he United Kingdom, and much of the rest of the world, entered a period of economic turmoil in the last couple of years of the old decade. We witnessed the collapse of some businesses (and the rescue of others) as well as governments wobbling! This new decade may well be defined by the trust equation.

Many people have become distrustful of

-          Financial services , who got us in this mess

-          Governments and Regulators , what were they doing

-          Some companies ,who resorted to old style “slash and burn” employee tactics

It’s not all doom and gloom though! We can see stock markets rise, the level of UK unemployment is not as high as expected, some companies used creative ways to retain staff and recruitment has restarted.

According to Stephen M R Covey how much we trust our government, companies and friends has a direct impact on performance. Re –building trust therefore should be an imperative at all levels of our society. This doesn’t mean uncritical trust (otherwise known as gullibility) but rather “smart trust” where a propensity to trust is matched by experience and analysis.

With a General Election looming we are likely to elect those people/parties that we most believe (trust ) will do what is right for the country and us! To undertake any interaction with financial institutions we will want convincing (trust) that our money is safe! With our actual and psychological contract with employers we want to know (trust) how they will treat us during both good and bad times! One of the single biggest reasons for leaving a company is not trusting your boss.

In “ The Speed of Trust “Covey outlines 13 Behaviours that are necessary to build a relationship of trust. These are

Talk straight, demonstrate respect, create transparency, right wrongs, show loyalty, deliver results, get better, confront reality, clarify expectations, practice accountability, listen first, keep commitments and extend trust.

So you could use this framework to

-          Decide who to vote for

-          Decide who to work for

-          Implement changes in your own company

-          Become a trustworthy individual!

Be the behaviour you want to see and enjoy the new decade!

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Dear Paul

Covey's list is interesting and I'm convinced you are correct to identify the issue of Trust as critical for organisations attempting to adapt to the aftermath of the discovery that our Uncritical Faith in Banks, Regulators, politicians has enabled them to misappropriate our money with the pretence that low inflation economic growth was sustainable at the rate we thought without China etc sustaining massive trade imbalances. Chickens have a habit of coming home to roost and ruthless cost-cutters in organisations will have shown how much financial targets mean to them and how little their employees do when push comes to shove. Leading to a massive Trust-deficit.

I haven't yet refound it but an economics professor was recently quoted iin the FT magazine (probably by their 'undercover economist' )saying that that the most important difference between poor countries and rich ones was that in poor ones lack of ability to redress when a contract was broken led to a culture of mistrust which made financial relationships with strangers unrewarding. I heard someone on the radio this morning say Afghanistan will get no where with an impartial justice system which will punish failure to keep agreements. What the economics professor pointed out was that in poor countries trust can only be founded on the history of transactions between the parties. Even if you put a new impartial system of justice ito Afghanistan would Afghanis trust it not to become as corrupt as its predecessors? Only if it was created/supported by a government they knew to be incorruptible.

The implication for us is that trust must be given before it is demanded and that any new set of behaviours such as those advocated by Covey will only create organisational trust extremely slowly if trust has been previously eroded, and only then if they are perceved to be entirely authentic (ie. to be consistent with all other observable behavours over aperiod of time by those in power .

I once looked into organisational commitment, an attitude which is related but different to trust. This is easier to create eg. creating cognitive dissonance that can only be resolved by developing commitment to an organisation. In hindsight this seems very manipulative, but I think it might be of more practical value to organisations who wish to pursue Covey's ideas in an instrumental way.

Hope this offers stimulus to further debate. PS Chris Rodgers blog (type Chris rodgers informal coalitions into Google ) writes interestingly on The Emergence of Trust in Organisational relationships in his 14 November post, too.

Deb Booth

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