The Number 1 Priority For Your CEO: Building Trust

Silence is now deeply dangerous—a tax on truth – Richard Edelman

Trust is the most valuable commodity in your organisation – although it’s probably not something you talk about often, much less attempt to measure.

For the past 16 years, Edelman has attempted to track the progress, or decline, of trust across 28 countries.

The latest results of their Trust Barometer shows we live in an era of misinformation – which has profound implications for our organisations and communities.

Globally, nearly seven in 10 respondents among the general population worry about fake news or false information, 59% say that it is getting harder to tell if a piece of news comes from a credible source.

Tellingly only 24% of the UK trust Twitter, Facebook and Instagram when looking for news and information.

The credibility of  “a person like yourself” is at an all-time low. The great hope we had for social media as a democratising force for good – unleashing waves of citizen journalists – appears to be over.

This all sounds bleak, but actually, there’s a new hope. 

In an era of trust stagnation, there’s a new opportunity for leaders emerging. People have a renewed faith in credible voices of authority.

A few years ago there was a big drive to get CEOs on social media. With hindsight that was naive – we bear witness every single day to the disastrous consequences of leaders and politicians equipped with Twitter accounts.

The real drive should be to ensure our CEOs and leaders emerge as trusted credible sources of information.

7 in 10 respondents say that building trust is the No. 1 priority for CEOs, ahead of high-quality products and services.

Nearly two-thirds of people say they want CEOs to take the lead on policy change instead of waiting for government, which now ranks significantly below business in trust in most markets.

Building trust as a priority over delivering services? That’s a sit up and take notice moment.

Making this shift means a radical overhaul of how we currently view communication. Most organisations are still deluding themselves into thinking that if they can just get their marketing and PR right they can control the brand message.

Tell a good story. Issue flattering reports and PR pieces. Show you are nice people. Only engage with those who are positive about your organisation.

Demonstrably, this isn’t working. We are haemorrhaging trust.

Over the past week, I’ve been involved in a quite a few debates with leaders and the people we serve. Some of the conversations – and the disconnections they highlight – demonstrate exactly the themes that Edelman are tracking on a global scale.

Feelings of powerlessness, of not being listened to, of organisations that were designed to improve social outcomes becoming distant and ever more corporate.

I’ve certainly reflected on my own communications and why people sometimes don’t trust my organisation. Why they sometimes don’t trust me.

  • Distrust will only be combatted through leaders being open and accountable and having public discourse with one another and with the people they collectively serve.
  • Concern about disinformation will only be combatted by providing real evidence of the kind of outcomes we are achieving. It’s time to kill it with the awards for ourselves.

The digital age has disrupted the accepted rules of trust. No longer is a relationship solely between citizen and institution. What was once a binary one to one relationship behind closed doors is now conducted in public in a much broader social context.

Silence is dangerous.

Social media hasn’t shifted the balance of power — but it’s certainly shining a light on where power is held and how it behaves.

Top Tips for Meetings: No.1 – Don’t Have Them….

The meeting you probably had yesterday. And you will have next week.
The meeting you probably had yesterday. And you will have next week.

About 18 months ago I visited a multinational company specialising in networking equipment. There I sat , marvelling at some of the most state of the art communications systems on the planet:

  • HD Video seamlessly linking multiple sites , one in a different country.
  • Phones with tablets attached to them enabling employees to collaborate and problem solve in a shared digital space via touchscreen.
  • A huge video conferencing centre that tracked to whoever was talking (like the ones in movies when they have to speak to the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.)

But despite the availability of all this amazing technology – the CEO told us that employees still insisted on going to physical meetings.

Why? Perhaps , like zombies drawn to an abandoned shopping centre, they obeyed some kind of instinct, a memory of what they used to do. They felt compelled to travel for miles to sit around a table and go through a 20 item agenda and talk about stuff. And then complain they didn’t have enough time to do their jobs.

Feeling the need to shock them out of their habit – he had a brilliant idea. He wouldn’t ban meetings. He just stopped paying for travel expenses. They could still travel. They could have as many meetings as they liked. But they didn’t get paid.

Meetings stopped overnight. And everyone started using the technology.

One of the most popular posts from the last few weeks has been 9 Unusual Rules For Effective Meetings by Brad Feld

I’m a big fan of No.4:

If you’re not getting anything out of the meeting, leave

But my favourite is this:

Do we really need to meet?

Sound advice
Sound advice

Today we have technologies available to us to exchange views and collaborate in different and more effective ways.

Last week I did a presentation via webinar to two organisations  – one in Brisbane, one in Melbourne. At midnight. In my pyjamas ( I’m not posting a picture by the way – there is no Instagram filter yet invented to make THAT look good.)

It was just as effective as a meeting – probably more so.

On the same evening I also did the following:

  • Arranged a guest blog with Tim Smith – a thought leader on Generation Y and Generation Z ( read his post here)
  • Had a twitter conversation with Shirley Ayres – a thought leader in Digital and Social Care
  • Crossed (friendly) swords with Kate Hughes  – a thought leader in Communications and Marketing – who had done a neat dissection of one of my posts on her blog (read it here)

The interesting thing is this:

I’ve never met any of them.

That’s understandable with Tim – as he’s based in Texas. But Shirley and Kate both live in the UK. In fact, Kate and I have worked in offices that are barely 4 miles apart for the past 2 years. But our paths have never crossed.

Online and social technology means they can influence me and shape what I do – without having to meet in real life. I’m sure we will meet , and I believe online relationships can be enhanced by physical connections.

But we need to lose the snobbishness that suggests online is less “real”.  That looking into someones eyes over Skype is less authentic than looking into someone eyes over a PowerPoint presentation.

Next week you will be invited to a lot of meetings and will probably accept them without thinking – it’s our habit.

Or we can stop. Read those rules. Try a Google+ hangout. Or try any of the online collaborative tools that are available.

And do something more interesting with the time we saved.

The Delicate Balance Of Online and Offline Influence

“What is truly exciting about where we are today is that never before in our collective history has it been so accessible for absolutely everyone to provide their voice to the conversation. Where anyone with ‘humble beginnings’ can make a name for themselves.  Your ability to influence comes more from what you have to offer, than from your background or your pedigree or financial status.Mark Schaefer 

I had a discussion recently with a tenant of a Housing Association. It followed a presentation where I stated that I didn’t think we could afford to ignore the concept of Social Influence scoring for too long.  Influence scoring , if you don’t know, is where your online contributions through social media are aggregated through an algorithm and converted into a number by tools like Klout , Kred and PeerIndex. A number that compares your influence to everyone else.

And , just like credit reference scoring, we all have a number.

“You are right” , said the resident I was talking to, “I have a Klout score of 30,  Our Chief Executive has no online presence. Perhaps I’m more influential to my online community.”

There is no perhaps about it. This concept of “Citizen Influencers” having greater online power than the CEO’s of large organisations fascinates me. Surely we would be foolish to ignore a system that attempts to measure that?

What would you do if you interviewed someone for a job who you thought was brilliant – but had no online footprint? Who appeared influential in real life but who wasn’t on Twitter , Facebook or LinkedIn? What would it make you think about them? Would they even get an interview? 

I used to be quite cynical about social influence scoring – thinking it was a fad and lacked sophistication. But then people like Helen Reynolds and Shirley Ayres got me interested in the possibilities. Klout , the leading platform, says Helen and Shirley both influence me. And Klout is correct – they influenced me to buy Return on Influence – a wonderful book by Mark Schaefer, the author I have quoted above.

Get that. Two people , only one of whom I have met in real life , have influenced me to read something I previously had no interest in.

And that’s why online influence is important.  You can amplify your real life influence to an online audience.  And you can make them do something. Like read your blog, purchase a product or tell their friends about your services.

And it will make people decide whether they want to work with you or not. Social Scoring could become a metric that influences recruitment decisions.

There was a post this week criticising a company for stating that applicants for a Social Media position had to have a Klout score of 35 and above. I just don’t see the problem with this at all. Is this any more unfair than ruling out an applicant based upon those traditional , and not particularly reliable,  tools like CV Scoring , Belbin profiles and psychometric tests.

I have proposed using Klout and Kred as part of performance management for the roles on my teams that depend on influencing others. So far , I’ve been convinced that it’s not necessary.  But I can see a useful future tool here. After all , if part of their jobs depend upon online presence – why would I not be interested in the trajectory of their influence?

Our future professional success will be dependent on an increasingly delicate balance between our offline and online track record. Social scoring will play a part in that. Whether we like it or not.

But what do you think?