It’s Faux Trust

?????????????????I get a lot of gift catalogs and always chuckle when they advertise the “faux plants.” Why they do not call them “fake plants” is pretty obvious. Nobody would want to buy something fake, so they give the items a fancy name as if that is really going to fool anyone. They keep doing it, so the method must be working for them.

I work in the arena of trust, and I think the notion of “faux trust” is one worth exploring. Stephen M.R. Covey dealt with the topic of faux trust behaviors very well in his first book, The Speed of Trust. Stephen identified 13 key trust behaviors and then identified the opposite behavior and also what he called the “counterfeit” behavior: one that looks real but is not genuine. Here is the list from Stephen’s book.

Trust Behavior –  Opposite –  Counterfeit

1. Talk straight –  Lie or deceive –  Withholding information
2. Demonstrate respect –  Not respect –  Faking respect
3. Create transparency –  Cover up –  Hidden agendas
4. Right wrongs –  Justify wrongs –  Covering up or hiding
5. Show loyalty –  Take credit yourself – Being two-faced
6. Deliver results –  Perform poorly –  Doing busywork
7. Get better –  Deteriorate –  Eternal student
8. Confront reality –  Ignore reality –  Evade reality
9. Clarify expectations –  Leave undefined –  Guessing
10. Practice accountability –  Not taking responsibility –  Blaming others
11. Listen first –  Speak first –  False listening
12. Keep commitments –  Violate promises –  Overpromising
13. Extend trust –  Withhold trust –  Extend false trust

In this article, I will pick up where Stephen’s list leaves off. I want to explore the issue of false trust and see what it looks like. If you look at a faux potted plant very closely, you can determine that it is plastic rather than real leaves and stems. Often the one thing that gives away the ruse is that the “Faux plant” is too perfect. Real plants have some imperfections or dead parts that show up under close examination. So it is with faux trust; the appearance is too perfect for the real world, and that becomes one of the telltale ways we can identify the fake. Let’s look at 10 examples:

1. The issue of risk. Real trust involves a willingness to take some calculated risks. Actually, that is one of the ways trust is defined. If I really do trust a person, then I do not need to see whether he is sneaking behind my back. When Ronald Reagan uttered the words “Trust but verify,” he was revealing a kind of faux trust toward the Russians. It sounded too perfect, and it was.

2. The issue of safety. True trust means the absence of fear. If I trust my boss not to clobber me when I have a contrarian opinion, that means I believe he will not find some way to get back at me. Too often leaders indicate that it is safe to challenge the boss, but end up punishing people when they do it. People quickly learn the plea for openness is really a smoke screen, and they clam up.

3. The issue of hypocrisy. Real trust means the leader always does what he says he will do. It is easy to spot the faux variety of trust when the boss rationalizes why he is bending the rules in his favor. It is always possible to explain away the situation, but the damage done to trust will remain like the smell of a skunk long after the animal has left the area.

4. The issue of favorites. Trust is built on a sense of fairness where people recognize why things are being done a certain way. Ironically, it does not rely on treating everyone the same way. In fact, the late John Wooden, former basketball coach for UCLA, made a remarkable statement about favorites. He said, “The surest way for a coach to play favorites is to treat every player the same way.” That sounds like doubletalk until you realize that each player has unique needs, so treating each player the same as every other one will inevitably advantage one player over another.

5. The issue of the Golden Rule. Faux trust relies on treating people the way you would like to be treated. Some people like to use the “Platinum Rule,” which states “treat other people the way they would like to be treated,” but that one does not work either. The true trust relies on treating every individual the right way, not always how you or they would like to be treated.

6. The issue of accountability. Faux trust means holding people accountable when they do something wrong. True trust means giving feedback when an employee does something right as well as when she does something wrong.

7. The issue of sustainability. Faux trust means giving lip service to the environment and doing so to be politically correct. Genuine trust means always displaying a deep respect for the implications of one’s actions on the planet and acting that way always.

8. The issue of values. True trust means actually living the values each day and explaining to people why certain actions are consistent with those values. Faux trust means there is a set of values on the wall, but we really do not act consistent with them in some cases.

9. The issue of care. Faux trust means leaders talk a good game about really caring for employees, but tolerate huge multiples of more than 500 times between their salary and those of the workers. Real trust means not giving lip service to the issue of caring for others.

10. The issue of admitting mistakes. Faux trust means finding ways to hide the mistakes, pretend they did not happen, blame them on circumstances or other people, and find ways to understate their significance. True trust behavior readily admits mistakes because the leader recognizes that to admit a mistake makes her more human and therefore nearly always increases respect and trust.

I could go on with dozens of additional examples of faux trust versus the real thing. People in any workforce pick up on any inconsistency on the part of leaders. Their eyes are well trained to spot the plastic trust. Once they see the shrub as a fake plant, then from that point on, they will see the decoration for what it is. True, they do not need to water and tend the plant and it will always look reasonable, just as people in a low trust organization will dutifully comply with whatever rules the boss mandates.

The true test of leadership is to have the courage and strength to deliver genuine trust in every case. Let the competition deal with the faux variety of trust.

23 Responses to It’s Faux Trust

  1. Reblogged this on The Pediatric Profiler ™ and commented:
    Parents, educators, and others who work with children with developmental and behavioral challenges on a daily basis will find Robert Whipple’s latest blog one to think about.
    When dealing with challenging children/teens, we tend to blame them and demand that they comply with certain standards. But frequently they will point out the inconsistencies of this in that the adults don’t feel like they need to follow the same expectations. I have parents and teachers tell me that they will show a child/student respect after they receive respect from the child/student. What they fail to take into consideration is that children learn about life from us. If they never experience respect, even when very small, they don’t have a template on which to build an expression of respect for others.
    A great example of children doing as they experience is when my children were small, the two older ones came to me and said that I had to stop swearing because their 18 month old sister was copying me. Now I didn’t think I was swearing but they said that my “Oh my God” when overwhelmed was swearing. Now I hate to admit it but my 18 month old did sound “cute” saying “Oh my God” in her toddler voice, but I respected my other children for speaking up about something they felt was important. So over the next few months she and I went through a transition of “Oh my God, gosh” to eventually “Oh my gosh”. Now she is in her 20’s and I am back to “Oh my God” and she says much worse, but I did show my children it was important to trust me that I would do the right thing when it was brought to my attention.
    Recently, however, it came back to haunt my oldest child. Her 3 year old daughter came into my office, went to “her chair” and immediately said “Grandma, you have to move that “s..t”. I politely asked her to repeat herself to make sure I heard correctly and she said “Grandma, you need to remove your “s..t” so I can sit down. I then asked her (politely) to say “Grandma can you move your stuff so I can sit down” which she did graciously and I complied. I then texted her mother that Karma sucks and she now would have to clean up her language.
    As you read this blog, look at where you may be demonstrating faux trust and think about how you can turn that around. It will help both you and the children/teens you work and live with.

  2. Great post! I love the faux plant analogy because while it may look like a plant it does not clean the air like a plant, grow or flower like a plant. Real trust builds on itself. It creates more trust. The fakes do the opposite and erode trust.

  3. […] This article about “Faux Trust” got me thinking about my conversation with Jack. Just as many firms and professionals that talk the talk, but undermine themselves by not fully walking the walk of trust, most executives I meet are confident their firm’s mission is more obvious than it actually is. I’m not talking about lofty mission statements, but a very practical view of why their firm represents the best option for their customers. In my view, an effective positioning statement captures a firm’s mission. […]

  4. […] This article about “Faux Trust” got me thinking about my conversation with Jack. Just as many firms and professionals that talk the talk, but undermine themselves by not fully walking the walk of trust, most executives I meet are confident their firm’s mission is more obvious than it actually is. I’m not talking about lofty mission statements, but a very practical view of why their firm represents the best option for their customers. In my view, an effective positioning statement captures a firm’s mission. […]

  5. Maureen Soltis says:

    I loved this article and the comments – trust really is a pivotal component in any undertaking. It really made me think about the impact of “faux trust”. I’m in the process of writing a course on “Problem Solving” for 7th and 8th graders that I hope to pilot next year. I will definitely incorporate a “spotlight” on trust and the dangers of faux trust. Thanks very much for sharing your insights.

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  18. […] This article about “Faux Trust” got me thinking about my conversation with Jack. Just as many firms and professionals that talk the talk, but undermine themselves by not fully walking the walk of trust, most executives I meet are confident their firm’s mission is more obvious than it actually is. I’m not talking about lofty mission statements, but a very practical view of why their firm represents the best option for their customers. In my view, an effective positioning statement captures a firm’s mission. […]

  19. trustambassador says:

    That is right. I call it a “Purpose” Statement. For example, the purpose for Hallmark is not to make and sell cards. It is to touch people’s hearts. Big difference. The Revlon executive once said,”In the factory we make cosmetics, but in the store the customer buys hope. “

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