Sunday, March 25, 2007

Trust - The Essential Core Value

Stop, Think, Reflect…

Can you be trusted? How do you know?

What are the critical components to building trust in a relationship?

How do you approach trust: I trust until shown someone cannot be trusted? I do not trust until someone proves he/she can be trusted. What are the possible outcomes to each approach?

Describe high-trust behaviors versus low-trust behaviors.

When trust is high, what happens to fear? Conversely, when fear is high, what happens to trust?

How do these behaviors affect an organization’s financial bottom-line?


“Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.” Sir Isaac Newton

A common theme in many of the current best selling books, Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams, The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman and The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki send the message for the need for more and better collaboration. For collaboration to be successful there is a need to create community built on trust. Webster defines trust as firm reliance on integrity, ability, or character in someone or something.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, survival is the primary need. To survive requires trust in ourselves as well as in others. To move to higher level of need - thriving, trust must excel. For trust to excel requires character, competence and connection.

Character is what others say about us. It is about reputation. It is not just how one behaves before others, but is consistent in behavior when alone. The way you react to finding a wallet in a room full of people hopefully mirrors the way you react to finding that wallet when you are by yourself. Character is the essential part of brand in developing, delivering and keeping a promise.

Competence as a part of trust is having the skills, knowledge and abilities to meet required needs. In today’s world, it is no longer about earning a living, but rather about learning a living. Competence is a verb, a continuous state of learning and growing.

Connection is bridge building. When we meet someone for the first time, usually conversation seeks to find connection. It is more than just getting along with people. At the highest level, it is about being interested in others rather than trying to be interesting to others. Consider the challenge of connection from the Prayer of Saint Francis, “Grant that I may not seek so much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.”

Experience Trust

There are all kinds of trust initiatives, but perhaps the simplest experience gets to the heart of trust. It is important to clarify before beginning the initiative that people have the option of just observing.

Participants move around the room, meeting each participant eye-to-eye and make only one of three statements to a fellow participant:
- I trust you.
- I don not know if I trust you.
- I do not trust you.
No additional comment maybe made. No additional explanation is given.

After everyone has had a chance to encounter everyone, ask everyone to pause and write down what he/she just experienced. This is especially important for the introverts in attendance.

After a few minutes of personal reflection, break the larger group into uncommon small groups of three to five people to discuss this experience. Ask the participants to share what happened including what he/she felt and saw. Follow up with questions on why. Finally, ask for connections of this initiative back to the organization including internal and external customers, the organization’s vision and the organization’s processes.

When it feels right, ask the small groups to share with the whole group key points of discussion. Look for commonalities as well as unusual insights.

The challenge of this initiative to ask people to reflect on what he/she will stop doing, continue doing and start doing. Successful organizations have a nurturing, stimulating, trusting culture. What do participants take away form this initiative to apply to developing a better culture?

Suggested Reading

The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything by Stephen M. R. Covey, Free Press, 2006, ISBN-10:0-7432-9730-X

The Cheating Culture by David Callahan, Harcourt, 2004, ISBN-10: 0151010188

The Enemies of Trust by Robert Galford and Anne Siebold Drapeau, Harvard Business Review, February 2003

Suggested Movies

Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery - Ken Burns - see -

Apollo 13 - "Houston, we have a problem."- see -

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