In this light, it is important to look at trust through “new eyes” and see it differently in at least three ways:
1. As an economic driver.
2. As the currency of the new economy.
3. As a competency.
A distinction here may be useful. “Trust” is both a noun and a verb. The noun refers to an outcome, a value, a state of being. But the noun is a direct result of the verb—of the actions we take that create and inspire that state of being. In other words, trust (the verb) is a competency, and it can be developed.
Seeing trust as a competency is a highly valuable organizational perspective, because competencies and competency models always have been critical to driving organizational development and improvement. In fact, the CLO Business Intelligence Board ranked competencies as the top activity that will have a significant impact in 2008.
In contrast, research also shows how low trust siphons value from every other competency, skill, strength and asset. As an illustration, only 46 percent of disengaged employees trust their leaders, compared to 96 percent of engaged employees. So which comes first, the distrust or the disengagement? Clearly, getting good at trust helps us get better at everything else. You can do something about trust. You can turn it into a competency, personally and organizationally. And you can measure it, which is often the first viable action step. You can measure:
2. Trust components and behaviors (trust, the verb)
3. Trust effects (the impact of trust).
So what is the role of learning practitioners with respect to trust? I suggest it’s threefold, corresponding to the three ways of seeing trust with new eyes:
- Always seek to frame trust within the organization in economic—not merely social—terms. By creating a compelling business case for trust, you can engage organizational buy-in and make real improvement sustainable.
- Define leadership as “getting results in a way that inspires trust.” In other words, personally model trust through character, competence and demonstrated trustbuilding behavior. By doing this, you become the starting place for increasing trust, and your trusted reputation becomes an additional currency that carries significant value in the new economy.
- Recognize and treat trust as a competency—as something you can do, create and measure—and help managers learn and understand how to behave in ways that establish, grow, extend and restore trust with all stakeholders.
The bottom line: Nothing is as fast as the speed of trust. Nothing is as profitable as the economics of trust. And nothing is as relevant as leaders and organizations that have the competency of trust. Trust truly is the one thing that changes everything.