A Review of the Forbes Review of Trust

We here at Trusted Advisor Associates earn our daily bread by helping clients to become Trusted Advisors to their clients and to each other, and by helping clients create Trust-based Selling programs.  

That’s our daily work—specific applications of trustworthiness. To do so, it also helps to take a broader look at trust. That’s one role of this blog, Trust Matters.

A similar role is occasionally played by media, who come up with specials on the subject of trust. Such an event was Forbes’ Magazine’s recent issue, The Trust Gap. Nicely edited by Raquel Laneri and Michael Noer, it consists of fully 19 articles, covering a wide range of trust-related topics. I purposely printed them all out, and read them on the plane to Orlando last night uninterrupted.

Turns out it makes for fascinating reading: mainly because it shows once again the amazing range of issues which influence, and are influenced by, the phenomenon of trust. I’d offer you a link to a combined file, but I’d probably run afoul of some copyright law, so you’ll have to do your own mix tape. (Although–it just occurred to me–I’ll bet you could probably buy a print copy of the magazine somewhere!). 

To see if it’s worthwhile for you, here are a few observations from me:


Remember this particular collection came from Forbes Magazine. To my mind, that means it’s eclectic, though with a generally capitalist-cum-libertarian bias. Which means you get some creative thinking, though at the price of the occasional slog through such stuff such as:

·    the 1971 departure from the gold standard was the root of all our ills;

·    Obama is a deceiver because he said he’d work with the Republicans, yet passed many bills without a Republican vote. Puh-leeze.

Still, those are a minority.

Some Highlights

James Henry and Lawrence Kotlikoff start by citing Anna Bernasek (see Trust Quotes Series #6 interview with Anna), then go on to suggest that our long, slow, decline of trust in institutions has a simple cause—complexity of government. And, they have a solution. Five of them, actually—one each for taxes, banking, health care, social security, and offshore taxation. They’re sweepingly broad, startlingly commonsense, and—you sense why this is a virtue—simple, while not being ideologically simplistic. 

Joel Kotkin, in Tribes and Trust, makes the case that the decline of social trust and trust in institutions as we’ve come to know them are offset by equal increases in our tribal affiliations. By “tribes,” he doesn’t just mean movements in Asia, and China as a whole, but also economic groups like “investment bankers, techno-geeks or gays.” Though, this trade is not net good.

Harvey Silverglate tells us, in "Trust me: Justice is my Last Name"  that there has been a systematic, growing increase in the abuse of the justice system by Federal Prosecutors. If true, that one’s scary.

I don’t know that I’d agree with Henry Miller on everything , but he’s made a nifty observation by identifying the Type 1 vs. Type 2 risk equation facing regulators; and having done a stint at the FDA, we owe him a good listen. If you’re a regulator, which is worse, he asks: the Type 1 error of approving a disastrous product, or the Type 2 error of not approving a good product. You don’t have to be a self-aggrandizing bureaucrat to see how we’d all respond conservatively in such a situation; and the policy implications of that low trust are large and ugly.

Pollster Zogby notes, in Mending America’s Broken Trust, an interesting anomaly: Republicans trust Wall Street more than Democrats, but are also more likely to think that bankers got a sweetheart deal in the bailout. Which suggests their core belief is more anti-government than pro big business. 

From across the pond, Quentin Letts reminds us gently in Skepticism is More Powerful than Trust that a healthy dose of skepticism—quite a dose, actually—is periodically a very good thing. Furthermore, public shaming is still powerful; witness the official who used public funds to build a duck house, and was followed about town by people flapping their elbows and quacking. He resigned.

On the other hand, Melik Kaylan in Relationships of Mutual Mistrust suggests the risk of shaming can get way, way out of control. Citing a former secret police officer in Rumania, where there is no privacy, the threat of blackmail is a constant presence. In his view, this same sort of risk is posed by Facebook et al, and serves as a chronic negative drip against the development of trust.

Larry Ribstein has a piece I resonate with, called Battling the Mistrust-makers. He points out how, in contrast to just about everyone else’s claim that trust is declining, in certain ways it’s increasing: we are more and more dependent and intertwined with others. But there’s a force battling the kind of trust we need for successful economic cooperation, and that’s what he calls the “mistrust-makers.” He particularly singles out the media, politicians, and the plaintiff bar. In light of the Shirley Sherrod case, and the much ado about nothing case against death benefits payment cases in the insurance industry, his commentary is timely.

To end up on a (partly) upbeat note, Karlyn Bowman, in Distrust: as American as Apple Pie notes that with all the declining numbers about trust, Americans are still positive on their constitutional system of government and core values like the belief in America as the land of opportunity. (There are some data to suggest that last belief is not so well-founded these days, but let’s not quibble about a happy ending note).

The November Carnival Of Trust

Carnival of Trust logo

Welcome to the Sixth Carnival of Trust. As always, we’ve tried to make this Carnival a little bit special, a little bit more value-adding than the average carnival.


  • There are always only ten selections in the Carnival of Trust. They all earned it. They’re good. Or, at least provocative.

  • We’ve added our own perspective to it—this is not a dry list. In some cases, we even take issue with the post—and say why. You may not agree—but at least we offer a point of view.

  • In each Carnival of Trust, a theme emerges; in this one, it’s policy on trust. Issues of policy and trust in health care, in direct marketing, in marketing, in leadership.

Our aim is to make this interesting, educational and profitable. Let us know how it was for you.

With no further ado, let us move to this month’s winning posts.

Trust in Advising and Influencing Logo

Dr. Bleuel has written a gem of a piece about trust and loyalty. I agree with nearly every word he says—a rare thing. Samples: “Trust is built, one transaction at a time,” “loyalty and trust are not passive states,” and “once I trusted the Audi mechanic, the buying process for service is simple: take the car in and describe the problem.” The good doctor from Pepperdine gets it.

Our next post discusses how to make sense of all the clouds of soft-talk around words like integrity, listening, fairness, authenticity, honesty, and transparency. Read Stephen Hopson’s guest-post on the blog Make It Great. In one page, he integrates them all in a way that—to me—feels just right. He’s an ex-WallStreeter, so you sense he knows how to pile on the BS—and most certainly isn’t doing that here.

Don’t miss his vignette on Bob the stunt pilot.

Nagesh Belludi grew up in Bangalore and lives in Indiana. He’s got a Masters in Engineering, and he speaks on personal effectiveness. He’s invested in stocks since age 16, and he reads about Mary Kay cosmetics’ management style. In other words, just the right amount of schizophrenia to describe how to most effectively give advice and have it taken.

Trust In Sales and Marketing Logo

Kaila Colbin noticed a pattern among heavy-hitter reviewers of search engines—they implicitly rated trust, transparency and honesty higher than the non-collection of data. “If trust is more important than privacy, then a company that says up front, ‘We collect all of your search history and use it to target you directly,’ will do better than a company that says, ‘We will not use your search history for anything other than making our algorithm better, and oh by the way those ads today that match your search query from two weeks ago?’ Implication? “one of the single most critical factors for web businesses over the next few years will be the ability to engender trust.”

Next John Whiteside comments on a MarketingProfs article by Lynn Upshaw of Berkeley Business School. Here’s Upshaw’s original:

Marketers need to consider a new calculus: "return on marketing integrity"which can lead to stronger business performance.

Traditional return on marketing investment is calculated using gross margin generated by marketing efforts (GM), minus the marketing investment (I), divided by that investment: ROMI = (GM – I) ÷ I. The calculation for return on marketing integrity is identical, except that investment is replaced with marketing integrity.

Whiteside’s comment:

I am skeptical. I doubt that you’ll ever be able to show much in the way of financial return on something as subjective as "integrity."

A pox on Upshaw, and a raspberry to Whiteside for getting caught up the whirlpool of absurdity that marketing folk sometimes construct.

Hello—If you make increased quarterly margins the measure of integrity, you just lost all integrity. I don’t know how to say it any simpler than that. So read Whiteside’s piece—which does after all do a good job of laying out the trust in marketing issue—and see if you can figure out how to get the message through. To Whiteside’s additional credit, he also suggests integrity might be an end in itself. All is not lost.

Nancy Arter, direct marketer, believes the following:

…it is imperative for us to market ethically — otherwise, we lose the trust of our current and potential customers. …We strongly believe in creating trust through direct marketing — and that by doing this, you build more profitable customer relationships.

Precisely. Interestingly, she agrees with NY State Attorney General Cuomo, who expanded his student loan investigations to include direct marketing.

But—hold on to your seats—the Direct Marketing Association also agrees with Cuomo.

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) came out quickly in support of this investigation saying that "illegal marketing activities erode trust for the entire industry." In fact, Jerry Cerasale, SVP of government affairs for the DMA, went further: "If these actions violate the law, then they should be stopped. Legitimate marketers need to have trust in the marketplace, and violating the law undercuts that trust. This is not retail, where you can walk in and touch a product and buy it. With direct marketing, you don’t hold the product until after you’ve bought it, so trust is essential.”

I’m going to have more to say about trust and the role of industry associations. Meanwhile, kudos to Arter, and to the DMA.

London-based marketer/facilitator Johnnie Moore offers two mini-corporate chilling-thrillers about the power that leaders wield, the deference given them by others, and the numbingly bad results that can result. Read it and hope it’s just those chaps in the UK.  ‘Cept you know it’s not.

Can corporate change happen without personal change? Can leaders lead without experiencing? Can a coach be effective without undergoing a consonant change?

Dave Crisp says no, in a concise way. Methinks he’s right.

Trust in Strategy, Economics and Politics Logo

“One of every nine Americans is a member of a WellPoint health plan,” according to Wellpoint’s website. They are joining hands with Zagat’s (yes, that Zagat’s—the restaurant guide people) to create, again from the website, “a new online survey tool that will allow consumers to share their physician experiences with others.”

I think this is a very cool idea. It speaks to the truth about medical decision-making, which is that bedside manner matters enormously compared to technical ratings; and it offers transparency.

Niko Carvounis, on the other hand, thinks it’s a terrible idea, and does a thorough job of making the case. It’s an important issue, and deserves the thoughtful approach Carvounis brings it. It’s a great way to access some fundamental ideas about the upcoming healthcare debate.

Maggie Mahar helps us educate ourselves for the healthcare debate, arguing against health care maven Regina Herzlinger and consumer-driven healthcare. Who is Herzlinger? What is consumer-driven healthcare? Is it right or wrong? Why should you care? Because it also has a lot to do with sales, marketing and trust, that’s why.

Mahar answers all. Except maybe right or wrong; Herzlinger would argue the consumer is a lot smarter than Mahar et al say. Hey, you decide—this piece will help you. (Full disclosure: Herzlinger was a professor of mine, and I’ve written about her previously in Trust, Politics and US Health Care Policy .)

Thank you to these talented authors for providing great insights into issues of policy and trust the sixth Carnival of Trust. I hope you’ll enjoy these articles as much as I have. If so, please leave a comment for the authors on their sites or recommend these articles to others who will appreciate them.

My aim is is to make the Carnival of Trust interesting, educational and profitable. I always appreciate your feedback; let me know what you think in the comments.

For more discussions of the nature of trust, you can check out the Carnival’s previous editions:

Steve Cranford at Whisper hosted Carnival of Trust #5;

David Maister at Passion, People and Principles hosted Carnival of Trust #4;

the anonymous but trusted Editor of Blawg Review hosted Carnival of Trust #3;

Carnival of Trust #1 and Carnival of Trust #2 started of here at Trust Matters.

Have a look at them. If you’re interesting in hosting a Carnival Edition, please let me know. You can contact me at blogging-at-trustedadvisor-dot-com.