The Decision to Trust: A book review by Bob Morris

The Decision to Trust: How LEADERS Create High-Trust Organizations
Robert F. Hurley
Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint (2012)

How and why in most (if not all) workplaces, everything of value starts with trust and stops without it.

Obviously, a decision to trust anyone and anything is based on factors that vary from one person to another, from one situation to another. In this book, Robert F. Hurley’s purpose is to explain “why some people, groups, organizations, and institutions have been able to defy the overall trend of declining trust – how they have created trust even in environments where change, uncertainty, and risk exist.” Indeed, given the trend to which Hurley refers, the even greater importance of trustworthiness is good news for those who have earned it and bad news for those who haven’t. Hurley introduces the Decision to Trust Model (DTM) that can be used to make better trust more understandable and manageable and explains how to

o   Make better decisions about who and what to trust
o   Allocate trust-building energy by appreciating how others make trust decisions
o   Identify the root cause of trust issues
o   Offer concrete interventions and reforms that enhance trust
o   Identify in which situations trust can and can’t be developed
o   Establish and enhance trust at different levels and to varying extent

It should be emphasized that, with appropriate modifications, the DTM has almost unlimited applications. Its potential value is incalculable.  Hurley suggests six (6) reasons for the decline of trust (Pages 16-21) and then explains how it manifests itself at different levels: individual (i.e. people don’t trust each other), structural (i.e. departments don’t trust other departments), and cultural (i.e. distrust pervades throughout the given enterprise). “In high-trust collectives, people and groups are invited to move beyond their narrow self-interests and commit to common goals. They aren’t excessively distracted by the need to protect themselves from others’ self-promoting agendas.” It is worth noting that trust is the primary measure by which The Great Place to Work® Institute selects the annual list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” published by Fortune magazine.

In Chapter 2, Hurley identifies and discusses what he characterizes as “Ten Essential Elements of Trust.” There are three trustor factors (i.e. risk tolerance, psychological adjustment, and relative power) that are the result of “a complex mix of personality culture, and experience and account for the fact that building trust takes more time and effort than it does for others.”  There are seven situational factors (i.e. security, similarities, alignment of interests, benevolent concern, capability, predictability and integrity, and communication” that trustees can most effectively address and influence in order to gain the trust the confident reliance – of trustors.”

In most (if not all) workplaces, everything of value begins with trust and goes nowhere without it. Hurley explains both how and why by citing dozens of real-world situations throughout his lively narrative.  We all know that trust is earned over time and must be nourished by behavior worthy of it but trust can be lost in an instant. Hence the importance of the Decision to Trust Model (DTM) that offers two substantial benefits: It provides a structure and methodology by which to make better trust decisions, and, it creates a context, a frame-of-reference within which to determine the nature and impact of those decisions. Readers will also appreciate the Trust Diagnosis Worksheet” in Appendix B as well as Hurley’s review of “Some Trust Interventions to Build Trust” in Appendix C that include strategies to (1) address orientation to trustee, (2) facilitate appropriate risk in relationships, (3) prevent coercion, and (4) redistribute power at the interpersonal and group levels.


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