Utegate – A question of trust

According to a recent Harvard Business Review Advisory Council Reader’s Survey dated January 2009, it was considered that trust had eroded in top executives – by over 76% in US based companies and 51% in non-US companies.

That is a lot of trust to lose. 

Watching the recent shenanigans* of our government and opposition spat over the so-called Utegate scandal, it certainly raises the question of what possibly were they hoping to gain?  Given no-one seriously thought it would result in a resignation of the Prime Minister or the Opposition Leader, all that really is at stake here is the public’s trust in their leaders. 

 Rudd and Turnbull

We can only assume the motivation that is driving them to behave, attack and defend their actions as they are, is to help protect and uphold Australia’s values, ethics, security,  competitiveness, health, safety, education and all the other reasons that they were voted into office as our leaders.  I would not be the first to say that connection is difficult to make. Even if it can be found, would we rate it as the most important issue that we would like our leaders of our nation to focus on?  And at what point did or does the motivation change from pursuing the truth to pursuing personal agendas?

In this global economic environment we are seeing increasing pressure on businesses and executives.  This is a test of character for most. And we are seeing plenty of examples of organizations’ cultures crumbling, trust being eroded, candor turning into clandestine, and ethics and values once clear now murkily represented. 

Trust is something that requires careful building.  A coherent and transparent position that is understood, chosen and lived by those who lead and those who follow.  It is very easily dissipated.  And even harder to rebuild.

So how do you ensure trust not only remains in-tact but grows over these challenging times?  The key thing is of course to know who you are and what you stand for.  Trust is not a job responsibility, it is a choice in which you wish to offer and earn.

The basis of trust in leadership

  1. Know oneself  and take a clear position on your beliefs and values – communicate and live by who you are and what you believe in
  2. Be transparent and candid in communication and decision making – share why decisions are being made, share the process, those engaged, and progress.  Your organization and personal values should have a common base otherwise the differences will quickly show and allow room for corruption.handshake on house trust
  3. Share – share information, good, bad, challenges, disappointments and wins.  Help explain what is clear, what is grey, what is not being shared and why.
  4. Tell the truth always – you may suffer consequences of telling the truth, but it can never be as bad as the consequences of not telling the truth.  The most important thing at stake here is your integrity.  You can’t deceive and retain integrity.
  5. Encourage, invite, create forums for feedback – this is all about creating a culture that encourages open discussions and the sharing of ideas and information.  It is also important that you regularly hear, see and feel the truth and reality of a situation.
  6. Get directly involved and see first-hand any situation that you need to represent – the more layers you have between yourself and what you represent, the more likely the room for spin, softening, misinterpretation of the truth etc.
  7. Evaluate how you are living your word – reflect regularly on your behavior and that of others, call yourself and others to question and do not accept anything that can be considered untrustworthy or against the values of your organization.
  8. Champion Trust – encourage it, live it, recognize it, reward it. 

Friedrich Nietzsche, German classical Scholar, Philosopher and Critic of culture once wrote “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

To lead in today’s environment, you need to be trusted.  Don’t compromise.
* Definition of shenanigan “1: a devious trick used especially for an underhand purpose2 a: tricky or questionable practices or conduct —usually used in plural b: high-spirited or mischievous activity —usually used in plural (Merrriam-Webster online).  A most apt description!

6 Replies to “Utegate – A question of trust”

  1. Pretty nice post. I just came across your blog and wanted to say
    that I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way
    I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  2. I think it is great that you are able to see beyond the immature and schoolyard tactics used by our ‘leaders’ this week to find a message for further contemplation.

  3. Utegate.
    A nice diversion for the scuttling of the building industry watchdog.

  4. I agree and have always likened politics to school yard antics and anyone who has every watched even one session of parliament would surely agree. What was sad that neither side even attempted to take a higher moral ground with this one but rather resorted to mud slinging, name calling and attempted (or successful depending on how you look at it) public ridicule of the other. It only heightened my lack of faith in our leaders and politicians in general. Sadly – there are no alternatives or I am sure that many would join me in sacking this lot and finding more approriate leadership that focusses on the real issues of Australia and the world. What a waste of our time and money and resources this past week.

  5. At no point did the motivation change from the pursuit of truth to the pursuit of personal agendas, Truth was never an aim here. In reality truth in politics exists only in order to prove someone lied.
    Is everybody in this world out for themselves in these tough times? If the answer is yes, as many may sumise based on the now evident executive greed that helped create the tough times and if some have any authority over others then trust may be dead.
    If more people worked and lived by your first trust basis point and were steadfast in their application of it the world would be a much better place.
    Don’t be upset by the antics of those in politics, expect nothing and spare yourself the disappointment. Australian politics is now in the same boat as Australian media, It’s just sad.

  6. (Re media comparison) Exactly the same boat Anthony – sad and full of lies and personal agendas…….

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