TED Talk: How to Build Trust

It’s no secret one of the cornerstones of any good relationship is trust. In business as in life, this is no different. Today, Ignitia reviews the key points on how to build trust as given during a TED Talk earlier this year by Harvard Business School professor, Frances Frei.

The Importance of Trust from a Corporate Perspective

According to professor Frei, trust is the foundation for everything we do. In fact, professor Frei asserts that if we can learn to trust one another more we can have unprecedented human progress. However, professor Frei begins her talk by addressing a more serious matter: what to do when trust is lost? According to professor Frei, six months earlier she was working at Uber. As a Harvard Business School professor, she was attracted to a company that was on fire. However, according to professor Frei, Uber was a company which had lost trust with every constituent that mattered.

The Three Component Parts of Trust

According to professor Frei however, her favorite trait is redemption. She believes there is a better version of us around every corner. Professor Frei says she went to Uber to try to help turn them around. According to professor Frei, if we are going to rebuild trust, we must understand its component parts. According to professor Frei, there are 3 component parts of trust. The first, is authenticity. If a person senses we are being authentic with them, they are much more likely to trust us. Second, if a person senses we have real rigor in our logic they are much more likely to trust us. And finally, if the person believes our empathy is directed at them, they are much more likely to trust us. When all three of these things are working, we have great trust. However, if any one of these three gets shaky, trust is threatened. According to professor Frei, it is possible for each of us to establish better trust immediately by understanding upon which pillar our trust wobbles, and to have a ready-made prescription for it.

Rebuilding Trust Lost Through Lack of Empathy

According to professor Frei, the most common wobble is empathy. Too often, people just don’t believe we’re mostly in it for them and they believe we’re too self-distracted. In the day and age of distraction and limited time, it’s easy to see how people often may be skeptical of how much time and attention we can afford them. According to professor Frei, this is a vicious cycle. When we have less time for empathy, then we have less time for trust, and everything else suffers. As a prescription professor Frei suggests we identify where, when, and to whom we are likely to offer our distractions. According to professor Frei, this should trace pretty accurately to where, when, and with whom we are likely to withhold out empathy. If at that point we can develop a trigger during those events that allows us to look up and immerse ourselves in the other person’s perspectives, then we have a chance of having a sturdy leg of empathy. On a final note, professor Frei suggests if we do nothing else, we should try to put away our cell phones, because it is super difficult to create empathy and trust when we are so constantly distracted by them.

Rebuilding Trust Lost Through Faulty Logic

According to professor Frei, logic wobble can come in two forms: it’s either the quality of our logic, or it’s our ability to communicate the logic. Now, if the quality of our logic is at risk, much work needs to be done to correct this flaw. Fortunately however, most often our logic is sound, but it’s our ability to communicate the logic that is the problem. According to professor Frei, there is a very fortunate and easy fix for this.

The Only Two Ways to Communicate

According to professor Frei, there are only two ways to communicate in the world. The first way is by taking the person on a journey before arriving at our point. However, if we have a logic wobble, this form of communicating can be very dangerous as it offers ample opportunity to miscommunicate our point. Instead, when attempting to establish trust, professor Frei implores us to use the second approach to communication which is to start with our point in a crisp half sentence, and then give our supporting evidence. In doing so, when you state your point up top you do not run the risk of someone else cutting you off before you have arrived at your point.

Rebuilding Trust Through Rebuilding Authenticity

The third wobble is authenticity. Professor Frei admits this leg of the trust triangle to be the most vexing. According to professor Frei, we as human beings can determine in an instant whether or not someone is being authentic with us. According to professor Frei, the idea of just being ourselves is simple when we’re around people like us, however when we’re around people who represent any sort of difference (which is most of the time) the idea of just being ourselves can be super challenging. According to professor Frei, when we are ourselves, the likelihood of us being different rises. And when we’re seen as different, the chances of us being our true self decreases. Thus, we are tempted to not be ourselves which in turn makes people trust us much less. If people don’t trust us, they won’t give us stretch assignments, and when we don’t get these assignments, we are much less likely to get promoted and we are likely to become super depressed. All this could be prevented by being our authentic selves.

Being Our Authentic Selves

As advice, professor Frei suggests we wear whatever makes us feel fabulous. She suggests instead of saying what we think others want to hear, we should speak what our authentic, awesome self needs to say. Professor Frei then states that for the leaders listening it is also imperative to set the right conditions where people can feel safe to be their authentic selves. According to professor Frei, when we create an environment that fosters this authenticity, celebrates it, and cherishes people who are their authentic selves, we will have unlocked the key to achieving greater excellence in our organizations than has ever been seen before.

Returning to the Uber Example

Returning to her Uber example, professor Frei states when she arrived at Uber, all three pillars were wobbling. However, she says they were able to find super quick and effective fixes for two of the areas. The first area that needed fixed was empathy. A simple fix was to eliminate cell phone usage from all meetings. The second pillar that was wobbling was the logic portion. According to professor Frie, because Uber had grown so quickly many managers had been promoted over-and-over into jobs they were unqualified for. The solution was a massive influx of education training for these positions to get them up to speed. This allowed more people to understand their strategic purpose in order to communicate their point off the top more quickly and effectively. According to professor Frei, the final area of authenticity is still very wobbly.

Corporate Authenticity is Hard Most Places

According to professor Frei, this is no different then many companies she’s seen in Silicon Valley. According to professor Frei, it is much easier to coach people to fit in and reward them when they say something we were going to say than to reward people when they say something entirely different from what we were going to say. However, according to professor Frei, when we figure out how to celebrate difference and allow people to bring the best version of themselves forward, we will be one step closer to rebuilding trust in every corner of this world.

 

 

 

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