Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A Question of Trust: A conversation with Vanessa Hall (PART ONE)

This article originally appeared in The National Networker

“Building and retaining trust is the cornerstone of every business and personal relationship”.

The quote above sits inside the jacket of Vanessa Hall’s book ‘The Truth about Trust in Business’ and highlights the importance of trust in networking. With networking being founded on relationships, one could argue that trust is the ‘cornerstone’ of networking, and I don’t think you would find many people who would argue.

Certainly not Vanessa Hall. Vanessa is the Australian based Founder and Director of Entente Pty ltd and an award winning speaker and author who advises everyone from individuals to major global organisations about the importance of trust.

Yesterday Vanessa launched the International Day of Trust, with the aim of ‘getting trust into the hearts and minds of people around the World’. I took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about the importance of trust and the different ways in which we trust others.

A: Tell me a little bit about your business. It’s clear that trust is at the core of all that you do.

V: It’s everything that we do. We’ve only been around for four years, so still babies in the trust world but in the beginning we made quite a big impact. I work with businesses but also with personal relationships and more broadly in communities. It’s now expanding into international relations, so we’re working at a very senior government level and with the UN.

Probably the key difference with what I do versus everyone else is how I define what trust is. The model that I use actually describes in a visual way and a structural way how trust is built and how it breaks down so it sheds a lot of light for people in relationships, whether those relationships are in business or personal, in terms of what might have gone wrong in the past, how to get better at communicating and actively building trust on a daily basis.

A: Can you give me an outline of the model of trust that you use and the different types of trust?

V: The first thing I noticed when I was doing a lot of research on trust and asking a lot of people about trust was that it’s a word that we use all the time, and everybody in business that we speak to will say “Yes, trust is critical to my business. I need trust with my customers, need trust with my staff”, and yet when I ask people “what is trust, how would you define it?” I got so many different responses, it wasn’t funny.

I found that when we talk about trust we’re often talking about different things and when I asked people who said that trust was critical in their business “what do you do, how do you build trust?” less than 5% of the hundreds of people that I spoke to in the early days, said that they actually did anything.

The reason they said they didn’t do anything was because they didn’t know how to. There’s no practical guidance or model really for how to go about building trust, so that’s where the conflict started for me. I looked at where there is trust and where there is no trust, when trust breaks down, what does that feel like for people, when there is trust and when there’s none and I worked backwards then to come to a definition of trust.

So the way I define trust is that it’s our ability to rely on a person or a group of people or an organisation or on products and services to deliver a specific outcome. There are actually thousands of points of trust in our day, every single day. And we’re often unaware of those. Everything from the alarm going off in the morning to wake us up, the shower being hot enough, the toothpaste tasting the way you want it to taste.

We generally just trust that all those things are going to work for us and play the role and deliver the outcome we expect from them and we become aware of it when that outcome is not delivered.

So then I looked at what it is that we actually want. What happens that makes us feel good and what happens that makes us feel bad? And I came down to these three core things that I talk about.

The first is understanding that we have expectations. Those expectations come from previous experiences, if we’ve had a previous experience with that person, that organisation, that product or that service. It comes from things that we read or things that we see. Marketing material, for example, creates expectations of what our experiences are going to be like.

It comes from things that other people tell us. Referrals actually create expectations about our experience. And they come from what I call “similar experiences”, so I’ve had and experience with one bank, therefore I think all banks are going to be the same. I’m going to have the same experience in all of them, so it’s going to be generalised.

So we all have these expectations, but we often don’t articulate them but we expect people to meet them and we get disappointed when our expectations are not met.

The second thing is our needs. So I draw on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. From a trust point of view we buy products and services and we engage in relationships with people to meet those needs. I’ve found that there is generally a core driving need for people and that need drives them in all the different kinds of relationships and interactions they have. For example somebody who’s esteem-driven will buy a car because it makes them feel good about themselves, they’ll buy the clothes that they buy for the same reason. They’ll engage in relationships, they’ll take a job; they’ll do all sorts of things that all feed that need for esteem.

Likewise all the relationships for somebody who’s insecurity-driven will be centred around feeding that core need.

So we have expectations and needs, the promises are made to us by the other person, the other organisation or by products and services. The promises could be implicit or explicit, so they’re either very clearly stated or we had a conversation about them, they were implied, they weren’t really stated anywhere and they weren’t written down. We can’t recall a conversation but it was implied in a word that was used, or the body language for instance, or the size of the organisation, they can all provide implicit promises. So there’s a combination of these expectations, needs and promises which I draw like a wall, with two pillars of needs and expectations and promises along the top.

I would expect a structural engineer to understand how the wall would break down, how quickly it would break down in certain circumstances.

There are some expectations and needs that are more important to us than others and there are some points on the wall that are more sensitive. If you took certain bricks out the wall would collapse more quickly. We know that to be true, there are some expectations and needs that if they’re not met by that person or organisation or that product where we might be a little disappointed but we still stay, we continue to engage. There are others that, if they’re not met we’re gone. As a customer, we’re gone, we just never buy again.

We found that the explicit promises sit in one part of the wall and when they’re not met, there are generally cracks in the wall. We tend to complain about an explicit promise which hasn’t been met because we can. Whereas we tend not to say anything about an implicit promise because we’ve got nothing to point to, no conversation to recall. So we let it simmer away and eventually the wall collapses.

So the base of the model is about these, what I call ENP’s and trust actually sits on top of this wall, so it ends up looking like Humpty, and I talk about all the kings horses and all the kings men, can’t put that trust back together if you allow it to get to the point where it completely breaks.

Sometimes there are bricks that drop out, and we’re feeling very unsettled, and disappointed but if it gets to the point where enough of those important bricks fall out or enough of those implicit promises are not met, the whole thing will collapse and it will break and 98% of the time people say they would never go back there again

So the whole purpose and the whole process of building trust is understanding the expectations and needs and being clear about those, knowing which ones are the most important to people and being very, very clear about what promises we’re making and delivering on those promises. Its one thing to make them it’s another thing to deliver them

We also need to understand what are our expectations and needs in this engagement and what are the promises being made to us, so there are two sides, two walls within that relationship. It’s the basis of the trust model. The book, “The Truth about Trust in Business” actually has diagrams all the way through it showing the wall in different stages, in different situations, and how it might play out and how it might break down.


In part two of my interview with Vanessa Hall next month we talk about the different types of trust and how to apply them, the role of trust in passing referrals and some of the pitfalls.

No comments:

Post a Comment