Trust: A Rare Commodity

Trust can be an interesting concept.  Sometimes esoteric and sometimes as clear as day.  What is “trust?”  What is the impact of “trust” on a business or organization?  What is the impact on a team?  An individual?  First, let’s define “Trust” as a concept.

Trust Defined

Trust is dependability, believability, and authenticity.  We can believe in, rely on, and see individuals and organizations as authentic.  Unfortunately, many of us do not trust others or organizations as a whole.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer 62% of 25 to 64 year olds trust corporations less today than they did one year ago.  And in one of Performancepoint’s surveys “Trust in Senior Leadership” was cited as the top reason for lower engagement levels in organizations.

To create trust we must be able to take an interest in others more consistently.  Organizations and individuals tend to be self oriented relating things back to themselves.  Why?  Pace, distractions, egos, agenda’s and bureaucracy get in the way.  Also, culturally many of us are brought up to focus on self achievements and place value on self.  Here are a number of examples of how self oriented behavior plays out in the workplace:

  • Sales representatives that miss sales opportunities because they are pushing a specific product
  • Customer service reps that quote policy prior to even understanding the customer complaint and situation
  • Front desk clerks that use your name artificially in a conversation rather than paying attention to you because they are focused on standards regardless of their value
  • A manager that talks to you about your career while finishing emails
  • A co-worker that spends more time looking at their blackberry rather than engaging in the team initiative during a meeting

The Trust Impact

Trust makes the world go round.  Without trust we:

  • Alienate people we work with.
  • Reduce healthy discussion and buy-in.
  • Stop change from occurring or being successful.
  • Promote unnecessary internal competition.
  • Reduce collaboration.
  • Reduce productivity.
  • Create misunderstandings.
  • Promote group think.
  • Increase turnover.
  • Create “Or” thinking.
  • Drive overconfidence.
  • Limit other’s contributions.

In the end trust is the ability to focus on others rather than ourselves.  It is the ability to be present.  Be here now and deal with each moment as it comes!

For a more in-depth look at the state of trust check of the Trust Barometer 2009:


7 thoughts on “Trust: A Rare Commodity

  1. You said, “In the end trust is the ability to focus on others rather than ourselves.” That is so true. If you are able to earn the trust of others, it’s because you build a reputation for doing what you say. When you do what you say, it’s usually because you care about the effect that not following through would have on others.

    Such a good point to remember.

  2. Hi Brad,
    That was an interesting write-up! I agree with you about generating trust and the positive outcome it would have on the organization. From my experience as a Customer service rep I can say that a major emphasis was laid on adhering to quality standards which actually meant addressing the customer by their name, repeating certain other statements that were part of the call, this in fact resulted in poor customer service as most agents were more focused on meeting the required parameters rather than focusing on the problem at hand or trying to solve the customer’s problem.

  3. I’ve been thinking about the subject of ‘trust’ for a while. Especially as we emerge from an economic crisis that many believe was caused by the failure of organizational leaders to embrace the value set required by society to ‘make things work’. This has primarily fallen upon the shoulders of the banking sector, but has also included politicians and the media (to name just a couple of groupings). Additionally, some people see that their organizations have taken advantage of the situation, to damage the trust between employed and employer by reducing headcount opportunistically rather than rationally.

    Consequently, I reflect on how we emerge into the post recessional period. Will there be an incresing demand from customers and employees to see a much more explicit demonstration of trust within organizations value statments and behaviours, or will we return to the same state as before?

  4. Great post. I recently blogged on trust after a reader commented that I’d left TRUST out of my list of forms of recognition employees need. Trust is a critical form of employee recognition, showing very clearly how much you value that employee, their work and their knowledge. Employees who are not micromanaged but trusted to get the job done usually will. And, more often than not, employees who are trusted will come up with innovative, creative (and perhaps more cost-effective) solutions than if an approach had been dictated to them.

    A fun (and funny) video on what trust in the workplace can do is available here:

  5. Nice and thought provoking topic.

    I have been thinking on this topic for a while. After certain level of dissection, a question came to my mind that “Is trust a virtue or a trade ?” The reason to ask this is, the more I thought of trust, I felt that, most of the times, its our expectation on others with a motive that I would get xyz for sure, which can be translated as selfish interest. To the point others interest is in line with your’s, it will be trust.

    I am not sure if this is right and still trying to understand but couldn’t resist putting it here.

  6. how many cheaters did you face in your life either professional at work or personal please advice how to avoid and how can you tell if some one is cheating you professionally where he or she is an artist in this matter. regards

    • I have found that there are fewer cheaters out there than what people think. Unfortunately there is a lack of understanding of each other and our differences. When we interpret these differences through our own experiences we give meaning to them…many times incorrectly. The only way to overcome these challenges is to listen, talk, and learn rather than become defensive, shut down, or become passive aggressive.

      For those real cheaters out there most of them act out of fear and self interest and it shows. When we meet them at their level we fall prey to losing our ground and ourselves in the process. The best way to overcome cheaters is to be transparent, make your organization transparent, and focus on others and possibilities. Cheaters can gain in the short term, but they can never outperform those doing great work in a great way over the long term. Just ask Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford.

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