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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

CONNECTING IS NOT ENOUGH: It's a Question of Trust - A Conversation with Vanessa Hall, Part 1

Connecting Is Not Enough with Andy Lopata

“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 organizations about the importance of trust.

On the 3rd of May, Vanessa is launching 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 and a structural way how trust is built and how it breaks down. This description sheds a lot of light for people in relationships, whether those relationships are business or personal, in terms of what might have gone wrong in the past, how to get better at communicating and how t actively build 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 and asking a lot of people about trust was that it’s a word that we use all the time. 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.” Yet when I asked 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. 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. 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. I looked at when trust breaks down, and when there is trust and, what does that feel like for people. I worked backwards to come to a definition of trust.

So the way I define trust is that it’s our ability to rely on a person, a group of people, an organization, 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. We become aware of it when that outcome is not delivered.

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 organization, 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.” I’ve had an 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 generalized.

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

The second thing is our needs. 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 driving core need for people. That need drives them in all the different kinds of relationships and interactions they have. For example, somebody who is esteem-driven will buy a car because it makes them feel good about themselves, they’ll buy the clothes they buy for the same reason. They’ll engage in relationships, take a job, do all sorts of things that feed that need for esteem.

Likewise all the relationships for somebody who is insecurity-driven will be centered around feeding that core need.

We have expectations and needs. Promises are made to us by the other person, the other organization, or by products and services. The promises could be implicit or explicit, either very clearly stated, or if we had a conversation about them, they were implied; they weren’t really stated anywhere and weren’t written down. We can’t recall a conversation but the promise was implied in a word that was used, or the body language, for instance. Or just by the size of the organization, they can all provide implicit promises.

For trust to occur, 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. 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 organization or that product, we might be a little disappointed but we still stay. We continue to engage. There are others that, if they’re not me,t we’re gone. As a customer, we’re gone, and we just never buy from then 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. Trust actually sits on top of this wall, so it ends up looking like Humpty. I talk about all the king's horses and all the king's 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. We’re feel 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. 98% of the time people say they would never go back there again.

The whole purpose and 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. It's 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. 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 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.


Are you struggling to put an effective networking or referral strategy into place? Do you want to know more about how to ensure you get the maximum possible return from your networking?

Andy's new Audio program, "Networking in Ninety Minutes," will give you the tools you need to make the most from your networking. Available in CD or mp3 format here.
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