30 August 2011

Can I Trust You?

I've been thinking about issues related to trust and risk ever since Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant's unsession on their forthcoming book, Humanize, at #ASAE11.

During the session, Jamie made a really interesting point: trust and risk are correlated. As trust goes up, risk goes up. In order to lower risk, we also end up lowering trust.

Ever wondered why staff members have such strong reactions to new policies at your association? Voila. That reads, on some level, like you don't trust them.

Here's the thing: we can't just throw out all our policies and skip merrily along trusting everyone completely and all the time. First of all, my many lawyer friends would be out of business if we did. They're all smart people, so I'm sure they'd find something else to do. But the unemployment rate is high enough right now.

But also, it's not realistic. There are people out there who, through ignorance, accident or ill intent, can harm our associations. Our members and the other communities we serve have the right to expect us to do what we can to protect our associations, by preventing what risks we can and being prepared to ameliorate those we can't.

On the other hand, our staff members deserve respect and professional courtesy. After all, if we can't trust them even a little bit, why did we hire them in the first place?

I don't have the perfect answer to this. In fact, there isn't one. Different organizations have different levels of tolerance for and exposure to risk. If you deal with credit card or HIPPA protected data, you know exactly what I mean.

I think this raises and important consideration for us as part of our own risk calculations. We often focus on the downsides of being more open, more trusting, etc in assessing risk. Do we think about the other side: what is the risk of reducing trust? Now that social media is, to quote Jamie, "kicking our asses" maybe we need to weigh that side of the calculation a little more carefully.

4 comments:

Tom Morrison said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Morrison said...

There is a very good system taught in the realm of relationships that you should really get to know someone first. Then you should not "trust" someone more than you know them. You should not rely on someone more than you can trust them. And you should not commit to someone more than you can rely on them. Each builds off one another. The key to trusting is building a bond with someone which only comes from being open/honest and physically close in location (in person). The problem is many people today trust, rely and commit to people way more than they know who they are as a person. Social media enables a lot of that because you can't really build "real" trust with someone you have only emailed, skyped or facebooked.

I feel true trust only can come from a series of face to face settings where you get to experience many other factors that come with communicating and building a bond to others.

Jamie Notter said...

In Dan Pink's A Whole New Mind, he talks about the waning influence of the "left brained" world of the information age--an age where lawyers, by the way, had very high influence, as did other left-brained, information based careers like finance and medicine. Anyway, Pink once described lawyers as "manufacturers of synthetic trust." Real trust requires risk. that doesn't mean you should trust blindly or take all risks. But in addition to Humanize (thanks for the props and link!), check out the Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey. Trust enables speed. Figure out where you can take more risk (and increase trust), and you increase speed, which is critical these days.

Leslie White said...

For some reason this post ruffles my risk management feathers but I haven't figured out why. Perhaps because it puts "risk" in a totally negative context. Every time you take a risk or chance you have 3 possible outcomes, good, bad or neutral but we always focus on the negative. We wouldn't evolve if we didn't take risk often with a good, bad or neutral result.

Trust is important to risk-taking, the more people trust people and/or institutions the more risks they are willing to take. But you still have to be evaluate or assess the risks. Associations and people usually fail at the risk assessment level. We reject acceptable risks and accept unreasonable risks usually out of ignorance. Sometimes we're lucky and get it right.

Many risks are "manufactured" - somehow people are convinced the "end is near." Social media is a manufactured risk - yes it has risks but they are manageable.

So through trust we can take more risks but they have to be the "right" risks - right to further our mission, to help our members and society. Taking the wrong risk (not properly vetted) is a way to kill or damage trust. Taking a vetted risk that didn't produce the expected outcomes doesn't have to kill trust, it can strengthen it - we tried it, it didn't work, why, how can we change what we did to make it successful.

Slowly risk management is emerging from the dark recesses of insurance and perceived impracticality. Assessing and managing risks is a key component of good and effective management. I'm enjoying its emergence (feeling a little vindicated :-)