Leadership needs to lead with Trust Intelligence (TI)

The global pandemic triggered by Covid-19 presented the world with the ultimate test of leadership across industries and geographies. From health care to government, school systems to non-profits, almost every organization has experienced unprecedented challenges over the past few months that have tested the values and skills of its leaders. Navigating this uncertainty requires mental and emotional stamina, courage and compassion.

I have written on the subject of the balance between IQ vs EI, ‘Why emotional intelligence is leadership, team spirit and company culture’, ‘Emotional Intelligence and Your Survival through the 4th Industrial Revolution‘ and more recently ‘The four Intelligences; IQ, EI, SI, DI and why we need Wisdom Intelligence (WI)‘.

In our company Douglas and I often debate the importance of the intelligences – the very reason ‘The four Intelligences; IQ, EI, SI, DI and why we need Wisdom Intelligence (WI)’ was written, was based on why as human’s we need a balance of skill, competence, moral and ethic behaviours to be truly effective in this new world, our conversations continue as whilst trust is not a new subject, there are just a few elemental forces that hold our world together. The one that’s the glue of society is called trust.

As Douglas Lines once said: “The importance of trust, integrity and experience has always been critical at IBEM, in my experience, this is ethically and morally important, but it is also our business mantra.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama once said ‘“To earn trust, money and power aren’t enough; you have to show some concern for others. You can’t buy trust in the supermarket.”‘

Trust in a leader allows organizations and communities to flourish, while the absence of trust can cause fragmentation, conflict, and even war. That’s why we need to trust our leaders, our family members, our friends and our co-workers, albeit in different ways.

Trust is hard to define, but we do know when it’s lost. When that happens, we withdraw our energy and level of engagement. We go on an internal strike, not wanting to be sympathetic to the person who we feel has hurt us or treated us wrongly. We may not show it outwardly, but we are less likely to tell the formerly trusted person that we are upset, to share what is important to us or to follow through on commitments. As a result, we pull back from that person and no longer feel part of their world. This loss of trust can be obvious or somewhat hidden, especially if we pretend to be present but inwardly disengage. And those who have done something to lose our trust may not even know it.

On the positive side, trust makes people feel eager to be part of a relationship or group, with a shared purpose and a willingness to depend on each other. When trust is intact, we will willingly contribute what is needed, not just by offering our presence, but also by sharing our dedication, talent, energy, and honest thoughts on how the relationship or group is working.

The dynamics of trust are delicate in important relationships, and the loss of trust can be costly — not only psychologically, but also financially and in terms of work and livelihood. What’s helpful to remember is that trust is an ongoing exchange between people and is not static. Trust can be earned. It can be lost. And it can be regained.

Trust is the new disruptor, one that businesses must master to realize the full power of data and new intelligent technologies.

Markets face complex and accelerating change. This is fuelled by “intelligent technologies” such as robotic process automation and artificial intelligence (AI), including speech recognition, natural language processing, and computer vision based on machine-learning algorithms and enabled by limitless cloud-based computing capacity.

The proliferation of inexpensive sensor technology has generated massive amounts of data, which AI consumes to learn from experience, make decisions, and deliver enhanced insights. But can this intelligence be trusted?

Those able to exploit how new intelligent technologies use data are gaining a competitive advantage. But they also face a new set of risks. For some, the mode and speed at which intelligent technologies digest and act on data are creating unexpected outcomes — fracturing trust with customers, markets and across ecosystems. For example, would you use online banking if you didn’t trust the bank? Would you get into a self-driving car you didn’t trust?

A key question for executives has emerged: can you trust the intelligence driving your enterprise?

We are living in a time of increasingly intelligent technologies when an organization’s ability to be trusted really matters. But the way data and intelligent technologies such as AI are being used is creating significant trust gaps. For example, the public feels that intelligent technology is moving too fast and that regulators can’t keep up, as documented in the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer.

There are plenty of high-profile examples of data misuse and unintended outcomes from AI usage that have contributed to these gaps. One small example took place this June when an AI tool to reconstruct pixelated photos turned a photo of Barack Obama into a white man. It became a matter of hot debate in the AI community: was the bias towards creating more photos of white people than people of colour the result of incomplete data or indicative of the racial bias baked into AI from non-diverse datasets and development teams?

Trust gaps have reframed the question of “Can tech do this?” into “Should tech do this?” It’s no longer about capabilities. It’s about trust in the intelligence that a business uses, and that customers, markets, regulators and ecosystems rely on. Can companies and government organizations ensure the outcomes of their technologies? Do they have reliable methods for identifying, tracking and correcting unintended outcomes? Without trust, the ability of an organization to operate and innovate is reduced and slowed down.

In low-trust environments, you’ll see low morale, disengagement and a lack of commitment. You’ll also see people manipulating, distorting facts and withholding information. There will be resistance to new ideas, blame culture, finger-pointing, overpromising, underdelivering, and, often, tension and fear. Everything will take longer to do and everything will cost more.

Increase trust within your team: Stephen M. R. Covey

The converse in high-trust cultures is equally true. When the trust goes up in an organisation, the speed will go up and costs will come down. Your ability to collaborate goes up, as does your ability to attract, retain and engage people. When trust goes up, you’ll see people sharing information, not being afraid to make mistakes, more creativity, higher accountability and greater energy and satisfaction. When you move the needle on trust, you move all kinds of other needles with it.

As businesses and governments transform to meet new challenges, it’s essential to embed Trust Intelligence into the core of their operations.

Enterprises powered by trust will be able to deliver on all three transformation drivers: people, technology and innovation. They’ll be able to leapfrog their competitors. To shape new markets.
To lead into better futures.

It’s hard to quantify exactly how important trust is for a business. For business owners, a lack of trust is your biggest expense. It may take years for a manager or an executive to develop the trust of his or her employees, but only moments to lose. Without trust, transactions cannot occur, influence is destroyed, leaders can lose teams and salespeople can lose sales. The list goes on.

Trust and relationships, much more than money, are the currency of business.

Trust is the natural result of thousands of tiny actions, words, thoughts, and intentions. Trust does not happen all at once; gaining trust takes work. It might take years of calling on a certain client to break through and fully gain their comfort and trust. Yet in spite of the importance of trust in the business world today, few leaders have given it the focus and nurturing it deserves.

Business strategist and author David Horsager speaks internationally on the bottom-line impact of trust. He has developed a system with which he teaches leaders how to build the Eight Pillars of Trust:

• Clarity – People trust the clear and mistrust the ambiguous
• Compassion – People put faith in those who care beyond themselves
• Character – People notice those who do what is right over what is easy
• Competency – People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant, and capable
• Commitment – People believe in those who stand through adversity
• Connection – People want to follow, buy from, and be around friends
• Contribution – People immediately respond to results
• Consistency – People love to see the little things done consistently

Finally, it is crucial to understand that trust is fundamental to the genuine success of any kind. The trust you have with your team, colleagues or family, traditionally, businesses have relied on a “command and control” management style, focusing on rigid hierarchies and compliance from employees.

We must shift from a “command and control” to a “trust and inspire” leadership model.

Trusting and inspiring your team is defined by the commitment from both sides, with a focus on effectiveness and fostering a growth mindset. It is based on the belief that employees are creative, collaborative, and full of potential; through trust, you can inspire them to do their best work, and reinforce the need for trust.

Thomas Jefferson was an American statesman, philosopher, who served as the third president of the United States, once said:

‘Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.’