What Do we Do About Trust?

Trust me

“The moment there is suspicion about a person's motives, everything he does becomes tainted.”

[Mahatma Ghandi]

It's the final months of World War II Gen. Douglas MacArthur is fighting the Japanese for control of the Philippines. The general reveals his military genius and broken heart as he posts his army on the island of Leyte, home of his long-lost lover, Consuelo Trani. Capt. Jay Marsh is MacArthur's 23-year-old aide-de-camp, who is fluent in Japanese and becomes an envoy to prisoners and to the general's officers, also has a Filipina lover.

This is the opening story in James Webb's The Emperor's General, a story about trust, compassion and loyalty. Webb speculates that Douglas MacArthur lost the peace by allowing Japan to regain its sphere of influence in the Pacific Rim. An hypothesis Webb presents through the book's protagonist, the young captain Jay Marsh.

Marsh suspects the general is shielding Japan's imperial elite from war-crimes trials by various military commissions. Marsh soon sheds his naïveté, becoming both seduced and appalled by the Japanese-U.S. alliance of global hegemony and joining in the interaction, friendships, and ultimately his outmaneuvering of key Japanese government figures. With the trial and hanging of Japanese General Yamashita as the central story.

Webb's narrative device in The Emperor's General is to make Marsh into MacArthur's doppelgänger, a character whose intense love of the East is entangled with a sense of compromised honor. The coming of age of Marsh is intertwined with McArthur's reconstruction of Japan as seen through his eyes.

Trust changes everything

Trust is a fundamental building block in relationships —a discount or premium depending on the level of trust we have. The delta between the two could be significant. It could make or break a deal, an opportunity, or a relationship.

In The Thin Book of Trust, Charles Feltman says:

What Is Trust? There are many different models and definitions of trust in the published literature. However, the focus of this book is to learn to build and maintain trust in the workplace.

For this purpose, trust is defined as choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions. When you trust someone, what you make vulnerable can range from concrete things such as money, a job, a promotion, or a particular goal, to less tangible things like a belief you hold, a cherished way of doing things, your “good name,” or even your sense of happiness and well being. Whatever you choose to make vulnerable to the other’s actions, you do so because you believe their actions will support it or, at the very least, will not harm it.

Some people tend to extend trust to others easily and with little or no evidence it is warranted. They only withdraw their trust it if is betrayed. Others believe that people must earn their trust by demonstrating trustworthiness. Whether you tend to extend trust more or less easily, you do so by assessing the probability that the other person will support or harm what you value in the future. In this sense choosing to trust or distrust is a risk assessment.

How do we become more trustworthy? Feltman suggests that to test our level of trustworthiness we look at four areas:

SINCERITY —the assessment that you are honest, that you say what you mean and mean what you say; you can be believed and taken seriously. It also means when you express an opinion it is valid, useful, and is backed up by sound thinking and evidence. Finally, it means that your actions will align with your words.

RELIABILITY —the assessment that you meet the commitments you make, that you keep your promises.

COMPETENCE —the assessment that you have the ability to do what you are doing or propose to do. In the workplace this usually means the other person believes you have the requisite capacity, skill, knowledge, and resources, to do a particular task or job.

CARE —the assessment that you have the other person’s interests in mind as well as your own when you make decisions and take actions.

With care being the most important to building lasting trust. Care is the fourth leg to sincerity, reliability, and competence, and what holds the broader idea of trust together.

“When people believe you are only concerned with your self-interest and don’t consider their interests as well, they may trust your sincerity, reliability and competence, but they will tend to limit their trust of you to specific situations or transactions.”

It's easy to see why caring is the key component.

Tucked under the oft-cited figure of low engagement at work are low levels of trust and confidence in senior management, skepticism about leaders acting with honesty and integrity, and a high number of people who have observed illegal or unethical conduct on the job. Which is why a bad relationships with their manager is the number one reason why people leave a company.

What do we do about trust?

In The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey discusses the principle of credibility and how it's the foundation of all trust. To create it, we need to ask four important questions of ourselves “Are you congruent?” to understand if we have integrity, “What's your agenda?” for intent, “Are you relevant?” to determine our capabilities, and “What's your track record?” to be honest about the results we deliver.

He then lists 13 behaviors that help rebuild a potential lost off trust form talking straight to demonstrating respect, creating transparency, righting wrongs, showing loyalty, delivering results, getting better, confronting reality, clarifying expectations, practicing accountability, listening first, keeping commitments, and extending trust.

The principle of behavior is about learning how to interact with others in ways that increase trust and avoid the behaviors that destroy it. Easier said than done. But not all things are equal in the trust balance. Covey says there are a few things we should keep in mind:

Each trust account is unique —recognizing uniqueness in people and situations can help us be more effective

All deposits and withdrawals are not created equal —little things can have large effects, a well-timed “thank you” or an acknowledgement goes a long way

What constitutes a “deposit” to one person may not to another —it's a good idea to find out, and we don't necessarily need to ask directly; we can observe and appreciate what others value

Withdrawals are typically larger than deposits —Warren Buffett says, “it takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Covey says, “Don't kick the bucket.”

Sometimes the fastest way to build trust is to stop making withdrawals —it could mean making difficult decisions, like letting go someone who is dragging down a whole team even if they are or used to be star performers; Covey uses selling an unprofitable part of the business as an example

Recognize that each relationship has two trust accounts —ours and that of the other person

The wake we leave with our behavior is a combination of character and competence. As we continue to humanize brands to interact in social media and go direct to customers, competence is starting to take on more holistic qualities—which is greatly enhancing the definition of keeping the promises we make. It's not enough to be technically good. When the experience is poor to lackluster that erodes trust.

In the last ten years, as work continues to become more personal again—in structure and nature, along with necessity given we are in a knowledge, service, and experience economy—the aspects of behavior that relate to character have become more important.

Says Feltman:

The disaster of distrust in the workplace is that the strategies people use to protect themselves inevitably get in the way of their ability to effectively work with others.

It's personal

Our work lives are intertwined with our lives, directly or indirectly, we are on the receiving end of issues that bubble up because of a loss of trust. We cannot do good work when we are immersed in interpersonal conflict, political infighting, analysis paralysis, status quo stagnation, and apathy, or cynicism.

On top of delivering sub-par work, a break down in trust encourages the emergence of fear, anger, frustration, and creates some degree of misery, annoyance, resentment, or resignation. It is personal.

But we cannot trust ourselves too much when it comes to identifying where we are falling short. That's because we all tend to give ourselves more credit than others would. This gap alone calls for a more structured approach to receiving and giving feedback.

Data is our ally

“In God we Trust, all others bring data”

[W. Edward Deming]

On the quantitative side, we should learn to assign the proper weight to disruptions caused by interpersonal conflict, analysis paralysis, and lack of innovation a part of our strategizing—a rotten apple could be causing more damage than immediately visible on the balance sheet.

Taking emotion out of the equation, we should reach a higher level of sophistication and calculating the cost to the organization of covering for, repairing product, or fixing relationships. Because of inertia, when we stop hitting our numbers is often very bad news.

Qualitative researcher says, “stories are data with a soul.”  They contain the specificity and concreteness we want. Over time, they show us patterns, if we're willing to listen and take note. The idea of trust is still a big concept and like any complex thing with many moving parts, to solve for it, we want to look at the components.

It's possible to gain clarity on what is not working and help someone clean up their act by addressing  what lies underneath. Where are the pain points? Dr. Brené Brown defines trust by the acronym BRAVING, which stands for:

  • respect boundaries
  • be reliable
  • accountability
  • the vault—what we say in conversation stays here, AND also, do not share what is it not yours to share. As we noted after the banking and corporate collapses a few years ago, trust is the new transparency. It applies more than ever with data breaches.
  • integrity—choosing courage over comfort, what’s right over what’s fun, fast, and easy, and practicing your values.
  • non-judgment
  • generosity—make the most generous assumptions we can make about mistakes

How do we use it?

1. Say, for example, that you want to be generous with someone, what boundaries need to be in place for you to stay in your integrity while you are generous?

2. Or say you have a feedback conversation and there is a reliability problem that is keeping the trust level down. Isolating and addressing that piece is more concrete and useful.

It all comes down to the people at the top of an organization. We cannot ask people to do what we're not doing —for example, making difficult decisions, modelling behaviors, embodying clear values, showing work ethic. As Brené Brown says, “We are responsible for the energy we bring into the room.”


[image: Trust Me was a show on TNT]

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