Friday, March 7, 2008

Trust Is not a Trivial Pursuit

The basis of every relationship is trust.  The presence or absence of trust fundamentally determines whether the relationship will work.

When trust is present relationships generate a “high-trust dividend.” The effect of trust can be measured in terms of time, money and well being. High trust maximizes the potential for faster, more profitable and happier relationships. The absence of trust means that things go more slowly, less profitably and less happily. Low trust generates a significant relationship penalty that can be seen and felt.

Being trustworthy

Trust is a combination of what you do and who you are.

You trust someone and have confidence in them when they are competent, reliable, open and principled. Thinking of trust this way makes trust concrete. It enables you to measure, investigate and demonstrate trust. There should always be a positive outcome in each of the four areas. A lapse in any area causes suspicion and lowers the confidence you have in the relationship.

Sensible people neither trust too much or too little. Using “smart trust” they actively engage in high trust relationships with high trust dividends. They ask probing questions that test the relationship and hold people accountable for lapses.

Collecting the trust dividend

People who invest in trust collect dividends: their relationships are richer and more rewarding in terms of time, money and well being. People who are trusted find it easier to get things done with others and have a knack for finding common ground with people of all kinds. They usually have a supportive network in place to help them when the time for action comes. When people are trusted it is easier for them to make connections and motivate others toward a common vision.

Once you start thinking about trust in this way it is easier to build trust into every part of your life. At work you can eliminate policies and ways of doing business that erode trust. How does the performance appraisal system, budget review process or hiring procedure contribute to trust? Are policies as open as the limits of confidentiality allow, or do they encourage secrecy and suspicion? Do you include issues of trust in vendor and supplier decisions?

…and how to do it

When we work with clients we help them see that trust doesn’t just happen. Trust needs to be pursued and built in a purposeful way.

1. Focus. (The shift in knowledge): Understand what is important and what trust behaviors have the most impact and potential.

2. Grow. (The behavior shift): Understand how to demonstrate Competence, Reliability, Openness and Principles. Develop the appropriate skills and resources. Actively use “smart” trust.

3. Relate. (The shift in connectedness): Pursue and develop trusted relationships by building connections.

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