The Currency of Trust

I’m at the CIPD conference, listening to Rachel Botsman talking about the new era of trust, and why it is key for success.

She argues that the way we engage with each other, they way we do business, has radically changed over the last decade.  Aided by digital platforms we rely on others, often strangers, to help us make decisions.

Do you read product reviews? Check out the star ratings? Visit restaurant or hotel review sites?  Check out employers on Glassdoor?

We don’t know these people.  But we follow the comments of the crowd.

Botsman tells us that this new era of trust means more accountability for businesses- and we need to embed trust in our organisational DNA.

Here are her key points about why trust is any organisation’s most valuable asset.

Trust has become one of those words, like innovation and disruption, that people are using a lot. But what does it mean? How can we think about trust?

Who do you trust? What companies? Which people?

Trust is highly contextual. Trust people to do what? When we think about whether we trust someone or something, what do we really mean?

When we think about trust in companies, trust means different things.  Do we trust that they will deliver a product on time, or that they treat their employees well?

We all use trust signals.  Signs or symbols that help us decide whether someone is trustworthy.  Of course some signals are louder than others.  The trust gap – when we think we have enough information to make a decision, we have an illusion of information.  This can be dangerous.  We make decisions on poor information.  Can technology help us solve this problem, or does it magnify it?

How can we make smarter trust decisions?  Trust is a health issue. If you have experienced a breach of trust, it can be very damaging.  We see this in organisations too – low trust organisations that are also low performing.

Trust is a continuous process.  Organisations say that they have trust as a value.  Can trust ever be a value?  Trust is a human feeling.  A continuous process that happens between people.  It’s not a question of having it and always having it.

Organisations say that they want to build trust.  You can’t.  You have to earn it by continuously demonstrating that you are worthy of it.

We make allsorts of mistakes when it comes to trust.  We live in a culture in which there is trust on speed. We swipe to accept connections, order an Uber, arrange a date.  This is now being baked into the design of services.

In some many parts of our lives we are automating trust.  We give away our trust to technology.  But trust cannot be automated; it is a human process.  Efficiency can be the enemy of trust.  We can mistake convenience for trust.  Trust is the currency of interactions.

A trust leap is a mental model. What are we doing when we ask people to try a new service or product – taking a leap in trust. Leaps are a conduit for new ideas to travel.  When we see that enough people have benefited from a trust leap, others quickly follow.  They pull people from an unknown place to a known one.  We have been taking trust leaps since the beginning of time.  In our jobs and our lives, we are being asked to take leaps all the time.  This can mean we feel exhausted or even anxious.  We are leaping at a speed we have never known before.  We ask people to take trust leaps at work – use a new system, believe a new leader, try a new way of working.  How does this make people feel? Change programme can fail because we fail to recognise that we are asking them to make a trust leap – it is a genuinely scary place to be.

When we ask people to trust us, we assume that other people are in the same trust place that we are.  When we ask people to trust there are two variables.  There is known, and unknown.  The line in between is risk. Risk is exposure to uncertainty with a possibility of loss that matters.

Trust is a confident relationship with the unknown.  When we see it through this lens we can see why it is so important when it comes to change in particular.  To trust we are also vulnerable.  It is a mixture of our highest hopes and deepest fears.  This is why it hurts so much when it breaks down.

Often, people want to build trust through grand gestures.  But it is built in the smallest of moments, every day.  It is not an enormous Christmas present but our on-going actions.

Can you measure trust in an organisations? It’s difficult.  We all have a trust batter – it can be charged or drained.  It is said that you can build trust through transparency.  It is a common narrative – but is it really a common cure?  If we see trust as a confident relationship with the unknown, this isn’t necessarily true.  Trust and transparency are not mutually dependant.  If you need everything to be transparent – you have to some extent given up on trust.  Disclosure and openness are good things – but if everything has to be transparent then you are reducing the need for trust.  We need to think more about this relationship.  More transparency does not create more trust.  (Note from Gem- it sounds a bit like making your OH take a lie detector test on the Jeremy Kyle show to see if you can trust them – you can always rely on me for a highbrow reference). 

So if transparency isn’t the thing, how do we increase trustworthiness.  There are four traits; competence, reliability, integrity, benevolence.  The first two are ‘how’.  The second two are about the why.

When we are in a culture of growth and efficiency, when technology is moving at pace – how do we then achieve integrity at scale. We can all play a critical role. It isn’t about the grand gestures that we make, but our everyday actions.  This is how we will build trust.  Each time we play this role, we are acting to preserve the most precious and valuable asset: trust.

 

This is a live blog from the CIPD annual conference.  Please excuse any typos! 

 

 

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