The problems of treating trust as a (core) value

Nobody trusts anybody anymore. Sounds familiar?
Trust is of utmost importance – you will get the same answer, no matter who you ask in any organization.
Taking into account the importance and universal acceptance of this importance, the state of affairs in organizations is abysmal.
There is no trust between management and non-managerial employees; there is hardly any trust between management layers or even among managers.
Recent research supports the importance:
>Trust levels within management teams in medium-sized enterprises run south of 25%. The levels are even lower in larger enterprises.
>The consequence is that managers, at these levels of trust, spend over 40% of their time overcoming trust barriers — not a convincing sign of high performance.
>Examining the trust levels of subject matter experts in their management, the research shows, that a 10% increase in trust has the same satisfaction effect as a 32% increase in salary.
>In survey responses a great many people mentioned they’d prefer the trust increase over the salary increase.
So, working on first actually knowing trust levels in an organization and second increasing the same to levels above 50% does not only make solid economic sense, it positively impacts satisfaction, engagement etc., and ultimately actual performance on a great many levels.

As a consequence, quite a number of enterprises put trust as an important core value of their organizations.
Interestingly, we have yet to see any organization where that action in effect increased trust levels in the respective organization in any meaningful manner.
And that includes organizations where the transition to a value based culture was actually handled effectively and successfully.
If we discard, for the moment, the instances where the value ‘trust’ was in effect used as stick rather than truly implemented as shared value, we are still left with a significant number of instances where, even though trust was a shared value, the actual trust levels remained not only far beyond expectations but measured stubbornly in the low thirties (Percentages)

The problems seem to originate not from the value perspective but from somewhere else.

So, in order to get a handle on this, we examined trust not as a value but the value of trust. And the value of trust comes in two forms: the instrumental value, and the intrinsic value.

On two, trust is or at least can be a sign of respect for others which makes it intrinsically valuable or worthwhile. This idea is closely linked to the view that trustworthiness is a virtue, which makes it intrinsically worthwhile. Trust would be a sign of respect for others if it were an attitude of optimism about the trustee’s character: that is, if it assumed that virtue resided within this person’s character. Moreover, trust that has intrinsic value of this sort presumably must be justified. If optimism about the person’s character was inappropriate, then the respect would be misplaced and the intrinsic value would be lost.

In that interpretation, however, the actual core value for a value based culture would present itself as being ‘respect’ and not ‘trust’.

Now, philosophers have said comparatively little about trust being valuable in itself as opposed to being worthwhile because of what it produces, or because of what accompanies it.

And here we hit a nerve, especially what the treatment of trust as a value is concerned.
If the main value of trust is in what accompanies it, what it produces, if the value is in its instrumental aspect, then it may be far more useful to examine these ‘products’, see if we can get a handle on these, and through this establish the elusive ‘trust.’
For that purpose, we looked at these products and crystallized a number ‘products’ that were to a large extend instrumentally linked to trust.
Among others, there were ‘conflict behavior’, ‘cooperation’, ‘consistency’ which in turn fed directly back into actual degrees of trust. We identified seven of these ‘products’ that, in turn, directly led, if present – mastered – managed, to substantial increased levels of trust.

This insight, in turn, led us to redefine ‘trust’ as a virtual composite competency rather than a value and to redefine the ‘products’ as inputs rather than consequences as our aim was to build trust.
The seven ‘products’ became seven first line competencies, such as ‘conflict management’ and ‘cooperation’, which, in their totality, produced the virtual composite competency ‘trust’

The effect of that redefinition and subsequent implementation in organizations was phenomenal.

Clients achieved trust level increases within management teams of over 30% within a matter of months, with knock-on effects like (management)-team effectiveness and efficiency, overall people satisfaction, ea., experiencing level increases that were unheard of previously.

So, treating ‘trust’ as a value provides few if any benefits to an organization, treating it however as a virtual composite competency and subsequently address the requisite first line competencies and get people to master these, leads to staggering performance increases.

As usual we encourage comments and discussion – on- and off-line.


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