Trust…. Is that what’s missing in the 21st Century?

Having explored the seven deadly sins and then looked at the type of leaders who are emerging that are making change it occurred to me that one of the things that’s become apparent is the lack of trust in corporates, governments and politicians, the finance industry as a whole and in leaders. And the lack of trust creates many different scenarios not only within an organisation but the relationship that organisation has with its clients, suppliers, investors and so on.

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

And that’s the rub… there are so many leaders and organisations that we feel we can no longer believe in.

The HR magazine reckons that trust is the big people issue of 2014 and that it starts with the top in the way that the leaders are chosen and of course who the leaders are.


John Gridland, Director General of the CBI said at the end of 2013 that ‘if 2013 was the year that business trust took a hammering on a range of issues then 2014 must be the year that business leaders take action to rebuild that trust’. Trust in what though… because its about brand, image, belief, people, working practices, ethos… its going to be lot of work for business leaders and a few feel good stories aren’t going to cut it… businesses and their leaders have to show up and big up. Never before have we needed people to walk their talk and walk it with meaning and ownership.

The CIPD reported in early 2014 that ‘37% of employees don’t trust their senior managers, 33% think that trust between employees and senior management in the workplace is weak’. And this results in ‘employees spending time covering their backs’ commented CIPD’s chief economist.

The 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer explores trust in businesses and government and states that only 43% of the public trust CEOs. Which means that 57% don’t… Yes statistics can be used to suite people but we know ourselves the level of trust we have in various leaders.

The report goes on to suggest a three-step approach to establishing context and realizing forward progress in trust:

Participate: Seek input from a broad range of stakeholders. Partner with non-governmental organisations in the drafting of clearly articulated goals, which offer both a business case and a pro-society rationale. And engage employees, enlisting their involvement to ensure organizational alignment around goals and values.

Advocate: Offer a clearly articulated strategy that begins with the context of how a proposed change will improve lives of customers, as well as your bottom line. Foster a culture that supports employees speaking out, amplifying the engagement and creating mass movement.

Evaluate: Evolve behavior based on collective inputs. Have measurable outcomes, specific quantitative and qualitative targets. Report frequently on progress against metrics. Acknowledge where delivery is under expectation and have a path to improved performance. Amend your strategy and goals while remaining authentic.

They go on to say that ‘at the moment, innovation in industry is being stymied by justified public concerns, with government unable and business unwilling to step forward. They strongly urge business to take the chance to redefine value as being also about values, to connect with its stakeholders in a deeper manner by explaining the economic, societal and environmental context in which it seeks to operate.

Trust will be conveyed to those companies and industries that recognise the need to move beyond transactional thinking toward better understanding of the tangible actions that will solve the issues we face.’

And to me that it’s a pretty good basis to start from… being open and honest, looking at values as part of value, change the business model from transactional to more relational with all stakeholders. It goes back to the authenticity in business that I’ve written about and that we change has to take place.

And again the generational differences will come into play, Generations 2000, X and Y have different perspectives to Baby Boomers for instance. Perhaps its even more important to have a spread of the generations represented in stakeholder groups, and on the board and in the management structure of organisations.

Michelle Clarke of Talent Dynamics says that ‘trust relationships cement every business activity. It exists through our external interactions with other organisations while internally it draws our business together.
But trust in business is a much more vital concept in the 21st Century. As the certainties of the past are being undermined, economics and performance are being affected.’
And asks the very pertinent question ‘is the concept of trust in your business a central part of your strategy?’

And for the second year running Clarke holding a global conference on trust. They also have great resources in their trust library and a test to find out your trust profile and how you can build trust levels in an organisation. It might be interesting to take the test and get others in your organization to do so too…

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Trust really can’t be ignored any more… its not just a buzz word for 2014 its key to fabric of society…

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