Peter Drucker long ago said that organizations are no longer built on force; they’re built on trust. He went on to clarify his point by saying that trust didn’t necessarily mean that people liked each other or wanted to spend more time together. It simply meant people understood one another
The tricky aspect of trust is that it puts us at risk. We assume risk in the same moment that we choose to trust. Trusting someone isn’t the same as having confidence in them. While we use these terms interchangeably, they are in fact quite different.
Confidence is extended when it’s merited and it is can be objectively measured and quantified. If a baseball player typically hits three out of ten balls, then two different people from different cultures will have approximately the same level of confidence in the batter’s ability.
Trust, however, is far more nebulous and is often interpreted based on cultural assumptions. Even gender will influence perceptions of trustworthiness. Yet, in many respects, trust is far more important than confidence because it encompasses all of our hopes and fears says Jeffry Simpson, a researcher at the University of Minnesota.
Companies, however, still don’t view their employees and customers as people with hopes and fears. They largely view customers as marketing targets and employees as people in need of motivation. That framework is simply not conducive to trust.
The only way to build and sustain trust is through understanding. Therefore, companies must develop tools and processes that illuminate customers’ perceptions of trustworthiness. That requires empathy and not on an interpersonal level but on an organizational level. Empathy must be woven into business processes with the same rigor and formality as ROI.
Steven Covey said that we must seek first to understand, then to be understood. To have any hope of being understood, we must take seriously the pursuit of understanding others. That doesn’t mean that one sales person understands one customer, it means that an entire organization of employees have a shared understanding of their customers’ hopes and fears.
That’s why I build tools that promote understanding. In doing so, I’m really teaching companies how to communicate empathetically and create trust by reducing fear. This is also how authentic relationships are established and maintained, by communicating in a manner that always makes people feel understood. And it’s particularly crucial during a period of turbulence or crisis.
To succeed, companies desperately need tools that promote understanding. We have an entire industry of professionals dedicated to pushing out ideas and products. Now we need the ability to create change from a position of shared agreement.
While the ideals of the recent past were rooted in consumerism; the ideals of today are rooted in purpose. People don’t want to be sold or cajoled, they want to be understood.
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