Absolute Trust?

The first trustworthy article on promises and dependability generated a lot of off-line conversation. Here’s one of the most interesting threads from a few brilliant friends:

I’m thinking trustworthiness is never absolute, highly contextual, and probably rarely enduring. – JT

I think you are correct. There are reliable people who are not trustworthy. In fact, I can imagine situations where one could set a watch by how reliably predictable ‘untrustworthy’ people are. I wonder if the converse is true – Can someone be trustworthy without being reliable or is it a prerequisite?

It just seems as if someone is trustworthy if you are willing to put your trust in them in any multitude of ways (and it could be just one way, like, I have a very trustworthy mechanic and I put my trust in his ability to consistently, fairly, and competently fix my car and charge me a fair amount, etc.), but that same person has the power to, at any point in time, break that trust. Similarly, one may be trustworthy to some, but not to others. So it seems odd to attempt to place the label on a person as a characteristic rather than on a relationship at a point in time, or on a trend in regards to a specific kind of action over time (e.g. the mechanic). – JT

I don’t think trustworthiness is an absolute, so if you lie once in your entire life then you’re untrustworthy, that kind of interpretation is an impossible standard. So going forward we tend to think of things in absolutes, and it just does not work with how people really are. Also, you are looking at something that is the definition of subjective. Take the example of a secret, if the person keeps a secret of mine are they trustworthy? Too me, yes. Now that secret applies to you, but this person will not tell you. So in one example you have a person who is simultaneously building trust with me and eroding it with you. -CV

I love that example. By extrapolation, trust is subjective but can be calculated implicitly by matching values against values. I wonder if it’s possible to trust someone who holds values anti-ethical to my own? If not, does a lack of trustworthiness merely indicate a difference of values?

Yes I can trust someone with ethics counter to my own, but here’s the rub, when I think about it I’m not sure how I come to that conclusion. Is it the person I’m trusting or is it that I trust what the person will do or say based on their own ethical stance. If it’s the latter then given enough knowledge of a persons ethos then I can trust anyone.

Also, we tend to compartmentalize our trust in people. Take a hacker for example, you’re not going to trust him with your PC but they are going to be the first people to look for when putting together a tiger team to test a networks security. We actually break our trust down into the segments of a person we find appealing. – CV

What are your thoughts on Absolute Trust? Share in the comments below.

Honesty and Truthfulness

Tell the truth and keep your promises. Be honest and dependable. Seems terribly simple, doesn’t it? These are characteristics we all can cite as important. No one would have an issue with this ideal being taught to children. And I am sure everyone reading this would say they are trustworthy themselves. But once you dig a little deeper and apply an adult perspective things change…. or do they? For this next part of my Scout Law project, let’s examine Honesty & Truthfulness in terms of the value Trustworthy.


Honesty and truthfulness

Do you always tell the truth?

I’ll save you the suspense – no, you probably do not. I know I do not always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And I doubt you do either. If we didn’t, society might look like this:

The Invention of Lying

The Invention of Lying

Does that make us liars? Yes, it probably does. Does that make us less than trustworthy? Good question. Perhaps it’s a matter of serving the greater good.

The shades of truth approach is usually reserved protect someone’s feelings but sometimes it can be for convenience. I believe it’s that shift that is the slippery moral slope.

In this context, it’s not difficult to see why we would want our sons and daughters to be honest. But would we want them to be in all cases? There’s no surprise why trustworthiness is a universal moray – it’s a necessary stitch in the fabric of community. But how about Honesty? Tell us what you think in the comments below.



Promises and Dependability

The first Scout Law is for a Scout to be Trustworthy. I’ve been thinking on the meaning of this word as part of my Scout Law project. It’s a complex issue that I am finding requires the examination of multiple perspectives. For this post, I’d like to investigate how promises (fulfilled or otherwise) and dependability factor into the value we label Trustworthy.

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One Way to Measure Trust

A year ago I was in a meeting about surveying our clients’ perspective on my organization’s performance. The idea of the survey was a followup on the idea of Net Promoter Score (NPS), made popular by Frederick F. Reichheld in a 2003 Harvard Business Review article titled ‘The One Number You Need to Grow.‘ The reason we were employing NPS was to calibrate our service model to our client’s needs.

The NPS tactics included create a comprehensive survey with open ended questions and a rating mechanism. If respondents scored our services low enough, we labeled them as ‘detractors.’ If they scored us within a certain band, they were  quantified as neutral. If they rated our service high enough, they were seen as promoters. To find your score you subtract the detractors from the promoters and divide that sum by the total opportunities. The goal then is to improve that score over time based on the feedback to the open ended questions in the survey. Other options include closing the loop and working with the survey respondents to improve your processes.

While we were designing  the survey I found it amazing how close the questions clients are surveyed with are to promises kept and dependability. We debated several questions, the phrasing of the questions, and what exactly it was that we were after.

Note: If you 1) are in business, 2) in management, 3) have clients or aspire to any of those 3 AND you’re not familiar with Net Promoter score, it’s worth learning. Here’s the wikipedia description, here’s a summary from Harvard Business Review (where the idea was originally published in 2003), and here’s a link to buy the entire pdf from Amazon The One Number You Need to Grow.

In the end what I suggested that what we really wanted to discover was our client’s level of trust. After all, that’s what everyone gets hired for in the end; management’s trust in you to employ your skills and exhibit good judgement. The group agreed with me and we proceeded to ask very tough questions to ascertain out client’s level of trust in our organization.

How does the ability to deliver on promises impact trustworthiness to you? How does dependability impact trustworthiness in your eyes? What criteria do people have to display to earn your trust? How do they lose it?

Do you think you could adapt the corporate concept of Net Promoter Score to your personal life? Have you? What were the results?

Tell us in the comments.