Gap In Trust

August 29, 2016

Since I am in the trust business, I pay attention to the Edelman Trust Barometer when it comes out in February each year. Richard Edelman and his associates have been publishing a compendium of statistics on trust each year for more than 15 years.

Using online surveys, they measure the level of trust in 28 countries and categorize it into four sectors: Business, Government, Non-Government Organizations, and Media. For example, in the Business sector the question they ask is “Do you trust Business to do what is right?” Note: they intentionally leave the specific definition of what is “right” up to the person who is responding.

The sampling is also split between what they call “informed publics” (college educated populations with incomes in the top 25% and who follow the news daily) and they also survey the mass population who are less educated and often do not follow international trends closely.

I usually spend a couple days absorbing the latest information each year and updating my summary charts. It is good to keep abreast of the trends in trust around the world. There is an interesting trend in the worldwide information on trust that is particularly evident in the USA.

If you are a manager or leader, at any level, you will want to know about this trend so you can use it to improve your culture at work.

Ever since the recession of 2009, the gap in trust between what the informed publics report and what the mass populations report has been widening with the informed publics reporting higher trust.

In 2016, the gap has reached 12% worldwide, and that gap was greatest in the USA at 19%. The gap is evident in all four sectors measured in the survey.

A specific percentage of how people respond in a particular country or segment may not have second-decimal-place accuracy, but I believe the major trends give an accurate description of valid movement within the major groups.

The reason is that the Edelman Group has been using the same methodology each year for over a decade, and the sample size is large enough to produce valid information.

There is some speculation in the Edleman analysis about the cause of the gap, but they leave plenty of room for readers to interpret the cause of this widening gap for their own situation.

Their main hypothesis is that all four of the following forces are at work:

1. The rising income inequality
2. High profile revelations of greed and misbehavior
3. Democratization of the media
4. Growing schism between the “haves” and the “have-nots”

I believe there is another factor at work in addition to the ones they mention that would be of particular interest to organizational leaders or managers.

There are several movements toward a more balanced and ethical way of doing business springing up. One that I am involved with is “Conscious Capitalism,” which seeks to have organizations serve all stakeholders at the same time rather than just maximizing shareholder return.

Other trends are the “Green Movement,” “100 Best Companies to Work For,” and Measures like the “Ethics Bowl.”

The activity to accomplish movement within organizations is mostly driven by the “informed publics” population, and the mass population has significantly less visibility to the trends and the good work that is going on in numerous organizations.

Hence, it seems logical that more people in the higher echelons are seeing at least some forward progress and attention given to running more principle-centered organizations.

The trend also means that the greater mass of people working in organizations will be more skeptical about the level of trust than their managers.

It is necessary to communicate information more times in different ways in order to have people believe it to be true. Edelman has measured that most people working in organizations need to hear something three to five times before they believe it is likely to be true. Ten years ago hearing something once or twice would suffice.

That statistic represents a major challenge for any manager or leader.

No longer is a Town Hall Meeting sufficient to communicate vital information. Rather, you need to have several methods of communicating points and use them all when trying to convey important information.

The consequences of the trust gap have significance for us all, from how we elect our leaders, to how we keep the peace in our cities, to how we conduct business in each sector.

We need to pay attention and seek to broaden awareness of some of the good trends to combat the fear being promulgated by groups who want to ignore or reverse the progress that is being made.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change . Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at, or 585.392.7763

The Link Between Trust and Communication

August 1, 2015

If you are the manager of a group where trust is low, people are likely to hear what they think you were going to say rather than what you actually said. It is critical to frame up the message in multiple ways to help people hear and absorb what you are really trying to convey.

A simple Town Hall Meeting is not sufficient to communicate sensitive information.

According to Richard Edelman in his “Trust Barometer,” people need to hear things from 3-5 times before they believe the information about a company is likely to be true. Here is a true story that illustrates the problem.

I once inherited a new group that did not have high trust in their prior manager. I could tell by their body language that they were skeptical of anything the managers said.

Before I had a chance to rebuild the trust, I had an occasion to communicate some good news to the workers. They were afraid that the operation would be shut down and moved to China.

I called a special meeting to tell them that the proposed outsourcing was not going to happen. Later that day, I heard that the workers thought I told them we would be shutting down.

Rather than hear what I actually said, the workers heard only what they thought I was going to say. This miscommunication happened because there was low trust in management, and I did not use multiple ways to communicate the message clearly enough.

Exercise for you: Today, test the level of understanding of some information from management. Ask some questions to see if people are able to understand and believe the input with just one exposure. It is more difficult than you think to get the message across in the first exposure.

Now begin to think of creative ways to get messages to people in different ways that really set the message.

Good communication requires consistency, and that often means repetition.

Get creative with the methods you use to communicate information to other people. It can be fun and it will really improve your leadership effectiveness.


The preceding was derived from an episode in “Building Trust,” a 30 part video series by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.” To view three short (3 minutes each) examples at no cost go to

Relationship Between Learning and Trust

September 14, 2013

PomeranianOne of my leadership students asked me a good question. She wanted to know the relationship between trust and learning. On the surface, the two words seem to have a tenuous relationship at best. However, after thinking about it, the question became much more interesting to me.

The analysis can go in many directions. In this brief article, I will describe three different perspectives and offer a few typical examples to illustrate them. The perspectives include:

1. Why learning from someone you trust is easier than from someone you do not trust.
2. What types of things you are likely to learn from someone you do not trust.
3. Why your retention of the learned material is much better if you have a trusting relationship with the teacher.

As a CPLP (Certified Professional in Learning and Performance) with the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), I do not recall any instruction in my certification training on the link between learning and trust, so I did some research of my own. If you Google the two words, you will find numerous pages on how we learn to trust, but not much information on how trust enables learning. It seems pretty obvious, but actually it is a little more tricky than it first appears.

For the first perspective, I should make a clear distinction that I am not stipulating whether you like the trainer or not, only whether you trust the person. For example, take the case of a drill sergeant who is abusive and likes to push people’s buttons. You may really hate this person, yet you trust him because he has the demonstrated knowledge based on his experience, and though abrasive, he does exhibit high integrity and equality for all. In this case you would probably learn well from the drill sergeant even though you cannot stand him. If you later get another trainer that you like as well as trust, the learning would come even easier.

The second perspective is a tricky one. Is it possible to learn something from someone you do not trust? Of course it is. For one thing you can learn how to avoid doing things that lower trust. By watching the mistakes of someone you do not trust, you can learn all kinds of lessons you can use to improve your life and your effectiveness. In this case, you are learning what not to do.

For example, I once worked for a duplicitous boss. He would tell people what he thought they wanted to hear, and shade the truth in order to make his life easier. I know this because I witnessed him telling two different versions of the same story to two different people on the same day. Word got around that this leader could not be trusted to tell the truth when confronted by a difficult situation. This leader obtained marginal compliance from people but not true loyalty. The concept I learned from that experience that it is important to have only one version of an event, whether it is popular or not.

Actually, it is fairly common for leaders to hide the real truth when faced with a difficult situation. Richard Edelman, in his 2013 Trust Barometer, determined that only about 20% of informed publics worldwide believe their leader will tell the truth when faced with a difficult question. The number in the USA is even lower than that (about 15%). Richard called this statistic a “crisis in leadership.”

For the third case, if you wish to learn a positive lesson or new skill, it is a big advantage if you trust the teacher. Reason: someone you trust has your best interest at heart and will stick with the teaching process until the full information has been transferred. Your faith in the instructor is what allows you to process the learning without hesitation, so the knowledge transfer and retention is much more efficient.

You do not need to worry about ulterior motives with someone you trust. You are not playing games, so that puts you in a much more receptive frame of mind, which also aids the learning process.

My conclusion is that most of the time it is easier to learn something from a person you trust, but you can learn something to avoid doing from a person whom you do not trust. It is easy to extrapolate that you can either learn to trust another individual or learn to not trust that person based on his or her demonstrated behaviors.