Building trust and alignment

Three Key Takeaways:

  • Using the Trust equation
  • Role of Trust in everyday infrastructure decision-making
  • Understanding the balance between institution and the role of data/analysis.

It’s Monday morning, and you and your team have been working overtime on the presentation requesting the next major project investment decision. It’s time to present to the steering committee. They will use your submission to decide whether to proceed to the next phase of the project. Last time, they rejected your submission and asked for a presentation the following month. This time you want to get over the line and get the decision and the money. You want to be seen as a capable leader, trusted with the big tasks ahead.  

There is a perception and mutual understanding that transparency and collaboration build Trust in decisions making process. Trust is an interesting value, which can be broadened further to organisation structures and day-to-day decision-making based on systems, data, processes, and people’s view.

There are two key methods on how to define and measure Trust. One of the famous ones is the Trust Equation by David Maister – Reading one of his books called “Strategy and the Fat Smoker – Highly recommended.

In his view, four things build Trust:

  1. Credibility – What you say, skills and credentials we bring to the table and how other people see our experience and expertise.
  2. Reliability – Action, predictability and how other people see us dependable.
  3. Intimacy – People confide in us. Do they love working with you?
  4. One thing can destroy Trust, and that is self-orientation. You may meet people in your career that everything was about them.

He proposes the below equation to define Trust.  

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Trust Equation by David M.

Reflect on the last interaction you had recently; think about the above equation.

According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), “Begin with Trust” by Frances X. Frei and Anne Morriss, “… Trust has three core drivers: authenticity, logic, and empathy. 

There is a similarity between the measurement and approach and let’s agree that they are both talking about the same concept. Organisations and people tend to trust you when they believe they are interacting with the real you (authenticity), when they have confidence in your judgment and competence (logic), and when they feel that you care about them (empathy). When Trust is lost, it can almost always be traced back to a breakdown in one of these three or four drivers.”

Trust reduces the complexity of everyday life since it allows us to take certain things for granted, such as people do not usually try to harm us or that the news is accurate. Trust matters because we use it to make decisions about things, like making a significant investment decision, hiring a new person, meeting someone for the first time for a coffee or having an interaction at a networking seminar or having a chat with someone on a dating app.

Trust is a fundamental element of social capital – a key contributor to sustaining well-being outcomes, including economic or political development. No matter which political party you support or what view you have, there are common patterns that you can follow and come up with a view of your environment and surroundings on how people make decisions.

Before I wrap things off, I was hoping to leave you with one key question worth considering:

“Do you trust your team, leader, board, or organisation you work with? “

I want to go back to the trust equation by David Maister and consider the current level of self-orientation. It’s an interesting exercise, and it will shape your thinking. 

Everyone wants to make a good decision; humans are generally risk averse. You are faced with many daily decisions as an infrastructure or project leader. Some of these decisions get made in split seconds, and some may take longer. The quality and accuracy of those decisions measure infrastructure delivery’s success and has long-term implications.

Trust is the glue that binds the leader to their followers and provides the capacity for organisational and Infrastructure to ensure strategy aligns with the outcomes.

There is a role for trusting your gut feeling and intuition when making a decision, and there are roles to utilise data, complex analysis and subject matter people experience. Understanding the balance between these two will enable us to cut to the chase and get an outcome.

If decision-making is slow and things are not moving forward, then one of the main concerns is a lack of Trust. The time spent on thinking, evaluating, and assessing must be given on the foundational level.

Once Trust has been established, a solid foundation can be built; a robust mechanism is in place to make an informed decision in a much safer environment.


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