Identity Verified Thinker in Business / Human Resources / Employee Relations
Mark Herbert
Mark Herbert
Mark is a Principal in the management consulting firm, New Paradigms LLC. His background includes over thirty years of combined C level executive and management consulting experience in high technology, financial services, custom publishing, and not for profits among other industries.

That Pesky Trust Thing

Apr. 20, 2017 6:00 pm

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Stephen MR Covey in his brilliant book, The Speed of Trust, describes trust as operating at three levels; Deterrence or rule based, Knowledge or competency based, and finally and most importantly Identity- based.

Paying The Trust Tax

I am a big believer in Stephen MR Covey’s definition of trust dividends and trust taxes.

I believe along with a number of other organizational development professionals and behavioral scientists that trust forms the foundation of all high functioning relationships, whether personal or professional.

I also believe that trust is not an entitlement.

Our old leadership models are replete with the idea that trust comes with position. Right out of John Calvin there is the embedded concept that being boss or being wealthy entitles you to a dimension of trust. The problem is time after time the so called beneficiaries of that trust have been betrayed.

I have written before about the concept of personal competency, one of the founding concepts along with personal property that was embedded into our Constitution and intended to free people from the old model of feudalism.

The rise of corporations created a kind of corporate socialism, if employees would be obedient and compliant employers would provide them with a degree of security. Although unequal it was a trust based relationship.

We really didn’t believe that even then which is why in the 30’s and 40’s we saw legislation passed that allowed employees to collectively bargain with their employers over wages, hours, and working conditions.

The 60’s showed that employers couldn’t be trusted not to treat people of different colors, national origins, and genders differently and disparately so once again the government stepped in and created boundaries and remedies.

In the early 90’s the courts determined that middle aged white men didn’t get to decide what represented inappropriate or discriminatory treatment of women.

If you read this legislation the Courts made it pretty clear that business owners and leaders had failed the trust tax.

The other day I read a post where a recruiter was angry that a candidate had withdrawn themselves for consideration for a position based on reviews about the employer that had been posted on Glassdoor. They disparagingly compared that to taking advice on world politics from the Kardashians.


What makes a recruiter representing an employer more trustworthy and transparent than opinions from former or current employees who the candidate sees as their peer group?

The Edelman Trust Barometer just recorded the lowest scores on trust in the media, government, business leadership, and non- government organizations in the 17- year history of the survey.

A recent Gallup Poll validated those very same conclusions a few weeks later.

I see very few leadership development programs that really address trust in a meaningful way. Most MBA programs subtly reinforce Frederick Taylor’s scientific management theories and openly promote what Covey Jr. refers to as knowledge or competency based trust.

The real foundation of trust, identity based trust, is rarely mentioned.

In our political institutions the President and his staff use alternative facts. The President announced an armada was on the way to the Sea of Japan to corral the North Korean’s. Turns out not so much. As a result, it left the South Koreans asking if he was being dishonest or just incompetent. He followed that up by saying that Korea had historically been a part of China.

Um not since maybe before Jesus walked the Holy Land.

Our Attorney General referred to a Federal judge who disagreed with the President’s immigration Bill as “some judge on an island in the Pacific”. That island is called Hawaii and it is our 50th state. The judge had also been confirmed by the U.S. Senate, by a larger margin than our latest Supreme Court justice.

So here is my point.

· Trust is something you earn; you are not entitled to it.

· Trust is a function of credibility; made up of character, congruence, and competence and behavior; not what you say, but how you act.

The reason that many employees don’t trust leadership is because we didn’t act in their interests. For generations we have put shareholders and customers first at the expense of employees.

We violated the social contract. We outsourced and offshored to increase profits and laid them off. We called them human capital and treated them like a disposable asset. Not very identity based trust like.

So to that recruiter who was surprised that the candidate trusted Glassdoor over the recruiter I would say I am with the employee…..

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