Hire for Trustingness, Train for Trustworthiness

You may know the HR saying, ‘Hire for attitude, train for skills.’ Our own Sandy Styer reminded me of that the other day.

The reminder came at an opportune time, as I was reading Eric Uslaner’s  excellent 2002 book The Moral Foundations of Trust, a book I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t read until now.

I’ve written before that trust is an asymmetrical relationship between one who trusts, and one who is trusted. (Most recently, in Why Trust is Assymmetrical, and What that Means for Trust Strategies).

Since 2000, when The Trusted Advisor came out, I have autographed my books with the simple phrase, “May you trust—and be trusted.” They are not the same thing.

Trust, Trustworthiness, and Trusting

Uslaner writes mainly about trust. Steven Covey Jr writes mainly about trusting. I have tended to write mainly about trustworthiness, and something about the interplay between the two (see The Dance of Trust.)

But I have to confess, the insight expressed in the title of this blog didn’t really come to me until I connected the HR insight and Uslaner’s work.

Uslaner eloquently makes the point that there are two kinds of trust. There is the kind you read about every day in surveys and headlines about ‘trust in Wall Street down last month,’ or ‘most trusted brands decline compared to internet,’ or ‘Obama’s trust rating down 10 points in 3 weeks.’   That kind of trust is pretty short-term, situational, and closely resembles things like reputation, brand image and customer loyalty.

There is another kind of trust: what the academics call social trust. That kind of trust is literally learned at home in our childhood. It doesn’t change rapidly or easily, is maintained in the face of specific events; it is, as Uslaner so correctly claims, in my humble opinion, a moral value. And it is that kind of trust–or its absence–that undergirds civil society. 

Hire for Trustingness, and Train for Trustworthiness

How does one become trusted as an advisor, a salesperson, and internal advisor, a consultant? The short answer is: be trustworthy. How do you do that? Read my blogs and articles for the last 2-3 years, or buy my books.

But how do you create an organization that lives on trust? How do you create a trustworthy people-creating organization? How do you lead and manage a business that runs itself on trust principles

There are a number of answers, but it may be that number one in that list is: hire people who learned that deeper attitudinal moral value of trust at the age of 3 or 4. Hire trusting people. Hire people who know how to trust, and are not afraid to do so.

Hire people who treat trustingness as a moral value. Because that is hard to teach.

Get an organization full of high-trusting people, and you have amazing potential. Such people can quickly ‘get’ the skills of trustworthiness. By being surrounded by others they trust and who trust them, they get a lot done.

By contrast, high-trusting people may not be changed by low-trust organizations—but they’ll leave.  And low-trust people likewise may not be changed by high-trust organizations; but they’ll be a drag on things.

I’ll be writing much more on this. For now, the catch-phrase is:

Hire for trustingness, train for trustworthiness.

Rationalization – At the Heart of Ethical Challenges

Guest Blog:  By David Gebler, President, Skout Group, LLC

By and large, corporate leaders who get into ethics trouble are otherwise honest people. They believe in the Golden Rule; they think that they would always do the right thing.

So what happens to them? What makes them cross the line? Why do some people fall prey to temptation and others don’t?  The answers lie in how well a leader prepares his motivational defenses.

Rationalization Lights the Path to Unethical Behavior

The ladder to success requires a great deal of ambition. Leaders have to be assertive, if not often aggressive, in meeting tough objectives and demanding the most of their people. How well do leaders balance a desire to do the right thing with the drive to win and be successful? When those values and goals conflict, which can happen many times a day, how do they reconcile them?

But “balance” is not the right word to use, because this really is not a fair fight. Sitting in ambition’s corner is the power of rationalization. Rationalization is what allows us to devise self-satisfying, but incorrect reasons for our behavior. 

We all of course rationalize our actions all the time. We even rationalize our illegal actions, such as driving over the speed limit. But the greater the ambition, the stronger is the power to find reasons to justify actions that we know are not the right ones.

Managers face many options in making decisions on how to meet a wide variety of goals. Taking the most cautious and risk averse path is not what they are paid to do. They are expected to weigh the balance of risk and reward, but most often the bias is clearly towards the reward.

It often starts quite innocently. “If I have to wait until Form X is signed off on, we’ll miss the customer’s deadline.” Or, “I would never have stolen those documents from our competitor–but if they are in my inbox, am I expected to not open them?” 

Someone once said “inside your head is a very dangerous neighborhood.” Left alone, we spin our own web of rationalizations, of ends justifying means.  And as we have seen, the more powerful the ambition, the more shocking is the rationalization, all the way up to the New York Governor’s hotel suite.  That’s human nature, and that’s not going to change.

Defenses Against Rationalization

What we can do, however, is to bolster our defenses. In many instances managers make these risk-reward calculations alone. How many times have we convinced ourselves to do something–and then changed our minds at even the thought of asking a loved one or trusted confidante their opinion. 

Yet managers too often view seeking counsel as a sign of weakness or indecisiveness. They will often raise the dilemma only with subordinates who may be hesitant or unable to question the boss’s judgment.  Rationalization is very easy if you don’t get outside views from people you trust.

Intuitive leaders understand the need to seek the opinion of others before making close-call decisions. And forward thinking companies have set up processes that channel managers to verbalize both sides of the issue before making decisions that could have ethical consequences.

Human nature isn’t going to change. But if acknowledge it, we can do a better job at managing it.

Note from Charlie: I’m re-posting this one because it only got one hour in the limelight yesterday before being superseded by the ebook on sales.  David Gebler is a powerful thinker and consultant on this subject, and I want to give TrustMatters readers more time to absorb his simple but profound message.