Do You Deal In Trust?

OCT 3, 2018
Elevating 'Trust Capital' Within Your Board & Organization
(Originally appeared in the October 3, 2018 'Across the Board' publication, a Board Director, Board Advisor, C-Level, and Business Newsletter reaching 24,500+ exceptional business leaders in over 65 countries with articles focused on leadership, strategy, and governance topics - sign up here)
Trust is defined as "a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something." Although the meaning and definition of trust has not changed in our ever-accelerating world, it could be argued that how trust is achieved has recently gone through warp-speed evolutionary stages. How? Through technology advances and the abundance of data. These 'assistants' allow us the transparency of personal and professional information to assist in our first impressions on whether or not we 'could' potentially trust someone should we need to. It's an interesting concept that borders on the dangers of forming a biased pre-conclusion, but that's the reality that easy Google searches have enabled. Conversely, looking deeper into pre-established relationships, the ability to rekindle or grow trust within a leadership team or Board remains a daunting challenge, sometimes due to historical comments or actions that cannot be 'undone,' forgotten, or forgiven.

'Trust Capital' is at the heart of the conversation. In its purest form, Trust Capital defines that the level of trust within an organization determines how much Trust Capital they have. It is essentially a ranking of how an environment empowers cooperation and decision-making, inspires an atmosphere of openness, elevates communication, and draws people together. "To be a truly trustworthy organization with a high Trust Capital, it starts at the top with the Board. If the Board of Directors doesn't live the company values, no one else in the organization will,” states Kristina Jarring Lilja, an expert Board Director, Chairwoman of The Swedish Academy of Board Directors, and author of an upcoming book on Trust Capital. “I truly believe that trust is the new currency in our digital world and that it is crucial for companies and professionals to build and maintain it. Trust Capital should be an asset on the balance sheet. Boards need to focus more on leadership and ethics than they have in the past.” As trust relates to Board success, Kristina's upcoming book will touch on the crucial questions we should all be concerned with:
  • How can the Board of Directors ensure that trust is built within the Board and the overall organization?
  • What is the Chairperson's role in fostering a Board environment of trust?
  • Can the 'Capital of Trust' be measured as an asset on the balance sheet?

Trust has a deep correlation to an organization's culture, and as I write in my book, it also has a direct link to the simple formula of Respectful = Constructive = Effective. With respect, there can be constructive interactions that lead to effectiveness. Without respect, there cannot be constructiveness, which often leads directly to ineffectiveness. This essentially all boils down to the ability to foster and build an environment of trust.

So, great, we understand that trust-building is an important task of leadership, especially by members of a Board, but how do we measure trust levels, and what do we do if we find trust lacking in the Board itself or in the organizations we are leading? These are not easy questions to answer, but surely the place to begin is learning how to bring trust issues into the light and talk constructively about them. First and foremost, this requires a shared vision of what a high-trust, high performance group looks like and building the capacity to give and receive feedback that might be interpersonally provocative. Leaders at any level discussing trust must be willing to discover a blind spot or two, and be open to the possibility that individually, or as a collective leadership team, they are not viewed as trustworthy in the organization’s eyes as they think they are. However painful the results of these discoveries, they are small compared to the daily destruction of work and goals within an organization that happens due to mistrust. "Developing trust can be thought of as 'the work before the work,' meaning the mutual effort needed to build effective communications and relationships - without it, other tasks get done less efficiently and effectively," states Daniel K. Oestreich, Principal at Oestreich Associates Leadership Consulting and the creator of the Team Trust Survey. "Trust can be a sensitive and emotional topic. It is often built slowly and can be eroded rapidly, so it makes sense to use a framework to help make discussion safer and more productive." Once the level of trust becomes genuinely 'discussable' within a leadership team or Board, members can embark together on the important steps of improving communications, managing conflicts, and building new bonds. A trust survey can be a useful tool in initiating that effort.

Making a concerted effort to first measure trust and then fostering a culture of cultivating trust is paramount to ensure success - not just for leadership teams and Boards, but the organizations they are entrusted to serve.


How will you ensure Trust within your Board and organization?


Reach out directly to Mark A. Pfister to ensure your Board's proper culture with his 'Strategic Board Services' offerings and 'National Speaking Tours.'


Mark A. Pfister - Independent Director | Outside Director | Strategist | Board Macro-Influencer | Speaker | Author


About the Author: In addition to sitting on numerous Boards, Mark A. Pfister is a 'Board Macro-Influencer,' a certified Board Director, author, and advises public, private, and nonprofit Boards in efficient and effective operations. Known as 'The Board Architect,' he is also the inventor of the 'Board as a Service' (BaaS) engagement model and an expert project manager frequently advising on strategic global initiatives in their initiation and operational phases...<< read full bio here >>