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Realms of Trust and Manifestations of Trust

Most would agree that trust is a hot topic just now.  That’s about the only thing agreed upon about trust, however.  We can’t even decide what it means.

I wrote a post last week called Trust, Trusting and Trustworthiness.  I suggested that much writing about trust confuses these three manifestations.

Think of that post as Managing Trust Part I — Trust Manifestations. Think of this as Managing Trust Part II — Trust Realms.

There are three trust realms in all: interpersonal trust, organizational/institutional trust, and social trust.

The realms of trust are well known to academic trust researchers, not so much to business people. They do make simple common sense, however.

1. Interpersonal trust

Interpersonal trust deals with one-on-one dynamics. Most of my work has focused in this area. It’s the stuff of relationships, selling, advisory businesses, and personal risk-taking.

2. Organizational and institutional trust

This form of trust covers a wide range of issues: the organizational environment conditioning interpersonal trust relationships, the trust of individuals in their organizations and institutions, and the nature of trust relationships between organizations themselves.

Surveys that measure “trust in government” can shift dramatically and quickly, with the election of an Obama, or the humbling of an SEC, for example. In these respects—speed and personalization—organizational trust resembles personal trust. But it also deals with organizational cultures and values—undeniably group phenomena.

3. Social trust

Social trust deals with the generalized beliefs individuals hold about “other people."  Think under what conditions you’re likely to lock your car doors. Unlike the other two realms, this trust doesn’t deal with people as individuals; also, it tends to change only glacially, perhaps across generations.

If we array the realms of trust against the manifestations of trust, as shown below, we can begin to have a structured conversation about trust.

Trust Realms and Trust Manifestations

Manifestation/Realm

Trusting

Being trusted

State of Trust
Personal      
Organizational      
Social      

 Until then, we are going to have vague, or circular, or meaningless discussions about trust.

When Steven H.R. Covey talks about how trust affects speed and cost, he is largely talking about the manifestion dimension—the presence or absence of a state of trust. But is he talking about the state of personal trust? Or organizational? Or cultural/social?

Gatehouse, a UK communications consultancy, says “business is facing a massive and global crisis of trust right now.”  But what are they talking about?  Which manifestation?  Which realm?  Or are we descending into an inevitable and inescapable downward spiral of rampant anarchy? 

Do they mean that individuals are less trusting of business? Or that more businesses are untrustworthy? Or that the state of economic uncertainty has rendered the state of trust lower?

Paul Seaman’s review of the Edelman Trust Surveys (Would you trust a trust survey?) does a nice job of taking apart the apparent meaning of trust survey data.  A small example: trust in banks is down, trust in government is up: does that mean we want the government to take over banks?

These are not word games.  Intelligent policy formulation depends on being able to clearly define problems. For example:

• When is structural regulation preferable to greater enforcement?
• For what trust issues is transparency an appropriate remedy?
• Do we have any institutions that teach the personal manifestation of trusting?
• If you change personal and organizational trustworthiness, do you have to worry about social trust?

We’re entering a period where trust has gone viral; it’s got buzz. We’re about to see more survey data, telling us with greater and greater precision whether doctors are gaining on nurses in trust ratings, who has the most trusted brand name, and whether trust in Romanian economists went up or down in October. 

Watch out for conflicts of interest: who’s paying for a ranking of trustworthy companies?   What problem is being solved?  What issues are being addressed?

Get ready for many tales, full of sound and fury, signifying—well, just what? That is the question.

 

Oprah and Two Trust Tests

Trust is bustin’ out all over. Or, to be more accurate, its perceived absence is creating a lot of press.

It’s one thing to become a focus for Steven H.R. Covey Jr.—but it’s yet another level of phenomenon when Oprah puts trust on the front page of O Magazine.

Of particular note is a self-scoring “trustometer” self-assessment trust test by Martha Beck.

It’s a good quiz; go take it, you’ll learn something.

There are three kinds of trust surveys: those that measure trusting, those that measure trustworthiness, and those that measure the combination, i.e. trust. Ms. Beck’s trust test measures the first—trusting.

The thrust is: how clearly can you see things for what they are, rather than as they appear through your own obscured ego-driven lenses? Your gut feelings are probably very good—unless you get in their way.

This is a good message—the ability to intelligently take risks, to trust, is a powerful thing. In the Age of Madoff, where trusting is an unpopular concept, this is a welcome reminder of the importance of trust.

So much for trusting: how about, can we measure how much people trust us?

Yes we can. If you’ll forgive the shameless self-promotion, that’s what the Trust Quotient™, or TQ™, measures—our level of trustworthiness. (To be precise, since it’s also a self-assessment, it’s our best guess about how much others trust us).

Unlike the Beck trust test, which gives you a one-paragraph “if your score was between __ and __, you are ….”, the Trust Quotient trust test gives you several pages of analysis and recommendations about the various components of trustworthiness.

Take them both: the Beck Trust test on your ability to trust: and the TQ Trust Quotient test to assess your trustworthiness.

 

 

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.

Trust Me

Courtesy of The Financial Brand comes the story "A Failure of Trust:"

"On Thursday, September 4, an ad from Silver State Bank asked, “Why do so many of Nevada’s strongest businesses trust Silver State Bank?” The answer? “Security” and “protection.”

The next day, the bank was seized by federal and state regulators.…In the two months prior to the bank’s seizure, customers pulled $264 million of the $1.7 billion on deposit at Silver State."

There are no more trust-destroying words one can say than “trust me.” Googling “trust us” gets more than 5 million hits. Interestingly, well over half appear to be of the cynical phrasing, e.g. “Trust us, we’re experts: How Industry Manipulates Science."

In other words, most of us are “on” to the con.

Yet the self-delusion (and occasionally cynicism) continues. I periodically Google “your trusted advisor” to see who still thinks advertising “trust me” is a good strategy. I won’t name names—you can do it yourself: just search on “your trusted advisor” (don’t forget the quote marks), and decide for yourself whether the advertisers really are your trusted real estate agent, your trusted financial planner, your trusted land developer—or not.

Most people who use the term “trust” or “trust me” or “trusted advisor” in advertising mean well. In a few cases, they’re even right. But they miss the point.

The point is, it’s inherently contradictory to advertise your trustworthiness. It’s like bragging about your humility. Trust is supposed to be largely personal, and about serving the customer. Trust ads are intrinsically non-personal, and inherently self-serving.

George Burns once said, “Sincerity is the most important success factor; if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” The joke lies in the implausibility of faking sincerity. Ditto for trust.

Unsolicited testimonials are fabulous. Solicited testimonials, quoted in mass media, are quite another thing. The difference lies in the motives.

Talking internally about how to be trusted is great; talking to clients about it is good to the extent you do it one on one, in small groups, with blank notepads and a willingness to learn. Talking to clients about trust via statistically valid online surveys that don’t let you expand on the “other” checkbox and that are designed solely to be converted into incentivized behaviors—not so much.

Trust advertising is a personally critical issue to me, given the name “Trusted Advisor Associates.” I need “trust” in the name to describe my content and subject matter, but I have on occasion cringed when a client went off-script and introduced me at a speech as “the trusted advisor.”

Our website always says “we help build trusted advisors…” and never “we are trusted advisors.” Even with that, we get occasional snide comments about the insincerity of calling ourselves “trusted advisors.”

I don’t blame them a bit. The currency of language is frequently debased in business (think ‘loyalty,’ ‘customer focus’).

Given the current state of cynicism about trust, the best any of us can do is to be careful about our own language, and to let our integrity and trustworthiness be their own advertisement.

After all—that’s how trust really gets built.

What’s Your Trust Quotient? Announcing a New Self-Assessment Online Tool

TQ=C+R+I/SYou may know your IQ (Intelligence Quotient). You have some sense of your EQ (Emotional Intelligence).

But what about your TQ — your Trust Quotient?

I’m excited to announce here the launch of an of a new online self-assessment tool: The Trust Quotient Self-Diagnostic to answer that question. It’s been in development for several weeks now, and I’m sharing it first only with readers of Trust Matters.

The Trust Quotient Self-Diagnostic consists of 20 questions, based on the the Trust Equation1:

(Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy)

_____________________________

Self-Orientation

The Trust Quotient Self-Diagnostic measures your Trust Quotient Score—your TQ—and compares it with all other test-takers to date. The database will get better as it gets larger, but early returns suggest it fits very well with commonsense assessments.

The Trust Quotient Self-Diagnostic also then gives you practical advice and suggestions on how to leverage your strengths, and how to address on your weaknesses.

Please go to TrustedAdvisor.com/TrustQuotient to take The Trust Quotient Self-Diagnostic . Tell your friends.

And if you don’t mind, drop us a note to say what you think of The Trust Quotient Self-Diagnostic, including how to make it better and more useful.


1see The Trusted Advisor, by David Maister, Charles Green, Robert Galford; Free Press, 2000