Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Trust Is Not a Trivial Pursuit

Imagine you’re going to hire a babysitter, pet sitter or dog walker. Obviously they have to be trustworthy before you let them come into your home and care for your precious one.

Over the years it has become increasingly obvious to me that the basis of every relationship at work is that same level of trust. The presence or absence of trust fundamentally determines whether the relationship will work.

The caregiver has to demonstrate the four aspects of trust before you’ll hire them.

  1. You have to be sure they can do the job in the sense of being competent to watch, pay attention, keep your loved one safe and deal with any issues that arise.
  2. You have to be sure you can rely on them in the sense of them being willing and available when you need them.
  3. You’ll be more comfortable trusting them if you can check in on what they’re doing, maybe by phoning in or observing what they do with your loved one before you leave them alone together.
  4. And finally, you have to trust that if there is anything you haven’t thought of they are the kind of person who will do the right thing without having to be told.

Trustworthy people are Competent, Reliable, Open and Principled.

When trust is present relationships generate a “high trust dividend” that 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

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 into every aspect of an organization. We help clients “bake in” trust so their organizations are happier places to work with better business results.

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