We’ve Lost Trust In Who We Can Trust

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If we’ve lost trust in who we can trust, what impact might this have on our professional and personal life?

To help explore this, I’d like you to think for a moment about a scorecard of trust in your life.

On a scale of 1 being low and 10 being high, how would you score your level of trust in your local, state or federal politicians?

In my conference presentations I typically will ask an audience this question “What’s the one thing you know politicians will always do?” And before they can answer, I say “Politicians will… “ and I pause, and a large majority of the audience finish the sentence in unison by saying “LIE”.

How did we get to a time when we all just accept that we can’t trust politicians? These are people we’re supposed to be able to trust with making choices about our future – this is just one example how we’ve lost trust in who we can trust.

Let’s think about charities for a moment. How would you score your level of trust in charities?

Most of us get that charities need our help and that we want to help. But the way they’re asking for help creates a barrier for many people to give – even though they want to give. Have you ever been harassed by one of those over-friendly, pushy charity collectors in our shopping centres or in our malls and streets. They no longer just want a donation… they want your credit card number to lock you into monthly payments. What about those random phone calls from charities, just when you’re trying to cook the evening meal or put the kids to bed… they don’t engage you, they just jump right into their script and try and talk us into submission to donate.

We know charities do good work, but we also question how much of our donated money pays for these stalkers and hawkers harassing and pitching for our donations. We’re questioning how much of our donations can we trust to be doing the good that we hope for. This is another example of how we’ve lost trust in who we can trust.

What about your score on trust in religious and educational institutions? How can we trust where our trust has been so horrifically challenged and certainly for the victims and their families who placed their trust only to have it broken beyond repair? When we’ve lost trust in the institutions in whom we need to trust, clearly this means we’ve lost trust in who we can trust.

What about the media? How would you score your level of trust in traditional and social media? In a time where anyone with an opinion now has a digital platform to share it with the world, the reality of fake news is blurring the lines between fact, fiction or just biased opinion.

If we can’t really trust what news is real and what news is fake, surely this also points to the conclusion that we’ve lost trust in who we can trust?

So let’s talk business for a moment.

How would you score your level of trust in large, medium and even small business? The recent findings of the Royal Commission into Financial Services has clearly demonstrated examples where arguably, good people have made bad decisions that have negatively impacted the lives of their customers as well as negatively impacting the lives of their employees.

While for some, trust in business leaders to act with integrity over profits has always been under question, we’ve arrived at a time where globally people are asking who can they trust?

This is my reasoning around what I now believe is a reality – we’ve lost trust in who we can trust. If we’ve lost trust in these major institutions, Government, Business, Religion, Education, Charities, and Media, this means we no longer trust in where can place our trust.

In other words, trust is at risk and all of the research I’ve undertaken, both academically and experientially points to this conclusion, when trust is at risk… everything is at risk.

Whatever your personal scorecard on these institutions might be, the reality is, researchers at the Edelman Group have been globally polling people’s personal scorecards on trust for many years now and the news isn’t positive.

Their most current Trust Barometer findings report that “… trust in Australia continues to decline across all four key institutions: media, business, government and NGOs. This has resulted with Australia sitting just four percentage points above the world’s least trusting country, Russia.

The Solution:

There’s no easy solution to this decline in trust. However, what we focus our motivation on grows stronger.

Evidence shows that when we focus on profits, profitability grows stronger. When we focus on employee engagement, the employee experience improves. When we focus on the customer experience, net promoter scores improve.

For this reason, leaders at every level across all major institutions and across the not-so-major institutions ought to put trust seriously on their agenda.

If we focus on trust, trust will increase. It’s as simple, yet as complicated as that.

Leaders need to be focusing on and holding themselves and their employees accountable for creating and operating in at-work experiences where the three core elements of trust are established:

  1. The confidence required for self-trust
  2. The courage required to trust in others, and
  3. The combined character and competence required to earn others’ trust.

Until this is implemented, we will continue to lose trust in who we can trust, which puts trust at risk, and when trust is at risk, everything is at risk.

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4 Responses

  1. This is absolutely spot on David. We’ve somehow accepted the status quo of below average as acceptable.

    1. Hey Jon, that’s an interesting angle. Can we have a ‘measure’ of trustworthiness? Is there below average, average and above average trustworthiness? This gets me thinking, it’s sort of like we’re moving into a scale of trustworthiness, which is like a scale of integrity… I’m not sure it’s a good thing, or even possible? Either you’re trustworthy or you’re not – you either are and act with integrity, or you don’t.
      Thanks for joining the conversation. Regards, Dave.

  2. Hi David. I am of,the view and in my experience that Trust is not something that is measured on a scale of 1to 5 I.e. do you trust me more or less. I think Trust is an inherent Value not something to be switched on and off. When you ask a person do,they trust someone the answer is generally a Yes or No. if you lose the trust of someone you need to earn it back. In the busy world of today I think those that are in the public eye have lost how important the value of Trust is. The old saying ‘never let the facts get the way of a good story’. We have more and more of,this happening now called fake news thanks to D.T. There is nothing complex about this but everything today someone how needs to be complex and I think we lose sight of,the simplicity of issues such as this. Great article. Thank you

    1. Nice one Pat. I really like the ‘inherent value’ that can’t be switched on or off. Yep – trust is a relatively simple construct, and yet on a global scale it’s on a downward spiral. All’s not well in the playhouse I would say. Regards, Dave

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