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Trust – How are you Earning It?

What is trust, and how does it affect your bottom line? Is it measurable? Should it be given or earned? These were great questions asked and answered at the first ever ‘Trust Conference’ organised and hosted by Talent Dynamics in London earlier this month, with a keynote session led by Stephen M.R. Covey (son of the late Dr. Stephen R. Covey). There were back-to-back sessions packed with little bite-sized snippets of insights and information, and here are some highlights I’d like to share with you.

Paul Dunn – speaking for the organisation Buy1Give1 ‘Business for Good’. If you run an organisation which hasn’t yet set up a Corporate Social Responsibility, Shared Value Partnership or giving programme check this out, it’s so inspiring: www.b1g1.com.

Richard Barrett delivered a great talk on cultural entropy and talked through his model for cultural transformation, using Maslow’s hierarchy as a foundation. I can’t replicate it here without copyright, but in essence if at the individual level we move through stages from survival, through to self-esteem, transformation and making a difference; at an organisational level the process is similar, moving through the stages of financial stability, belonging, high performance, learning, community, strategic alliances and ending with service to humanity and the planet. Loved it. He has a new book out: The Values-Driven Organisation.

If you want an inspiring example of a CSR initiative check out this 3 minute video that Lifebuoy soap produced for their work in India, to help children reach the age of 5 – thanks to Helen Urwin who says the big question to ask yourself is ‘What do I want to be trusted for?’.  Every brand is known for something – distrust leads to uncertainty, trust leads to certainty. So what can people be certain about, about you? Another little nugget of insight – people buy products for what they do, they buy brands for what they mean. What do you stand for?

Sue Swanborough, HRD for General Mills (a $16bn revenue, 35,000 people company!) de-bunked some of the myths associated with implementing a trust-based culture.

  • Myth 1 – We ‘should’ build an environment of trust. Truth – it needs to be fully intentional based on solid business rationale.
  • Myth 2 – Process is king. Truth – it needs an approach that’s based more on mindset and less ‘wedded’ to a process.
  • Myth 3 – Set the plan and follow all the way. Truth – you can course correct along the way, based on listening to feedback.
  • Myth 4 – Culture is an initiative led by HR. Truth – it needs to be a cross-organisation approach.
  • Myth 5 – Choose a model to follow. Truth – it’s OK to use a model but use it as a framework only, don’t be a slave to it.

Stephen M.R. Covey gave so much information it would be impossible to summarise it here. But I will share this quote:

“High trust won’t necessarily rescue a lousy strategy, but low trust nearly always derails an excellent strategy.”

His research has shown that trust is measured by a blend of character, competence and credibility. How do you measure yourself in these three areas, and your organisation?

Because whether you’re aware of it or not, your peers and your customers do. And ultimately no amount of slick communications and messaging will work unless you take concrete and conscious steps towards being trustworthy. What are you doing to earn and keep their trust? And how often do you ask yourself that question?

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