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September 27, 2007

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Charles H. Green

This is very good work on the part of Rawlins and you, Ms. Paine. Well, to be transparent about it, what I mean to say is it corresponds very much with how I have come to think of the subjects.

For example: in my own work, e.g. in The Trusted Advisor with Maister and Galford, and in Trust-based Selling, I use three models. One, a deductive model, suggests trust as an equation: (credibility + reliability + intimacy) / (self-orientation). To be clear, this is not a measure of bi-lateral trust, but of the trustworthiness of the one who would be trusted.

While that's more a personal model of trust, it certainly dovetails with the survey's findings that employees rate integrity and transparency higher than competence. That is precisely the meaning of our equation as well: competence is largely credibility; the biggest single factor in the trust equation is low self-orientation, which probably traverses similar ground to what Rawlins is calling integrity and goodwill.

The organizational model of trust I posit consists of four principles, one of which is transparency. (The other three I use are collaboration, medium-to-long term perspective, and an other- or customer-focused instinct).

The role of transparency in trust is fundamental in a logical sense, so it's hardly surprising that a regression analysis would prove it. Transparency worth the name fits only the first of the three "levels" of transparency that Rawlins posits--freely given transparency about any and all things.

The absence of such freely given and free-ranging transparency can only call into question the motives of those who refuse or hesitate to be transparent. When motives are questioned, whether you use his "goodwill" or my "self-orientation," all bets are off. It means that credibility is the next to fall, because you can't believe what someone says if it is tainted by self-interest or obfuscation. And if you can't believe them, then you end up with pseudo-versions of trust. (My favorite: Ronald Reagan's "trust but verify," which was classic Cold War doubletalk for "I'll trust you as far as I can throw an elephant"--not trust at all).

It can be misleading to use the word "is" when describing fuzzy but meaningful concepts like trust, because it entirely depends on how one defines the terms--even the dictionary is basicallly just documenting anthropological preferences over time.

But the definition of transparency is more clear than most, and quite central to trust. Bravo to you for giving it clear airing.

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