Trust No One

“Trust No One.”

Those were the ominous words I saw recently on a poster promoting the new Harry Potter movie.  In the context of the life and death struggle between the forces of good and evil portrayed in the movie, the warning may well be justified.  However, when that approach migrates from Hollywood fantasy to the workplace, we have a problem.  This is particularly so when your workplace is engaged in an Enterprise 2.0 initiative.  If there is no trust, it’s hard to have community.  Without community, social media tools will struggle to realize their potential behind the firewall.

In a recent post on the importance of trust in community formation, Charles H. Green points to Francis Fukuyama’s book, Trust, which discusses the importance of “social trust.” In that book, Fukuyama defines trust as:

The expectation that arises within a community of regular, honest, and cooperative behavior, based on commonly shared norms, on the part of other members of that community.

He then goes on to explain the great value of trust and community:

The greatest economic efficiency was not necessarily achieved by rational self-interested individuals but rather by groups of individuals who, because of a pre-existing moral community, are able to work together effectively.

It all begins with trust.

In the movie, people were asked to prove their bona fides time and time again before another was willing to trust them. How to do you establish  trustworthiness in a physical or virtual community? Fukuyama tells us that it’s through “regular, honest and cooperative behavior,” resting on a bedrock of shared norms. According to Jeffrey Phillips, trust is earned within the context of realistic expectations and a willingness to work together to achieve a common goal:

Trust has to be earned.  I want to know if we are in error, and I want to fix any mistake we made, any expectation we failed to meet, as quickly and effectively as possible.  Trust should not be predicated on the expectation that your partner will never fail, only that they will do their absolute best to avoid failure, and will admit any mistake and fix the problem as quickly as possible.  Over time, a partner that consistently demonstrates their willingness to work in this manner will gain anyone’s trust.  It is hard to gain trust when there are unrealistic expectations or when there is a blame first mentality.

Overcoming paranoia to create a sense of trust and shared purpose may be one of the biggest challenges for a community manager.  The good news is that most of us long for community, trust and shared purpose.  We just need a little encouragement to achieve it.

[Photo Credit: The Angry Robot]

One thought on “Trust No One

  1. most of us long for community, trust and shared purpose.A) this isn't trueB) this is certainly not how those who matter think or believe

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