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Trust
by Sloan Campbell

 
   
 
   

In today’s increasingly secretive world, EVERYONE needs someone to trust... a relationship of reliance. You want to be able to tell your deepest personal secrets to someone and feel secure that your confidante will not share those secrets with anyone else.1

The concept is no different in business; we look for and value Trustworthiness. A trustworthy person is someone whom we can rely on and be assured that the trust will not be betrayed. A person can prove his trustworthiness by fulfilling an assigned responsibility and all the while meet our expectations. The responsibility can be either material, such as delivering a mail package on time, or it can be keeping confidential information to himself. A trustworthy person is someone that we can express our worries and secrets to and know they won’t be shared. In order for one to trust another, one’s worth and integrity must be constantly proven over time. 2

In the social sciences, the subtleties of trust are the subject of ongoing research. In sociology (and psychology) the degree to which one party trusts another is a measure of belief in the honesty, benevolence and competence of the other party. Based on the most recent research, a failure in trust may be forgiven more easily if it is interpreted as a failure of competence rather than a lack of benevolence or honesty.

From this perspective, trust is a mental state, which cannot be measured directly. Confidence in the results of trusting may be measured through behavior, or alternatively, one can measure self-reported trust (with all the caveats surrounding that method). Trust may be considered a moral choice or may be heuristic, allowing one to deal with complexities without rationalistic reasoning, such as machine-human trust which is meaningless. Computers have no moral sense and operate only on rational computations. Any trust in a device under this characterization is computer-mediated trust by the user of the machine, its designer and creator; who have implemented the rational rules into the device.

A second perspective in social theory comes from the classic Foundations of Social Theory by James S. Coleman. Coleman offers a four-part definition:

  • Placement of trust allows actions that otherwise are not possible (i.e. trust allows actions to be conducted based on incomplete information on the case in hand).

  • The person in whom trust is placed (trustee) is trustworthy, then the trustor will be better off than if he or she had not trusted. Conversely, if the trustee is not trustworthy, then the trustor will be worse off than if he or she had not trusted (this is reminiscent of a classical prisoner's dilemma). 3

Prisoner’s Dilemma - Two suspects are arrested by the police. The police have insufficient evidence for a conviction, and, having separated both prisoners, visit each of them to offer the same deal. If one testifies ("defects") for the prosecution against the other and the other remains silent, the betrayer goes free and the silent accomplice receives the full sentence. If both remain silent, both prisoners are sentenced to a short term in jail for a minor charge. If each betrays the other, each receives a greater sentence. Each prisoner must choose to betray the other or to remain silent. Each one is assured that the other would not know about the betrayal before the end of the investigation. How should the prisoners act? 4

  • Trust is an action that involves a voluntary transfer of resources (physical, financial, intellectual, or temporal) from the trustor to the trustee with no real commitment from the trustee (again prisoner's dilemma).
  • A time lag exists between the extension of trust and the result of the trusting behavior.

The strength of Coleman's definition is that it allows for discussion of trust behavior.

A critical element in studies of trust behavior is power. One who is in a position of dependence cannot be said to trust another in a moral sense, but can be defined as trusting another in the strictest behavioral sense. Trusting another party when one is compelled to do so is sometimes called reliance, to indicate that the belief in benevolence and competence may be absent, while the behaviors are present. Others refer only to coercion.

Coleman's definition does not account for the distinction between trust (worthiness) as a moral attribute and trustworthiness as mere reliability. It is Annette Baier (Ethics, 1987) who characterizes contexts of trust as structures of interaction in which moral obligations act upon the trustees.

The substantive conflict in the social sciences is whether trust is entirely internal and only confidence is observable, or whether trust behaviors (and self reported levels of trust) can meaningfully measure trust in the absence of coercion. Note however that many languages (e.g. Dutch or German) do not distinguish between the words trust and confidence, which complicates this issue. The distinction between trust and confidence is an unsolved issue in current trust/confidence research. 5

It is generally understood that Teamwork and Leadership are the two most important aspects of Project Management success, it is surprising how a small amount of lack of trust can fester into the destruction of an entire team ... you can’t force a team to trust each other and you certainly cannot force a team to trust their Leader.

Teamwork

A 1993 survey by the American Society for Quality Control and the Gallup Organization found that more than 80% of the people surveyed reported participating in some form of team activity and that two-thirds of full-time employees indicated that they had played a part in some kind of team activity. Obviously, teams have become important parts of organizations. All indicators suggest that teams and teamwork will remain a critically important organizational concept in the foreseeable future, and research shows that organizations improve when they employ teams effectively.

In fact, many organizations rely on teaming as a key to their productivity and credit their use of teams with performance improvements such as increased efficiency, improved participation and innovation, error reduction, quality improvement, increased responsiveness, cost-effectiveness, better customer service, and improved employee satisfaction.

Despite the many advantages attributed to teaming, the concept is not without its challenges. Trust has emerged as an issue central to successful teaming. Successful teams must establish and maintain trusting interpersonal relationships if they are to function effectively and succeed. Trust may be thought of as individual's expression of confidence or optimistic expectation in the intentions and motives of others.

A person trusts a group when he or she believes that group members make good-faith efforts to stick to their commitments, are honest in their negotiations, and don't take advantage of one another even when the opportunity presents itself. The bottom line is, trust represents an act of faith, a willingness to take a risk that another person will prove worthy of one's confidence. Team members must know that everyone will fulfill obligations and behave in a consistent and predictable manner. Experience in many organizations shows that successful teams focus specifically on building relationships to increase trust, and that unsuccessful teams do not.

Trust develops through frequent and meaningful interaction. In the team environment, trust builds as team members experience the team's competency and integrity. When team members demonstrate those attributes, they prove themselves trustworthy. Trust deepens as members continue to experience the competency and integrity of the team and as they experience their expectations being met by other members. In other words, their level of trust in their team members increases. There exists broad agreement among researchers that relationship-building occurs best in a face-to-face context, and that frequent and meaningful interaction allows a deeper kind of relationship to develop.

Trust is one of the key ingredients necessary for a team to succeed, and teams of all types must remain firmly rooted in trusting relationships if they are to function effectively. For all teams, how they establish and maintain trust remains the fundamental issue. 6

If we extend the link between Trust - Team to a link between Trust - Individual - Teamwork - Project Management, we can reasonably presume that if a team does not trust each other then teamwork is not possible. This lack of trust makes Project Management futile, at best, since it is based on a project team comprised of a group of people who will realize the project result. The group is often comprised of people who have various backgrounds, each of whom contributes diverse knowledge and skills.

Without trust, Successful Project Management would be as rare as adamantium (an invulnerable fictional element or substance). 7

Leadership

Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent. Leaders carry out this process by applying their leadership attributes, such as beliefs, values, ethics, character, knowledge, and skills.

Although your position as a manager, supervisor, lead, etc. gives you the authority to accomplish certain tasks and objectives in the organization, this power does not make you a trustworthy leader, it simply makes you the boss. Leadership differs in that it makes the followers want to achieve high goals, rather than simply bossing people around.

Bass’ theory of leadership states that there are three basic ways to explain how people become leaders. The first two explain the leadership development for a small number of people. These theories are:

  • Some personality traits may lead people naturally into leadership roles. This is the Trait Theory (i.e. traits are relatively stable over time, differ among individuals and influence behavior)

  • A crisis or important event may cause a person to rise to the occasion, which brings out extraordinary leadership qualities in an ordinary person. This is the Great Events Theory.

  • People can choose to become leaders. People can learn leadership skills. This is the Transformational Leadership Theory (i.e. where one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality). It is the most widely accepted theory of leadership today.

When a person is deciding if he respects and trusts you as a leader, he does not think about your attributes. Rather, he observes what you do so that he can know who you really are. He uses this observation to tell if you are an honourable and trustworthy leader or a self-serving person who misuses authority to look good and get promoted. Self-serving leaders are not as effective because employees only obey them, they do not follow them. They succeed in many areas because they present a good image to their superiors at the expense of their workers.

The basis of good leadership is honourable character and selfless service to the organization. In the employees' eyes, your leadership is everything you do that effects the organization's objectives and their well-being. Respected leaders concentrate on what they are (such as beliefs and character), what they know (such as job, tasks, and human nature), and what they do (such as implementing, motivating, and providing direction).

What makes a person want to follow a leader? People want to be guided by those they trust & respect and who have a clear sense of direction. To gain respect, they must be ethical. A sense of direction is achieved by conveying a strong vision of the future.

According to a study by the Hay Group, a global management consultancy, there are 75 key components of employee satisfaction (Lamb, McKee, 2004). They found that the two most important keys to effective leadership are:

  • Trust and confidence in top leadership was the single most reliable predictor of employee satisfaction in an organization.

  • Effective communication by leadership in three critical areas was the key to winning organizational trust and confidence:

    • Helping employees understand the company's overall business strategy.
    • Helping employees understand how they contribute to achieving key business objectives.
    • Sharing information with employees on both how the company is doing and how an employee's own division is doing - relative to strategic business objectives.

So in a nutshell -- you must be trustworthy and you have to be able to communicate the vision of the organization, in order to be an effective leader. 8

Projects are conceived and completed by people. People are at the beginning, end and center of projects. They apply both implicit tacit knowledge and established theories drawn from science and practical observation to perform both everyday actions and to innovate and solve technical problems. But we still seem to lack a coherent theoretical foundation that explains how leadership engages people fully and effectively. Too often we hear, “If only the client knew what he really wanted, and, only if all of the participants were motivated and properly trained.” It often seems that people are THE problem rather than the solution.

We come together on projects as strangers, each from different backgrounds with different interests, each with our own history and our own concerns. So each of us operates with a different background of obviousness – our way of functioning and seeing the world, the possible future, and how we should act as we move toward it. Moving from strangers to friends to partners does not happen by accident, nor is it likely to happen given enough time. Creating a coherent team takes time, engagement, and reflection. Building trust occurs as people participating in a network of commitments, acting in language, come to see each other as reliable performers, and learn to align and connect their interests with each others' interests and with those of the project.

Leadership is no longer a matter of motivating those who have subordinated their interests; rather, it is working with them to reveal a new future. 9

I will leave you with one of my favourite Peter Drucker quotes on Trust and the answer to the Prisoner’s Dilemma ...

“The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say "I." And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say "I." They don't think "I." They think "we"; they think "team." They understand their job is to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but "we" gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.” Peter Drucker

Go forth and build trust ... fulfill your duties, listen to others, show that you care, seek clarification, be reliable and be HONEST !!

 

 

Prisoner’s Dilemma Answer- If we assume that each player prefers shorter sentences to longer ones, and that each gets no utility out of lowering the other player's sentence, and that there are no reputation effects from a player's decision, then the prisoner's dilemma forms a non-zero-sum game in which two players may each "cooperate" with or "defect" from (i.e., betray) the other player. In this game, as in all game theory, the only concern of each individual player ("prisoner") is maximizing his/her own payoff, without any concern for the other player's payoff. The unique equilibrium for this game is a Pareto-suboptimal solution—that is, rational choice leads the two players to both play defectly even though each player's individual reward would be greater if they both played cooperately. 4

Notes:

1. Trust Sociology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trust_%28sociology%29

2. Trustworthiness: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trustworthiness

3. Trust Sociology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trust_%28sociology%29

4. Prisoner’s Dilemma: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner%27s_dilemma

5. Trust Sociology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trust_%28sociology%29

6. Teamwork Takes Trust: http://wildfiremag.com/command/teamwork_takes_trust/

7. Adamantium: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adamantium

8. Leader: http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/leadcon.html

9. Leadership & Project Management: http://weblog.halmacomber.com/fayol_to_flores.pdf

References:

All pictures are royalty free or copyright of Sloan Campbell.


     
   
     
   

The Author

 

Sloan Campbell is an Implementation Project Manager at SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada). SOCAN is an organization that administers the communication and performing rights of virtually the world's entire repertoire of copyright-protected music, when it is used in Canada. You can e-mail your comments to the author at scampbell@elcan.com .

     
   
     
   
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