measuring Trust Improvement is Tricky

New York’s Mayor Koch was known for asking ‘How’m I doing?’ at every juncture.  I don’t know how it worked for Koch, but it doesn’t work so well for trust.  

You can often measure things like quality (defects per million), or efficiency (output over input) with great precision, and with great frequency.  But try asking your significant other whether (s)he loves you, in myriad ways, every hour.  It won’t take long for the process flow approach to measurement to ruin the love you were so intent on measuring.  Not to mention: just how did you define ‘love’ anyway?  What would you do with the answer?

Measuring Trust to Drive Motivation Can Backfire

A common way to use metrics is to reward certain outcomes.  Applied to trust, this can generate perverse results.  Trust is partly about unselfish attitudes and actions–think about the ethical schizophrenia that results from using monetary incentives to encourage unselfish behavior.

The Best Trust Measurement Encourages Diagnosis

If measuring ‘trust’ alone is like squeezing air; if the act of measuring alters the measurement; and if incentivizing trust metrics can destroy trustworthiness itself; then what are trust metrics good for?

I think they’re good for a great deal—if defined in terms that respect the inherent breadth of meaning of trust, and in ways that allow concrete actions to be taken to improve trustworthiness.

Want to measure trust? 

Start by defining what you’re measuring: the capacity to trust, the quality of trustworthiness, or the presence of both.  (See Trust, Trusting and Trustworthiness). 

Then clarify whether you’re evaluating personal trust, organizational trust, or social trust.  (See Realms and Manifestations of Trust)

Then ask whether respondents will gain practical insights and actions from the measurement to improve their trusting-ability, or their trustworthiness.

At the risk of appearing self-serving, the Trust Quotient is an example.  It measures personal trustworthiness in 20 inter-related ways that provide self-insight to the test-taker, as well as offering practical suggestions for self-improvement. 

The Trust Audit  is another example, this one measuring trustworthiness at the organizational level.   It too uses 20 inter-related measures—not one—that together suggest specific opportunities for improvement. 

Measuring trust is not like other measurements: it’s less like measuring liquid flow or efficiency than it is like measuring love.  It deserves its own metric system.  
 

Can Trust Be Taught?

Let’s not mince words. The answer, pretty much, is yes.

The exception is what the academics call social trust—a generalized inclination to think well or ill of the intentions of strangers in the aggregate. That kind of trust ends up being inherited from your Scandinavian grandparents (or not, from your Italian grandparents).

The rest, let’s break it down. First, enough talk about “trust.” Trust takes two to tango. One to trust, another to be trusted. They are not the same thing.

So let’s start by asking which we want to teach: to trust, or to be trustworthy?

Trusting someone is, paradoxically, often the fastest way to make that other person trustworthy—thereby creating a relationship of trust.  People tend to live up, or down, to others’ expectations. So if you can muster the ability to trust another, you’re both likely to reap big returns quickly from the resultant trust.

However: trusting can also be a high risk proposition. The vast majority of business people, on hearing “trust,” will say “that’s too risky.” In other words, they hear “trust” as meaning “trusting,” and they turn off.

On the other hand, there is being trustworthy. If you consistently behave in a trustworthy manner, others will come to trust you, and voila, you have that trusting relationship. Being trustworthy tends to take longer than trusting, but the results are just as good. And, it’s very low risk.

Let me say that again: becoming trustworthy is a low risk, high payoff proposition. This is not a hard concept for people to get, if explained right.

What does it mean to be trustworthy? The trust equation explains it: it’s a combination of credibility, reliability, intimacy, and a low level of self-orientation. You can take a self-assessment test of your own TQ, or Trust Quotient, based on the trust equation.

So the question is: can people be taught to become more credible? More reliable? More capable of emotional connectedness? More other-oriented and less self-oriented?

The answer is yes. Big picture, there are two ways to teach these things. One is to recall Aristotle’s maxim: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit."

People can be taught truth-telling, reliability, even other-orientation to some extent by showing them the behaviors—particularly the language–of trustworthy people.

But the deeper, more powerful approach to building trustworthy people starts the other way around: by working on thoughts to drive action. As the Burnham Rosen group articulates this point  "thought drives actions which result in outcomes."

Many disciplines outside of business know the truth and power of this approach: psychology, acting, public speaking, to name a few. Business doesn’t appreciate it enough. But commonsense does.

Trust can be taught: either by teaching trusting, or trustworthiness. The latter is lower risk, hence the most attractive approach for many in business.  And trustworthiness can be taught via a mix of skillsets and mindsets

It makes sense.

 

 

 

Ethics and Compliance: What’s Trust Got to Do With It?

I believe words matter.  They affect the way we think, therefore the way we perceive, therefore the way we act.  Words are not passive things, acted upon by our blind behaviors; they are cultural repositories of memory.  Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny in language as well as in biology.

So it has always bothered me to hear “ethics” and “compliance” in the same phrase.

I’m aware I’m in the minority; it is casual usage to combine the two. 

  • There is the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics and their Institute
  • Back in 2005, a speech by the SEC talked about the decline in ethics and compliance.
  • Corpedia Corporation “offers a wide variety of innovative and user-friendly compliance and ethics solutions.” 

So, it’s commonly used.  Then again, we also live in a world that obsesses over Britney Spears.

Defining "Ethics" and "Compliance"

Let’s try the dictionary.  First, ethics:

1. (used with a singular or plural verb) a system of moral principles: the ethics of a culture.
2. the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.: medical ethics; Christian ethics.

Now, compliance:

1. the act of conforming, acquiescing, or yielding.
2. a tendency to yield readily to others, esp. in a weak and subservient way.

These two words don’t live together easily.  In fact, if we try to substitute “Wall Street” for “medical” or “Christian” in the ethics definition, we get what most people would call an oxymoron: Wall Street ethics. 

I would argue this is a serious issue.  Entire industries—financial and pharmaceutical come to mind—have come to conflate the two words, and we are all the worse for it. 

When “ethics” becomes a soul-less matter of ticking the boxes, when we substitute acquiescence for a conscience and subservience for principles, we have lost a great deal.  In particular, any meaningful sense of the word “trust.”

How can a financial planner aspire to being a fiduciary through procedures alone?  How can a company achieve client focus through quarterly behavioral competencies alone?  How can we create trusted regulatory agencies if all they do is enforce processes and paperwork?  How can you give multiple choice ‘tests’ that ‘certify’ people as being ‘ethical?’  But that is generally how "compliance" programs are executed. 

That way lies Bernie Madoff, and a thousand other example of people who have lost track of simple guidelines like be transparent, tell the truth, serve your clients, and work for the long run. 

You Can’t Comply Your Way into Ethical, or Trustworthy, Behavior

A focus on compliance alone can never create ethical behavior.  Perversely, all it does is incent slightly bent people to become more bent by focusing on exploiting the inevitable gray areas that crop up in any set of behavioral rules.   There are plenty of professionals who are 100% compliant with their industries’ lax standards, and are, by many customers’ judgment, highly untrustworthy, selfish sleazeballs.

Law schools can take some blame here; law is the only profession in which the notion of ‘truth’ is non-existent, replaced by ‘evidence.’ 

MBAs are hardly blameless; their mindless pursuit of markets, transactions, and micro-measurements have fueled the replacement of “character” with “observable behaviors that achieve sustainable competitive advantage.”

But that’s too easy.  We’ve all gone along with it.  We’re all infatuated with “science,” neuro-proof, lawsuits and fix-it drugs. Ethics?  Get with it, dude.  

I know this sounds like an old-fart rant, and in part it is.  But there are plenty of businesspeople who behave well, and even prosper because of it.  And they’re also to blame for tolerating the shades of gray. 

We don’t have a crisis of trust and ethics so much as we have moral sloppiness–a willingness to tolerate mediocrity.  Most of us have remarkably similar instincts about what’s right and what isn’t.

What we’ve all got to do is get mad about how far we’ve strayed.

And compliance is not an excuse.
 

How Can I Get Them to Trust Me?

The trust equationHow can I get them to trust me? 

It’s an important question for lots of people: financial planners, TV news anchors, IT help desk people in companies, HR folks who want a seat at the table, pharma company management, and parents and teenagers.

There are three broad approaches to getting others to trust you.  They are not mutually exclusive, and are probably not exhaustive—but they come close.

Of course, you can’t control another human being.  Trying to do so will paradoxically destroy their trust in you.  Which is why all three approaches involve full acceptance of the one whose trust you seek.

Trust Creation Strategy 1: Trust Them. 

We are powerfully wired as part of our social instincts to engage in reciprocal exchanges with each other.  These acts of reciprocity create networks of cumulative obligation—or of enmity. 

If someone behaves well toward me, I “owe” that person parallel behavior.  This simple fact underlies the social role of etiquette, as well as things like gifts, Don Corleone’s power, or ritualistic forms of greeting like secret handshakes.

We are powerfully motivated to return in kind what we are given.  If you want to be trusted—first seek to trust.

Trust Creation Strategy 2: Be Trustworthy. 

It sounds trite, but it’s not.  It is a strategy of attraction, not promotion.  To be trusted, try to be worthy of that trust.  All else equal, people trust those who are worthy of trust.  And people have finely honed capabilities of discrimination that far exceed our abilities to articulate them.

Which begs the question: what constitutes trustworthiness?  Steven M. R. Covey,  following consistently in his father’s Seven Habits behavioral pattern, identifies 13 behaviors—phrased as imperative-form verbs like ‘get better,’ or ‘confront reality.’ 

Much though we may like verbs–they suggest definitive actions we can take–they are misleading.  You don’t make people trust you, they choose to do so.   You attract trust by being who you are, not by acting upon others. 

I prefer the Trust Equation: it is couched in the ways people see us—as attributes.  Four of them pretty much sum it up: credibility, reliability, intimacy—and whether we are seen as self-oriented, or other-oriented.

This definition of trustworthiness underpins the Trust QuotientTM self assessment test—take it here and find out how trustworthy you are.

Trust Creation Strategy 3: Listen.  

The single most powerful trust-creating action we can take is to give to another the fine gift of our own attention.  To listen—intently, to the exclusion of all other thoughts, without simultaneous cogitation, and devoid of judgment. 

This has nothing to do with the content of what is being heard.  It is simply about the act of offering attention.  It translates, to the one being listened to, as an act of respect.  As such, it triggers the reciprocity reaction: we are willing to listen to those who have listened to us. 

All three strategies, to work, must be done cleanly.  While we can all become more trustworthy, or better listeners, or better trustors ourselves, we have to keep our motives intact.

If we want others to trust us solely as means to our own ends—they won’t.  The concepts of giving freely, and without attachment, are key. The paradox is: if you do these things, you become trusted.  But if you set out to do them in order to be trusted, so that you can etc. etc. etc.—you don’t.  
 

Trust, Trusting and Trustworthiness

The word ‘trust’ gets used in many ways.  Consider the simple joke, “I’d trust Bill Clinton with the economy—just not with my daughter.  On the other hand, I’d trust George W. Bush with my daughter.  The economy, not so much.” 

Considering that we tend to use one word to cover so many duties, it’s surprising we ‘get’ the meanings as well as we do.

The Word ‘Trust’ Gets Used Imprecisely

Let’s break it down.

There are three ways we talk about ‘trust.’ 

1.    There is trust, the verb: to trust.  The one who trusts, the act of trusting. 

2.    There is trustworthiness, a noun.  A characteristic or trait of the one who is trusted.

3.    There is trust, the noun: a quality of the relationship between people, the level of trust that exists between them.

Here is Steven Covey, a well known writer on trust, using the same word to describe all three situations: 

•    “Trust is a competency…There is a risk in trusting people, but there is a greater risk in not trusting them.”  (Meaning 1, the verb: to trust)

•    “Trust is a form of both character and competence….Investors invest in and customers buy from brands they trust.”  (Meaning 2, the noun: trustworthiness).

•    “Low-trust, low-performance organizations typically exhibit [certain] cultural behaviors” (Meaning 3, the noun: the state of trust).

We usually infer the intended meaning well.  Still, it creates confusion about trust itself when we are not clear. 

I hear all the time, “Trust is nice to have, but this is a tough environment, and you can’t take that kind of risk around here.”  When someone says that, I know they are confusing trust and trustworthiness. 

To trust someone is to take a risk.  There is no trusting without risking, in fact.  (As long as we’re talking Presidents, Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” was a bit of political rhetoric: if you have to verify, it ain’t trust.)   

Yet to be trustworthy is the opposite of risky.  Others strongly trust those who are honest, believable, candid, unselfish, high integrity, direct, and so forth.   It’s a lot less risky to be trusted than it is to have people suspicious of you. 

The confusion grows when people focus on trusting or being trusted to the exclusion of noticing high-trust environments (where people both trust and are trustworthy). 

You Can’t Manage Trust if You Can’t Define It

To accurately assess, describe, measure and manage trust, we have to get clear on the concepts, the language. Trusting creates trustworthy people, who then attract more trusting from others; pretty soon, you’ve got a whole lot of trust going on.

You can’t build trust if you don’t know which meaning you’re playing with.  Try figuring which meaning of trust is intended in this typical quote from the Edelman Trust Survey: 

Trust in business around the world is, generally, lower today than it was a year ago, according to the Edelman report. And, generally, CEOs and other leaders aren’t held in especially high esteem.

Does this mean buyers are less willing to trust these days?  Or that businessmen are less trustworthy?  Or that the state of trust in the world has declined? Is there causality here or not?  If so, what drives what?

And therefore what are we to do with such data?  Educate people about risk-taking?  Step up regulatory enforcement?  Or increase engagement between business and customers? 

Asking “do you trust XYZ” over time offers the appearance of precision—“it’s up X%, it’s down Y%”—but without any context, it’s hard to say what it all really means.  

It’s no surprise that “trust” has such a “soft” image; casual use of words creates the impression that trust itself is soft and fuzzy, hardly the stuff managers should busy themselves with.

The fact is, all three meanings can be defined, measured, taught and managed—but only if we’re clear just which meaning is being measured and managed.

For examples of metrics that deal strictly with trustworthiness, see The Trust Equation – in its online self-assessment form, the Trust Quotient (go on, it’s free!).

For an example of how to teach and manage trusting, see this on the risk management tool of  Name It and Claim It.

For a good example of the state-of-trust, see a sampling of economists’ and social scientists’ views earlier this year at Trust Trust Trust.

I trust you’ll find me trustworthy enough to help increase our mutual trust.   

 

The Guts of Trust

I’ve written before about trust in business relationships and selling, and I’ve written about models of trust (see Trust: the Core Concepts.

But what about the guts of trust—of trusting, and of being trusted?

I mean what does it feel like in your gut? What is the gut-level stuff that makes it work—or not work? How do you know it in your gut when you’re being trusted—or trusting?

I don’t mean models, and abstractions, and data. I mean being real.

Here’s the guts of what I’ve learned about trust—from the gut.

1. I can’t tell you what works for you; I can only tell you what works for me.

2. You can tell me what you think I should do; but I won’t do it. Unless I feel like it anyway, or unless I really trust you.

3. I can learn this stuff. It helps to be born with it, but I can learn.

4. Rarely, I learn trust by observing someone who does it well. I once saw a newspaper publisher run a 15-person all-day meeting just by listening, by nodding at someone and saying, “I can tell you’ve got something to add to that, Joe, right?” That time, I got it.

5. Generally, though, I learn trust lessons better through failure than through success. Those are “learning opportunities”—though I rarely see them as such at the moment.

6. Whenever I fail to trust, or to be trusted, it is nearly always my fault, and nearly always due to fear. Fear is the mother lode. I am learning to remember to ask myself, “what am I afraid of?” I hate the answers—they are always the same—shame and guilt. What a waste of time!

7. I don’t trust you until I think you understand me. Why should I expect the reverse to be different?

8. I’d rather you go first. But then things rarely happen. So I guess I have to.

9. You can’t hurt me without my permission. Which I don’t have to give. You’re not annoying—I’m annoyed. And I can stop being annoyed anytime I choose to.

10. You’ll trust me most if I don’t ask, beg, or try to force you to trust me. You’ll trust me the most if I’m of service to you—no strings attached.

11. I’m OK, You’re OK. True enough, but a hard place to get trust started. I’m an Idiot, You’re an Idiot—now there’s a place that offers traction.

12. Trust never comes without risk. Having the courage to be vulnerable, and to take small emotional risks now is what creates trust—and mitigates larger business risk later.

13. If I’m transacting, I’m alone. If I’m relating, transactions come along like ripe fruit.

14. After some point, I realized I could trust my gut more than my brain. Later, I realized that had always been true.

15. I get what I want when I stop wanting it. People trust me when I stop demanding trust.

16. Alone on a desert island, I don’t have to trust or be trusted. And I can always create my own trust-free island. It’s safe, but it’s awfully solitary.

Do You Trust Your Boss?

My assistant, Trish, asked me, “When are you going to blog about employee trust?”

I asked her what she meant. She explained that she trusted a great deal in me and her other boss—to do the right things for her, to provide job security, to create a rich experience.

Now, I’ve had a boss, and I’ve been a boss. And if I knew then what I know now—well, then I’d have known a whole lot more.

I think that my experience working for people was probably typical. I liked most of my bosses. Those I liked, I trusted a lot; those I didn’t, not so much.

To those I liked, I imputed wisdom. I would ask them questions if I didn’t know the answer, and I asked a lot. The best boss answered socratically.

(The best single employee lesson I ever got was from a terrible boss; he couldn’t articulate what it was he wanted, and I was finally so frustrated that I did what I thought was right. Which turned out to be what he had been trying to tell me. Lightbulb.)

I thought they were older (true, in my case) and wiser (so I thought; not true in the rear-view mirror). I argued with them, just to engage and to find out their logic. Sometimes, this would piss them off. It didn’t dawn on me they didn’t know.

From the rear view mirror, I see now they were hardly different from me. One was wildly insecure. Another, insecure and alcoholic. One, quixotic. Another, sometimes wrong but never in doubt. Most had charisma. All were genuinely nice people, and all could make some Really Stupid Moves.

I suspect my experience is the norm.

(Though for about 6 months, Jamie Dimon, President of J. P. Morgan Chase, one of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2006, reported to me. Well, administratively anyway; not quite the same as being his boss. Jamie didn’t have quite the awe for his bosses that I did. I suspect Jamie figured he was smarter than all of them, and just lacked seasoning and data. I imagine Jamie still believes that, and by now he’s more than earned the right to say nyah, nyah, he was right, too!)

Jamie aside, the rest of us have met the enemy, and it is us. I am my old bosses, at various times, in various ways. I’m just another sentient idiot on the planet trying to make sense of it all and keep the back foot movin’, hoping the front foot it’s following is generally hewing to a forward-wise di-rection.

A study once queried students and faculty, asking each what they thought of the other group, and how much time they spent thinking about that group. The results: faculty spent little time thinking about students, but figured the students thought a lot about them. The students spent little time thinking about the faculty but figured the faculty spent lots of time thinking about them.

Moral: In the real world, empathy consists of staring at the other guy’s feet almost as often as at your own.

And Trish trusts me. Hoo boy.

But you know, when people trust you, it has an ennobling effect. Yes, I tell her to think for herself, and not to be dependent on others. But, I still try to do right by her. I do want to be a good boss.

After all, she trusts me. Waddya gonna do?