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9 critical questions to help you build trust

December 11, 2017

At a Giving Tuesday panel a few weeks ago, I was asked to talk about trends in trust and how to build it… in three minutes. Since the timeline was a little tight, I thought I’d round out the conversation here ūüôā

First: Trust in institutions is declining globally and in Canada

It’s well established that trust in media, government, business and NGOs is hitting record lows globally. In a “post-truth” and “fake news” era, how could it be otherwise? In Canada, the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer shows we’ve shifted from neutral to distrusting of our major institutions for the first time in the survey’s 17 year history.

Second: Declining trust is an important individual, community and business issue

So what if we’re distrustful? Think of any organization that has to work harder to reach and to convince a particular audience. There’s a cost to that. I’m not just talking about persuading someone to buy a certain product. I’m talking about needing people to respond to important public policy, to donate to your cause or to to convey important health information.

Think of a stock that crashes because of a scandal or an organization’s inability to attract good candidates because of poor ethics. There’s a cost to that.

Think of a community that is less resilient because people can’t or won’t help each other through a crisis. There are major human and financial costs implications.

People tend to think that measuring, building and nurturing trust is “soft.” In fact, it’s a tangible bottom line issue. Trusted public companies tend to have better performance. Higher levels of trust reduce transaction costs and improve the likelihood of productive interactions.

How much money can an organization save when it negotiates a contract on a handshake? Millions. Ask Warren Buffett.

Even if you’re not negotiating multi-million dollar deals, the erosion of trust can have an impact on your organization.

Third: There are easy ways to build trust in your organization

Build trust by showing ability, integrity and benevolence

While there are more than 90 academic definitions of trust ranging from trust as a feeling, a behaviour or an operating framework and many shifting dimensions from shallow transactional trust to deep identification trust, a good place to start is understanding that Trust= Ability+Integrity+Benevolence

People don’t have time to verify all your credentials, so how do you show them you know what you’re doing?

  • What does your physical or digital location say about you?¬†

What does your environment say about you? Is it fun, welcoming, easy to navigate? While your physical or digital presence needs to align with your brand, it can also be used to build trust. Is your restaurant clean? Is your office organized? Are your tools in good condition? Is your online presence user-friendly? Do your online platforms work? Are your communications clear and compelling? What does your “real estate” tell me about your ability to do the job? These are all clues about your ability to deliver on your promise.

  • Do you have third party designations or awards? Are they showcased?

People use third party validation as a shortcut to trust. So include ¬†professional designations on your business cards, put up certificates and awards in your space – modestly – and list accomplishments on your website. There’s a reason Best Employers, JD Power, Green 30 and Most Respected Company competitions are so popular. They serve as a proxy. (Did you know the Oscars and the Super Bowl are both PR strategies to sell more movie tickets and extend the football season, respectively?)

  • Who vouches for you?

Few things are more persuasive than a great testimonial – especially when the person giving it has nothing to gain from an endorsement- so forget paid influencers. But who should speak on behalf of your organization? Of course, that depends. In a crisis, you have to go with top leadership because they are accountable; but in a range of other communications, take the time to think about who is more likely to be trusted.

Tough employee conversation? Face-to-face with the immediate manager is the best option. Online product reviews? Honest, objective assessments from total strangers take the day. Direct mail campaign for charitable giving? “A person like me” who has been helped by your cause.

If you look at the Edelman Trust Barometer slide, you can see that trust across the range of spokespeople dropped last year. Still, academic and technical experts continue to lead the pack in credibility, followed by “A person like yourself.” There’s a reason people read Consumer Reports and The Lemonade Guide. We need an expert we can trust as a shortcut to doing all the due diligence ourselves.

This does not mean your CEO is not competent or credible. It means that because they have a vested interest in the outcome – their job, stock prices, etc – they are not always the best spokesperson. Organizationally, people trust regular employees. That’s why Ford uses them in their commercials.

Trust in Canada

 Show integrity 

No moral compas app

When world leaders can change their tune on a daily basis and people care more¬†about “personal brand” than authenticity, it feels like integrity is in short supply. But let’s not despair, there¬†are many ways an organization can show integrity.

  • Do you act with integrity?

Leaders need to act with integrity. Period. Simple. Remember when “my word is my bond”? Let’s go back to that.

Be the moral compass.

  • Are you transparent?¬†

For the organization to show integrity you can do anything from mandatory audits (but you can do better than that) to third party validations to transparent communications. At Rhino Foods, they use Open Book management to ensure employees understand the state of the company’s finances, the impact of what’s happening in the market or in the organization and their role. And, of course, the employees share in the profits. They also help problem-solve when there are issues. But don’t take my word for it…

http://www.rhinofoods.com/open-book-management

In the absence of transparency and openness, employees and “the market” feed on rumours and speculation. That’s just bad for business.

  • Do you set common goals and share decision making?

In my grad school research on inter-organizational trust, joint goal setting and joint decision-making were important elements of building trust, especially in new ventures. Why? They force transparency, they equalize power and they align vision, priorities and resources. Without them, a staggering number of joint ventures fail.

The value of joint goal-setting and joint decision-making applies to partnerships of all sizes. For example, in large-scale humanitarian mobilizations, the parties don’t have time to get to know each other personally or to assess one another’s capability or integrity. They assume they are capable based on their brand, their equipment, their experience, their credentials and other signals. Joint goal-setting and decision-making is a mechanism that signals equality, transparency and shared outcomes.

  • How do you respond in a crisis?

Organizations show integrity and build trust in a crisis by taking responsibility, providing information, showing empathy and outlining a clear course of action to address the issue. Of course, they have to mean it.

JFK said “The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.” That’s true for building trust too. Make sure people feel comfortable flagging issues for you early.

  • Do you punish the bad apples?

Norms.pngShowing integrity is not just channeling trustworthy behaviours. ¬†It also has to establish norms and values and challenge behaviours that are not aligned. Are your corporate values relevant to people? If you quizzed your employees, would they know what the corporate values are or are they a list on a poster somewhere? Are values reflected in compensation and promotions? Do you value how results are achieved as much as the results themselves? What happens when people don’t exemplify your norms and values?

Do you use your code of ethics for decision-making and value creation or is a document to be dusted off and signed once a year? Are your corporate policies aligned with consequences? Are bad behaviours overlooked for star performers? Are some issues swept under the rug? Do employees see leaders taking responsibility?

  • Do you invest in your partners and in your people?

Business strategy research shows that Transaction Specific Investments and a long-term orientation are very important in building trust. These investments can be information sharing, investing in infrastructure or a joint platform. They can be as simple as relationship building. With your employees, it can be investing in their education and training. You can’t be sure your employees will stay and that you will benefit from their new knowledge and skills, but you are willing to signal that their development is important to the organization.

A psychological approach to trust will tell you that trusting relationships are built slowly over time; but between organizations, research consistently finds that  anticipated future longevity of a relationship Рor the long-term vision of what lies ahead Р is positively correlated to trust (Currall & Judge, 1995; Doney & Cannon, 1997; Ganesan, 1994; Sako & Helper,1998).

Competence and integrity can create institutional or relational trust. To  move from trust based on a calculation to deeper trust, you must show benevolence.

 Show benevolence

Research shows that waiters who suggest a lower-priced menu item when you ask for advice receive higher tips. Why? Because they appear to show benevolence. By removing the waiter’s perceived self-interest, he appears to be putting your needs before his and gains your trust, you reciprocate with a bigger tip. I’m not suggesting you fake this… I am just pointing out that it works.

Benevolence is the magic ingredient to trust. You could apply all the strategies we’ve discussed here but without benevolence, you’re just building confidence or reliability. Benevolence is going the extra mile for your partner. Guess what? It’s good for you too. It builds employee engagement, customer loyalty and can create value.

Are you flexible with your employees? How do you respond to their needs?

Do you partner in your community or have programs that positively impact your community? If you are partnering with an NFP, do they have equal power in the relationship? Are you helping to resolve social issues or are you exacerbating them?

Do you put customers’ needs ahead of profits?¬†Is your organization sustainable? Basically, are you part of the problem or part of the solution… even when you don’t have to be?

Fortunately, we can easily think of many organizations that are exemplary in this regard. Consistently, they top the charts of best employers and most admired companies. You can be among them too!

Looking for more information on types of trust?

In the end, it’s good that the Giving Tuesday panel only had three minutes to talk about trust. Otherwise we could have been there until lunch time – possibly dinner!¬†That’s why I’m working on a trust-building workshop that will be ready in the Spring. Interested? I’d love to chat or read your comments.

Thank you for visiting Accolade!

Celebrate values, effort AND outcomes

November 6, 2017

Thoughtful, strategic – and often wildly successful – organizations carefully craft their ¬†culture. They think about the values, norms and behaviours they want to see and encourage them. They communicate values… often. They offer coaching. They incentivize and reward people who exemplify these behaviours.

So imagine how pleased I was when I attended my son’s school awards ceremony last IMG_0776week and saw how they are promoting values and behaviours. The night kicked off with awards related to how students approach their studies like curiosity and teamwork. There were awards for students who show awareness and interest in the global context¬†and certificates for students who promote their faith, language and culture. (It’s a French catholic school in a predominantly English community).

My won the an award for “orientation in space and time.” This involves exploring¬†personal histories; homes and journeys; turning points in humankind; discoveries; explorations and migrations of humankind; the relationships between, and the interconnectedness of, individuals and civilizations, from personal, local and global perspectives. WOW! Who knew the kid who’s a bear in the morning is a master of time and space? (He is enjoying a bit of ribbing on that front.)

Before the awards for highest grades in each subject, there were awards for students who exemplify the International Baccalaureate student profile:

  • Inquiring mindsAltruism
  • Knowledgeable
  • Thinkers
  • Communicators
  • Principled
  • Open-minded
  • Caring
  • Risk-takers
  • Balanced
  • Reflective

 

Picture a gymnasium full of junior-high and high-school kids cheering wildly for empathy and integrity!

It was amazing to hear the students cheer for one another. Picture a gym full of junior and high-school kids cheering wildly for empathy and integrity. Imagine if society valued teamwork, curiosity, reflexion, perseverance as much as we do wealth and celebrity. Think about how easy it would be to do something like this in your workplace.

Critics will argue that this is the equivalent of a participation ribbon for every kid, but these kids are nominated by their teachers for consistently modelling a specific aptitude or behaviour. Many kids are nominated but only a few receive the certificate. It’s a prime example of appreciative inquiry – identifying a positive behaviour to get more of it. (And, so what if we recognize something of value in every kid?)

In the workplace, you can think of it as inexpensive and effective risk-management. Not only do you encourage positive, productive behaviour, you reduce destructive behaviour. Wouldn’t Volkswagen be better off if they had shown more integrity? Wouldn’t the global financial crisis been averted – or at least mitigated- if Wall Street wasn’t obsessed with short term results or if it had thought broadly of the human and financial impacts of their deceit? ¬†What does scandal cost? The ethics are as old as Aristotle but the integrated thinking and the systems approach is fairly new to business, and we need more of it.

It’s not an “either-or” proposition. In this model both positive behaviour AND achievement are recognized. The approach tells the kids early on that it’s not just the outcome that matters, but how you get there. It reminds me of Chris Hadfield’s book, An astronaut’s guide to life on earth. In it, Cmdr. Hadfield points out that temperament, teamwork and preparation matter. Many people are fit enough, smart enough, talented enough to be astronauts but do you want to live six months in space with a bunch of jerks? Do you think people behave optimally without reflexion, open-mindedness, empathy and communication?

In life, no one will ever ask you about your marks in grade Grade 11 chemistry. They will want to see how you applied that knowledge. They will notice your work ethic. They will want you to think broadly. Many people don’t have the best grades but are more adept at applying what they know or their approach brings out the best performance in a team. We need to recognize and celebrate those attributes.

Bravo les Chevaliers!

Big Dreams. Hard Work. No Excuses.

October 23, 2017

How do you become an astronaut when you’re born before space travel? How do you build a real-estate empire when you’re born in a refugee camp and married off at the age of 15? ¬†Two women I’ve met in the last few weeks set their sights on an “impossible” dream and achieved it. How? Big Dreams. Hard Work. No Excuses.

“We should never reach our potential. It should keep moving and evolving,” said

Dr. Roberta Bondar

Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first woman in space, urges UofG audience to keep learning, to keep pushing boundaries and to be creative

Roberta Bondar at a University of Guelph MA Leadership event earlier this month. Canada’s first woman in space- and the world’s first neurologist in space- was born before Sputnik. Her high school guidance councillors discouraged her from pursuing science. The traditional fighter-pilot route to space was closed to women who could not be Air Force pilots in until 1988. After 18 years in university and in medical practice for only 18 months, she could easily have pursued her life on earth… couldn’t she?

“You have to take what you know into the¬†field and keep building on¬†it,” Dr. Bondar explained. So, insatiably curious and always open to new opportunities, she applied for the space program when NASA put out a call for astronauts. Selected among thousands of candidates, her training started in 1984 and culminated with eight days in space aboard¬†Discovery in January, 1992. The research she conducted during that time now helps astronauts spend more time in space. Now, her earthly mission is to get more people to connect with the natural environment – primarily through photography.

Showing an image of a massive space rock and astronauts figuring out how to get over or around it, Dr. Bondar challenged the audience: “Is this an obstruction or an opportunity? Don’t think negatively or you’ll never get around the rock.”

Millionaire developer, author and real-estate magnate Tahani Abudareh reinforced this sentiment just a few days later when I heard her speak at a women’s networking event. Praphrasing Jim Rohn she said:

“The person who really wants to do something finds a way. The other person finds an excuse.”¬†“What is your excuse?” she prodded. Is it 100% true? What is the opposite of that excuse? Replace it with a new truth.

Tahani Abduraneh

Tahani Abudareh speaks to Guelph Women in Networking in November, challenging them to set larger goals.

Born in a Jordanian refugee camp and married to a Canadian man at the age of 15, Abudareh came to Canada not knowing anything about the country, her new family or the language. She¬†said she had every reason not to dream big. “Who am I to dream big? My English isn’t good enough. It’s not part of my culture. I don’t have time while going to college, raising a family, and working part-time to send money to my family in the Middle East.” But she persevered in the belief that education would be her salvation.

“Set a goal in your mind. Now think bigger. Now think bigger still,” Abudareh challenged the audience. She explained that after divorcing her husband she had to feed her children and make her way in the world. She wanted not just to survive but to thrive for them so she convinced local homebuilders to let her be their agent. She said she would work harder for the sales than anyone else because she was the most motivated. Within a few years, sales were flourishing and she had started to build up her portfolio of investment properties. She is a teacher, a speaker, an investor, an author and a champion for women.

“The little girl from the refugee camp builds houses,” she says and shared her goal of helping 100,000 women own their first investment property.¬†Echoing some of the advice shared by Dr. Bondar, Abudareh says the recipe is simple:

Take action. Be creative. Find¬†the best in your field and ask them for advice. When someone helps you, they become¬†committed to your success.¬†And if they won’t help you? Move on and ask someone else. Believe that you’re worth it.

It’s easy to sit in the audience and think these are unique stories; but are they extraordinary? Are they unbelievable? Obviously they are believable… they happened. ¬†Do they have to be out of the ordinary? From space to real estate, the message is that achievement can- and should be- ordinary and believable. ¬†Similar to the conclusion drawn in The Confidence Code,¬†you just have to go for it.

What’s holding you back?

 

Why encourage people in the middle of the pack and those who are dead last?- from my archives

October 4, 2017

Who’s cheering for the steady Eddies? Who’s applauding the kid who comes in last? What’s wrong with our approach when we celebrate the winners and discard all the rest?

The last two weeks were the local cross-country races for my daughter. I thought I’d dust off this post as it still applies.

*****

Remember the Seinfeld episode where George worries about worlds colliding? Well, fair warning: here’s a post where leadership, parenting, ranting and sound advice collide.

encouragment and perseveranceLast Friday, my 8-year old son participated in a city-wide cross-country track race. I went to encourage him and to help out his teachers; but what started like a little parenting side-trip turned into a profound leadership observation with implications for businesses and communities.

I noticed that all the parents and classmates gather at the start line of the 1km race for pictures and encouragement and then they race to the finish line to applaud their child’s achievement. Of course, that’s natural and it’s great parenting.

However, after the first group of front-runners crosses the finish line, the applause and encouragement is not as loud. People drift away with their kids as the middle group and the ‘stragglers’ finish up. So, after my son’s race, I deliberately found a stretch in the middle of the course where there was no one shouting encouragement. I stayed past those nipping at the heels of the pace bunny and I waited for the group in the middle and, especially, for the kids who were at the end of their group.

I shouted really simple things like “You’re half-way there”, “You look awesome”, “Nice stride” and “You can do it.” What I saw amazed me. Just the presence of someone there made them perk up, start running again, lengthen their gait. I saw kids literally lift off the ground (once their face stopped saying “Who is this lady and why is she shouting at me?”).

I started thinking about how everyone cheers for the winners; but what about the kids who had the courage to sign up for something outside their comfort zone? Who’s cheering for them and the courage and perseverance they’ve displayed? There’s a huge crowd around the “winner”. The “winners” will be encouraged to keep going. The “winners” will be invited to special training to improve even more.

Where’s the crowd around the courageous? the brave? the tenacious? The chubby kid who’s trying? The kid with Downs Syndrome or with less visible challenges?

I just did a mini-triathlon in September and, hardly a natural athlete, I know what it’s like to be at the very back of the group. I know what it’s like to have to walk many parts of a race. I also know what it took for me to sign up, to train, to show up. Of course,¬† they tell the kids “run your own race” but that’s hard to do when you see a big group of kids pulling away in the distance. It’s still discouraging. I know what it’s like to pull out of a race in junior high because you’re just so far behind you don’t think you’ll finish and you’re embarrassed.

I admit, I got a little pissed off that parents were leaving as soon as their kids’ race was over. Why was I alone cheering on these kids in the lonely stretch? Yes, their teachers were at the finish line. Yes, I had the luxury of time on my side that day but aren’t they all our kids? Don’t they all deserve to have someone there to cheer them on – whether they are first or last? Especially if they are last? Otherwise, they¬† just won’t come next time.

In our community, where else can we encourage the kids who are struggling?

In our workplace, are we cheering on the superstars and drifting away when the “average” workers – the solid, consistent people – come through because a “win” is exciting but a finish is expected?

Are we encouraging those who are struggling, especially when there are specific challenges they are trying to overcome? An ‘average’ worker who is keeping it together despite being torn-apart because a parent is dying (I have been there too). An ‘average’ worker who is still delivering despite a marriage falling apart. Do we recognize the extraordinary efforts it sometimes takes to be “average”?

I’m just suggesting that we try to be there for everyone who’s in the race – literal or figurative – because when we encourage others – in that lonely stretch where people are struggling – people will literally rise off the ground, lengthen their gait and hear the crowd cheering for them. They will return to try again. They will start to see themselves differently. They may never be first but maybe they’ll be faster, stronger, happier and more confident.

Are you an ethical leader? Can an architect be unethical? How about a sausage maker? 8 questions to ask

August 16, 2017

It feels like social values are crumbling. South of the border, we see more division than vision. The melting pot is bubbling over and threatening to crack. Locally, hateful messages were spray-painted on the roof of a local church. There is a new meanness in the air. My stomach turns every time I watch the news and frankly, it’s difficult to write anything that does not seem grossly insufficient.

Leaders across all sectors and at all levels urgently need to denounce hatred and re-establish norms of basic civility, at the very least. Norms in any organization – from a company to a federal cabinet- are not vague “do the right thing” statements. They are not group think. They are behaviours that reflect the ethics of the organization. Acceptable behaviours are modelled and transgressions are punished.

This is not “soft stuff, ” unaddressed ethical transgressions erode trust, productivity and social cohesion. Could there be anything more important?

Ethical practice needs to be at the centre of decision-making to establish norms, to serve as a tool for value-creation and risk management, and so everyone in the organization can live with integrity.

See 10 ethical decision rules to bullet-proof business

A recent visit to The Evidence Room at the Royal Ontario Museum reminded me that

IMG_0206

The door to the Auschwitz gas chamber was designed to swing out because a crush of bodies would prevent it from swinging inward. There is no door handle inside the gas chamber. No one would leave alive.

no profession is exempt from an ethical duty. Featuring “reconstructions of three key components of the Auschwitz gas chambers‚ÄĒa gas column, gas-tight door, and gas-tight hatch‚ÄĒand over 60 plaster casts of architectural evidence, such as blueprints, contractors‚Äô bills and photographs,”* the installation shows that Auschwitz was carefully planned as a Nazi death site for a million Jews.

Not intended for more innocuous purposes, as some Holocaust deniers claimed, Auschwitz was deliberate, architectural murder. The construction of Auschwitz was “the greatest crime ever committed by architects,” according to historical architect Robert Jan van Pelt who presented evidence at the¬†Irving v Penguin books libel trial¬† in 2000.

The greatest crime ever committed by architects”
— Dr. Robert Jan van Pelt, exhibition principal and University Professor, University of Waterloo School of Architecture¬†

IMG_0204

Casts of architectural drawings and blueprints show the deadly purpose of Auschwitz at The Evidence Room exhibit.

While most businesses today are not planning mass genocide, all organizations can examine their leadership behaviours, their motives, their practices and question who benefits from their actions and who is hurt by them.

From “undisclosed meat¬†” in sausage to growing C-Suite scandals, leaders would be wise to ask themselves the following 8 questions and to act on any shortcomings.

  1. What am I really building?
  2. Is it for the greater good in the long-term?
  3. Am I modelling integrity, honesty and civility?
  4. Are my actions kind?
  5. Would I be willing to see others in a similar position take the same actions towards me?
  6. Do my actions respect the rights of others?
  7. Do I deal decisively and harshly with people who violate ethical norms to send a clear signal it won’t be tolerated?
  8. What have I done stop injustice?

As always, thank you for reading. I recognize that I am woefully short of doing justice to The Evidence Room exhibit and the trial behind it. I hope it piques your interest enough to find out more.

I welcome your comments and wish you a happy, peaceful and positive end to your summer.

 

* From the ROM website: http://www.rom.on.ca/en/evidence

 

Book Review: The Confidence Code: The science and art of self-assurance, what women should know

July 31, 2017

The Confidence CodeLast week, prodigious reader, blogger and my good friend, Susan Gibson, was very kind to invite me to submit a guest post for A Year of Books Blog. It was a nice throwback to the years we were MA students together, discussing our latest journal articles and theories of leadership.

Check out her blog and my review of The Confidence Code: The science and art of self-assurance, what women should know by American journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.

If you are a woman, read it. If you are a parent, teacher or coach, read it. If you are an employer, read it. Then… share it. I can’t recommend it enough.

15 minute video: your crash course on inter-organizational trust

July 13, 2017

Worldwide, we have a macro-level problem of distrust towards our institutions. We need macro-level solutions.

Five years ago, I graduated from my MA Leadership program at the University of Guelph. Having always been fascinated with trust and trust-building, I focused on trust at the firm level – rather than interpersonal trust- and how organizations can build trust between them for greater efficiency and better results.

Here’s a video of my research presentation to my classmates. Yes, the video and audio quality is quite poor but the content is pretty good and it’s faster for you than reading ¬†more than 100 journal articles! Enjoy.

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