Measuring Trust

Trust is a fundamental building block for relationships within families, co-workers and communities. Trust has been called “the bandwidth of communication” – low trust resulting in constrained or no communication, and high trust characterized by open sharing of information and feelings.

For businesses, trust impacts such things as turnover, innovation and reputation. Peter Aceto, CEO of Tangerine Bank, takes an even bolder view on the importance of trust, “Forget price, products, & services. Trust is the new competitive advantage”.

Trust is an abstract, subjective concept that is linked with many other factors such as integrity, competence and dependability. As a result, trust is hard to measure. But it is critical for organizations to know where they stand in terms of trust with their employees, customers and stakeholders. Organizations want answers to questions such as “Are trust levels going up or down?”, “Where does our organization stand with respect to trust compared to other organizations?” and “What factors contribute to building trust and trustworthiness?”

The following are examples of surveys used to measure trust:

Trust within teams and organizations

Organizational Trust and Engagement Index, FranklinCovey

The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team, Patrick Lencioni

Trust trends in society

Edelman Trust Barometer

Statistics Canada Social Capital Report 2015

Unfortunately, survey results provide indicators, not measures of trust. In its white paper, How Do You Measure Trust?, FranklinCovey proposes a three-pronged approach to measuring trust:

  1. Use surveys to raise awareness of trust levels.
  2. Observe and measure the frequency of behaviours that create or destroy trust.
  3. Calculate the economic effects of trust (customer loss, fraud, etc.)

A Simple Model of Accountability

Accountability, or rather the lack of, has been a hot topic for many of my clients this year.  Its symptoms appear as failure to execute, unmet expectations and disappointed customers.  But what is at the root?  I have found that it is often a lack of clarity around what was requested and what was agreed to, and a lack of feedback on whether what was promised was delivered.

I had the pleasure of attending Bob Dunham’s program, “Elevating Organizational Performance”  this year. With a few simple diagrams, Bob illustrated how accountability is built in an organization. Here are four of the concepts that I have found most helpful to my clients:

  1. Accountability starts with a clear request, “Will you….?”.  The request could be from a boss to a subordinate, a colleague to colleague, or customer to provider.
  2. An effective request has the following components:
    • Relevant background regarding why the request is required and important
    • The expected time to fulfill the request
  3. The recipient of a request has three possible responses: “Yes”, “No”, or “I will get back to you with my answer by (Date)”. Of course, the recipient can counter-offer but the heart of accountability is a clear request and clear response.
  4. When the recipient of the request has fulfilled the request, the recipient asks the requestor, “Did I meet your conditions of satisfaction?” If not, the recipient of the request negotiates a new timeline and takes action to fulfill the expectations.

With this simple model, some groups realize they rarely close the loop to ensure their actions met requestors’ expectations.  Others realize that they “suggest” actions but don’t make clear requests, and therefore don’t get clear commitments.

Bob’s definition of trust as it relates to accountability is also helpful.  He says, “Trust is an assessment of the likelihood of a person following through on his or her commitments”.  The factors that are considered in making a trust assessment are:

  • Sincerity – Is the person’s response to my request genuine?
  • Competence – Does the person have the skills, knowledge and ability to deliver what they are promising?
  • Reliability – Does this person have a track record of delivering what they promise?
  • Care – Does this person care about me and this request?

This model appears simple but is “simplicity on the other side of complexity”.  Dunham and others such as Fernando Flores have found that the heart of accountability lies in clear offers, promises and requests.

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