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What Are You Measuring?

Posted by Bill Crose on September 13, 2019 at 11:33am 0 Comments

A lifetime ago, my training department colleagues and I were satisfied with training data. We cranked out the requested ILT programs plus the "flavor of the year" content, we kept a busy training schedule, and made sure the coffee was always the right temperature. When accused of not delivering effective training because the learners didn't perform as they were trained, we took refuge in our management support role and not ultimately responsible or accountable for LEARNING or productivity.…

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Segment 16 (2020) Trust - Friday, November 13 - 8:30 to 9:30 AM Eastern USA

Overview:What is the role of trust in your work? How is trust created and sustained? How is it lost? How is it defined? How do you relate competence, communication and follow- through to trust?

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Within my own organization, we operate from six Core Values. "Trust" is one of them. We define it as "Fostering a Partnership with Integrity." Trust doesn't just happen. It is built, like a platform. It is built through promises made and kept, accountabilities taken earnestly, failings owned up to, and commitments ... well ... committed to. Today, data is one of most valuable assets, if not the most valuable. No surprise that securing data is a big deal. How can one do it? Who can one look to for help? Ironically, there are a lot of very human trust issues involved in the securing of "1s" and "0s". 

How do we decide what data to trust? How do we decide what interpretation of data to trust? How does the process used to gather, store, retrieve, interpret and apply data - earn our trust?

And what measures do we trust? When we look at frameworks (e.g. a security standard such as PCI DSS) or legal requirements (e.g. HIPAA), can we trust that they have enough rigor? And perhaps more importantly, are organizations that achieve "compliance" more trustworthy? Are you a fool to trust certifications and declarations of compliance or do you cynically disregard them as bureaucratic "rubber stamps" and/or meaningless exercises to "check the box"?

Excellent thoughts and questions - Daniel - I want to believe that we can and must - as leaders - address these questions effectively.

Here's a different and contrarian angle on trust from the Stanford Business School professor, Jeffery Pfeffer:

"...I no longer believe that trust is essential to organizational functioning or even to effective leadership.... Although many commentators on leadership consider trust to be essential for social and economic organization, few contemporary leaders garner much trust." 

Pfeffer goes on to cite various studies: "The 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, based on surveys conducted all over the world, reported that fewer than one in five respondents believed that government or business leaders would actually tell the truth when confronted with a difficult issue. The 2014 index reported that trust in CEOs remained below 50 percent worldwide.... 

"So it cannot be true that trust is necessary for organizations to function, because numerous organizations are operating even though trust in leaders is in short supply." 

Jeffrey Pfeffer, Leadership BS, Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time (HarperCollins Publishers, 2015).

I agree that trust is not necessary for an organization to function. Survival may be another question to consider and thriving is a third question.

I'd be interested to know if the study was utilizing Leader as a synonym for Authority. It's no surprise to me that respondents have little trust in the distant big wigs of business and government. Leadership is much more personal. 

Regardless of where Trust falls in the Leadership equation, I'm more curious how learning initiatives and certifications can translate into Trust.

On the leadership issue, Pfeffer is on a mission to take on popular leadership models (e.g., servant leadership, virtuous leadership, Sinek's work) by showing evidence to the contrary. E.g., leaders lie on a regular basis and there is little downside to lying. He cites numerous examples of leaders at successful companies (Oracle, Microsoft, Apple, etc.) who bend the truth. I'm not saying I agree with him, but his aim is to make an evidential argument against what we might call ethical leadership.

Here's another view of trust, hot off the press. The Donor Trust Report was just released by the Better Business Bureau. This is not an area in which I have any expertise, but I find the following finding interesting:

“The importance placed on trusting before giving was eroded in 2018, 2019, and 2020.Between December 2017 and December 2019, the overall portion of participants that place “high importance on trust” dropped from 69.8% to 65.4%. Between December 2019 and August 2020, the overall portion of participants that consider trust to be highly important before giving decreased another couple of points, from 65.4% to 63.6%. Moreover, the portion of respondents that attribute low importance to trust before giving grew from 16.2% to 20.8%.”

You can find the report here:  https://www.give.org/docs/default-source/donor-trust-library/2020-d.... To take a quick look, see the summary on page 6 and Trust in 2020 on page 10.

I wonder if there might be some connection between how learning initiatives and certifications translate into trust, Pfeffer's polemic, and the Donor Trust Report, e.g., trust in the institution or organization that awards the recognition. Also, trusting that the individual has the credentials they claim is probably relevant. This comes to mind because Pfeffer cites a study of 2.6 million background checks from a screening and selection company that found 44 percent lied about their work history, 41 percent lied about their education, and 23 percent lied about their credentials or licenses.

Pfeffer is probably correct!

He is likely challenging us to do more than talk about and teach about these popular leadership models. We need to "be" these "popular leadership" leaders and as learning leaders we need to assure that every leader in our organization is leading ethically.

Are we ready, willing and able to be accountable for assessing and remedying the failure of leaders? If not - we are proving Pfeffer's point.

Since I won my first Nobel Prize, I've committed not to stretch the truth on my CV. ;-) 

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