In Bob We Trust

Sir Bob Geldof - Keynote speaker at the Trust Conference 2014

The Trust Conference is an annual event that brings together leading Trust experts from around the world. This year, the event saw excellent contributions from brain researcher, Dario Nardi, who considered the neuroscience of Trust; Penny Power OBE, the social digital entrepreneur and Roger James Hamilton, Founder of the Entrepreneurs Institute.

Hamilton clearly hit a nerve when he suggestion CEOs should become Chief Engagement Officers rather than simply Chief Executive Officers. He went on to explain why organisations should care about Trust. According to Hamilton, organisations with a high degree of Trust see the following benefits:

  • Higher productivity
  • Increased profits
  • Greater engagement
  • Higher retention
  • Greater ownership
  • More fun

Stephen MR Covey, author of the Speed of Trust, spoke from America through a video link. He was able to add some measurable data to these headlines. His research suggests that organisations with a high degree of Trust are 300% more valuable; and a 10% increase in Trust has the same impact on job satisfaction as a 36% increase in pay.

Covey has a great way of distilling his findings into neat packages. In summarising the benefits of Trust he provided this brief and compelling formula:

Increased Trust = Increased Speed and Decreased Costs.

Later he likened credibility to a tree, with highly visible elements of competence (capabilities and results) forming the trunk and foliage – clearly visible to all, and the components of character (integrity and intent) providing the supporting root system.

Hollie Delaney gave some practical examples of Trust in action in her role as Director of People Experiences for Zappos.com. One particularly interesting example was the co-worker bonus. Each year, every employee has twelve $50 bonuses they can award to a particularly helpful colleague. The system was considered risky and potentially open to misuse. Yet, explained Hollie, there was no abuse and the greatest challenge was getting employees to give the awards to anyone.

I was more concerned by Hollie’s suggestion that 50% of Zappos recruitment interviews are based on “cultural fit”. While I understand the appeal of this approach, it does appear to close the door on diversity and at worst could become an excuse for thinly veiled discrimination.

Every speaker was received well, but it’s fair to say there was a palpable buzz when Sir Bob Geldof took to the stage. Geldof was amusing, insightful, challenging and profane and spoke pretty much as he sings – without using any real notes.

He challenged politicians’ ongoing pursuit of “more” which he considered unsustainable. And, he added, “we are all complicit in this”. The 20th century infrastructures of Trust have collapsed, he said, and 14 years into the 21st century we have yet to build replacements.

Sir Bob’s ire was particularly focused on bankers, for whom he clearly has little time. His frustration and anger were tangible, but delivered in a highly engaging way.

Ultimately, he came across as quite a humble man for someone who has achieved so much. Asked about his legacy he replied:

“I’m not really proud of anything I’ve done. Just relieved it worked.”

Photo by kind permission: Martin Beale at MJB Photo www.mjbphoto.co.uk