What Introductions Can Teach Us About Trust

parachute jumpersI’m in Washington, D.C. this week, giving a Being Trusted Advisors training session along with the rest of our staff. There is an exercise I like around introductions.

Rather than the usual ‘let’s go around the table and introduce ourselves,’ we ask people to quickly state their company (or title/role if it’s an internal training), followed by two questions:

1. Tell the group how many months you’ve been with (company name), and
2. Tell the group an interesting tidbit or factoid about yourself—something a little bit unusual, quirky, interesting, not an every-day business fact about yourself.

I ask everyone in the room in random order to quickly answer the two questions. The debrief is then: why do you think I asked us to take X minutes doing this?

The usual answers are to establish a group identity, to begin creating trust, to get people focused in on the room. True, true, and true.

Then I’ll stand behind one person and ask the group: “how many months was Joe here with his company?” A few people remember; often they remember different numbers.

I’ll then ask, “What was Joe’s interesting tidbit or factoid?”

The whole group responds immediately: “Arrived late to his own wedding,” or “chickened out parachuting last weekend,” or whatever.

We have a good time with that one, talking about why we remember personal tidbits more than we remember data. But what’s really interesting is: so what?

What should we do with the observation that people remember personal quirks and stories and anecdotes more than they do objective data?

What should a client relationship manager do with that observation? A salesperson? An accountant?

What should you do with that observation? 

How Presenters Can Deal With A.D.D. Audiences

Two things happened to me at the end of last week that gave me pause.

On day one, I gave a corporate seminar for about 40 people. On the following day, I was an attendee in a 200-person conference. (It feels great to occasionally be in the stadium seats, instead of down there with the lions).

In the first case, there was a very mild form of the seminar-business occupational hazard known as multi-tasking: desktops open, blackberries, Twitter, Facebook, email. It’s been getting worse for several years. I made my usual clever plea for paying attention, and got reasonably good compliance; though it did deteriorate during the day.

I find that doing workshops lately is a little tougher in some respects; it’s harder to get the audience to interact. They’re not leaving, they’re just slightly checked-out. It’s not just ADD—it’s ADOSO, as in “Attention Deficit—Oh! Shiny Object!” (Thanks @scobleizer)

In an attempt to control that behavior, I’m acutely aware that I’m stumbling these days in the no-man’s land between requesting, ordering, and pleading. When I’m doing keynotes, it’s fine; it’s the workshop scene that feels different.

On day two, I came in deliciously a minute late and sat down where I felt like—not my gig, time to relax and enjoy. It was a social media conference; they had a very large screen for slides, and next to it, a smaller one displaying ongoing real-time twitter notes (check it out at #bdi). Each presenter had about 20-25 minutes, including Q&A.

Pretty much everyone in the audience had their heads down looking at their newest super-lightweight portables, iPhones and Droids. When they looked up, it was often as not to look at the public tweet-screen. (Yes,I tweezed out a few tweets myself).

At first I cringed instinctively out of sympathy for the speakers. Until I noticed that they did not seem noticeably bothered by it at all. In fact, lots of speakers today are using Twitter as part of the real-time interaction. The line for open mics for Q&A was not empty, the questions were great, and the real-time twitter dialogue was on point.

The conference subject matter itself—like a Greek chorus—gave the meta-text of what I was seeing. Social CRM goes beyond seller-to-buyer dialogue to include buyer-to-buyer. The old line about one satisfied customer tells four but one dissatisfied customer tells 12—that’s history. They now tell 500,000, and do so instantly. The web is your new website. Inbound not outbound marketing.

In other words—the heads-down twittering was definitely multi-tasking, but that doesn’t mean there was no dialogue going on. In fact, there was a ton of dialogue.

More content per minute flowed through that room than if everyone had hung on every word a speaker said. One speaker is limited by the human ability to enunciate sounds rapidly, and—it’s only one speaker. We can all read much faster than someone can talk. Asynchronous one-off communication is bound to be less rich than everyone talking at once; it’s just that it’s harder to focus in the latter case.

There are 2 things you can say about all this. First, it’s not wrong, just different. There are deep intensive interactions with other human beings, and there are shallow, broad interactions with other human beings. We’re seeing a shift from the former to the latter–in terms of gross numbers at least.

There’s no right or wrong about this. What is important is the ability to go in either direction as the situation demands. And, there is a huge benefit. The involvement of others is exactly how you get collaboration. We are, at a large level, sacrificing some intimacy for the sake of collaboration.

It’s also true that, in a world where intimacy holds a smaller “share of relationship,” the ability to gain that intimacy will command a premium. It’s not gone, just more rare, and more valuable for its rarity.

The second point is simply, this is the future. Disapproval of the downside of social-babble has very little impact on whether it’s going to keep on happening. Our failure to approve of the downside simply keeps us from gaining the benefits of the inevitable upside.

Presenters, get used to it. The only relevant question is: how will you respond?

For starters, don’t stand there in front of the tsunami. But don’t just get out of the way, either. Grab your surfboard.

If Your Sales Training Department Ran Your Church

What if your sales training department ran your church? (Or synagogue, or mosque; this is meant to be an equal-opportunity religious metaphor).

Suppose you move into a new community, and are looking for a place of worship. The minister (I’m just going to use the one metaphor from now on, please infer your preferred tradition) meets you, and says:

“Welcome. First we’d like you to fill out this spiritual needs-assessment instrument, so we can appropriately benchmark you for your level of sinfulness and spirituality potential.

"Part I evaluates your sinfulness; we prefer the so-called "Ten Commandments" instrument; Part II measures your level of mastery of the behaviors and habits of Highly Spiritual People (HSPs).

"You can fill it out over there in the cubicle; be sure to use only the Number 2 pencils provided.”

You do so. You take it back to the minister.

“Well, let’s see what we’ve got here, let’s pull the quick-scoring answer template. Hmm, only 5 out of 10 on the commandments. Well at least you go the biggies right, didn’t kill anyone lately, am I right, heh heh, sorry my little joke there…"

“You’re also scoring at a “meets expectations” level on your HSP. You probably know the Golden Rule, that sort of thing; but you probably don’t give alms to the poor, right? And tithing, fuggedaboudit! Am I right? Heh heh heh thought so, yup.

“OK, your achievement levels put you into the AIS group; Advanced Intermediate Spirituality. It’ll be a bit of a stretch, but we have some remedial online CBT programs that you can study up on. They meet at 11AM.

You sign up. Your kids are admitted to their own appropriate Sunday school classes. Embarrassingly, at higher levels than you.

You show up Sunday early, to be greeted at the door by a deacon.

“Please fill out this expectations document for today’s service. You can write in your own expectations if you want, but the multiple choice checkboxes are enough for most people.

You go in. You listen to the sermon.

“Today I’ll talk about Daniel and the lions. You will learn the skills and behaviors associated with Advanced Intermediate Spirituality with respect to faith. On leaving, you will be able to recognize faith when you hear it, identify the three main levels of faith, and to be reasonably faithful yourself. And we’ll do some faith role-plays (what we like to call “praying”) to make it realistic. So now let’s get started, shall we?

You sit through the sermon. It concludes with:

“The sermon today has been about Daniel and the lions. You should have learned the skills and behaviors associated with Advanced Intermediate Spirituality with respect to faith. You should now be able to recognize faith when you hear it, identify the three main types of faith, and to be reasonably faithful. And, you’ve experienced the behaviors of faith through role-play (“praying”).

“Please take a moment now to complete your evaluation document that the deacon handed you on the way in.

You read the document. It asks:

“The sermon for today met my expectations" (1 definitely, 2 mostly, 3 sort of, 4 not really, 5 not at all)

“I am now able to recognize basic faith” (1 definitely, 2 mostly, 3 sort of, 4 not really, 5 not at all)

“I now have a moderately high faith level” (1 definitely, 2 mostly, 3 sort of, 4 not really, 5 not at all)

“The minister trained well today" (1 definitely, 2 mostly, 3 sort of, 4 not really, 5 not at all)

You leave the church; the minister greets you on the way out the door. “How’d you like the service?” he asks, sneaking a glance at your evaluation document.

“Well, I’m still not sure I feel like I really have faith,” you say apologetically.

“That’s OK,” says the minister. “Just fake it ‘til you make it. You’ll get the hang of it. Continue to meet your metrics, and everything will work out—just have faith in the process.”


Hopefully you enjoyed that. In case it’s not clear, I’m trying to suggest that when it comes to certain "soft" subjects, the traditional management-by-numbers and train-by-behaviors can feel inadequate to the task.

How is this relevant? In training, I hope it’s clear. Different techniques suit different subjects.

But I think it speaks to issues of management and leadership too. Do you believe in values, missions and belief systems? If you’re trying to manage a values-based organization, what approaches work?

Managing through behavioral metrics doesn’t quite do the job when it comes to motivating people to higher-order beliefs.

Or, to put it nakedly, if still metaphorically: what’s the ROI on believing in a God? And what’s wrong with that question?

Stop Measuring ROI on Soft Skills Training

Let’s tackle a garden variety corporate orthodoxy: the one that says your company shouldn’t do training without a measurable return on your training investment.

Variations on the theme: if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it; all training must be defined in terms of behavioral objectives; each objective must link to behavioral milestones, each quantifiable and financially ratable.

Let me speak plainly: Subjecting soft-skills training to pure skills-mastery financial analytics is intellectually dishonest, foolish, wrong-headed, useless at best and counter-productive at worst.

There, I said it.

Now let me explain—and offer an alternative.

There are are sprinklings of truth in the rush to measure soft-skills ROI—but they are surrounding a germ of crap, like a Bizarro oyster and anti-pearl. Worse yet, the ones who buy and propagate this dogma are those who buy training, and those who sell and deliver it.

The ROI-behavioral view of training is fine for pure cognitive or pure behavioral skills. If your focus is on teaching Mandarin to oil company execs, mastering the report generation functions of CRM systems, or teaching XML programming, you can stop reading this now.

But if you’re talking about communications skills, trust, customer relationships, listening, negotiation, speaking, giving and receiving feedback, consultative thinking, influencing, persuasion, team-building and collaboration, then read on.  There are at least four problems with measuring "return" on these kinds of programs.

First problem: definitions. We evaluate golf coaching by lowered golf scores—neat, clean, unarguable. But try defining “good communication.” Or trust. Or negotiation. You might as well define the taste of water, or the quality of love. To accept behavioral indicators (“she smiles, she touches me”) is to miss an essence.

Second: causality. All causality is unprovable, though we know when to accept it anyway. “I had 3 lessons with a golf coach, and cut my score by 8 strokes. It was the coaching—you can quote me!”

But what if I take one course in trust, and another in listening. Suppose my sales go up next year by 50%. Which course did it? Or did my company’s 70% growth have something to do with it? Or my happy new marriage? Too many variables.

Third: the Hawthorne effect. (Or, the Heisenberg Principle in physics). Sometimes the act of measuring alters the measurement of the thing being measured. If I know I’m being graded on listening, I’ll do whatever it is I think that you think makes me look like I’m listening. Which destroys real listening.

If you hype net-promoter scores, many will game the scoring—thus reducing the genuineness that underlay the original idea.

Fourth: the perversion of individual measurement. Most soft skills deal with our relationships to others. The drive to individually behavioralize, then metricize, has the effect of killing relationships—an ironic outcome for relationship-targeting training.

Suppose a course teaches focusing more on the customer, listening, helping others achieve their goals, helping teammates grow—worthy objectives, found in many programs.

The only reason to define those results financially is to evaluate them financially. Thus someone—somewhere between the CEO and the person getting trained—is responsible for deciding to do more, or less, relationship-building programs—by using short-term individual measurements, usually with short-term incentives.

Hence the perversity: training people to focus on relationships, by measuring and rewarding them individually.

“The more unselfish you are, the more money we’ll give you for being unselfish.
“The more you get rated as providing ‘excellent customer service,’ the more we’ll pay you” (which leads to pathetic begging by CSRs)
“The more you focus on others, the more we’ll pay you.
“Quick, get over here, I want to genuinely listen to you so I can raise my quarterly bonus and get promoted.”

Raise this perversity to the level of an industry over decades, and you can understand why pharmaceutical and brokerage companies have accrued such low ratings on trust.

So what’s the answer? Simple. And you don’t even have to give up your addiction to metrics.

Just measure subjective rankings.

Ask people these simple questions, over time:

1. Would you do that training again?
2. Would you recommend others attend?
3. Would you include it in your budget?
4. How do you rate that training compared to these other five programs?

You can run regressions, chi-squares and segmentations on that data to your heart’s content—as long as it’s measuring subjective data in ranking terms. Just stop trying to monetize interpersonal relationships by measuring ROI on soft skills training.

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)



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 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