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Implications of Trust

By Jeffrey Cepull, Vice President and CIO, Philadelphia University


Jeffrey Cepull, Vice President and CIO, Philadelphia University

We engage many forms of trust interaction on a daily basis—digital certificates, identity, and access management systems, credentials, proxies, federation, among others. These elements have a first-order dependency on trust between two or more entities and it is fair to state that a great deal of transactional activities taking place across the globe every minute of each day would be delayed or not occur in the absence of this fundamental trust. Trust extends far beyond the momentary transaction, the buying and selling, to the company and its culture and values, components derived directly from the role of trust in the organization. The Watergate break-in (1972), the Ford Pinto Recall (1978), and most recently the Toyota Recall (2010) are just a few examples that represent the breakdown of trust due to an action, a product or a service, and which led to significant negative impact that extended far beyond a single action, product or service. Let’s consider a few contrasting examples of how trust is presently operating in our contemporary world and how that trust might represent the corporation whose economic model relies on unwavering trust.

“The Notion Of Communication, Respect, Introspection, And Transparency Are The Essential Tenants Of Building And Maintaining Trust”

Online Service Provider

Less than eight years ago, almost no one would have imagined getting into a car driven by a perfect stranger, providing a credit card number and giving that unknown driver a home address. Today, app-based driving services such as UBER help us commute to work, school, appointments and activities—all premised on our trust in providing information to UBER. But is the basis of that trust pervasive and embedded in the entity itself? In recent months UBER has suffered a ‘trust void’ in their organization that has eroded their brand, caused high-performing engineers to depart the company, and newly recruited senior leadership to resign a few weeks after joining the firm. The CEO’s response to criticism of the UBER culture and some of his personal remarks has raised questions about the corporate culture and the absence of perceived trust. Does this place the trust required for the success of the business model at risk?

Social Media

Upon acquisition by Microsoft, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said, “The second thing I focus on every day is making our culture and values come to life. Ten years ago, had you asked me about culture and values I would have rolled my eyes and recited a line from Dilbert. But when I started as CEO I began to appreciate just how important they were. Culture and values provide the foundation upon which everything else is built. They are arguably our most important competitive advantage and something that has grown to define us. It's one thing to change the world. It's another to do it in our own unique way: Members first. Relationships matter. Be open, honest, and constructive. Demand excellence. Take intelligent risks. Act like an owner.” This statement serves as the foundation for the trust that LinkedIn members expect from the social media career-focused website.

Online Retailer

Consider one of Amazon’s 14 leadership principles: “Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.” The notion of communication, respect, introspection, and transparency are essential tenets of building and maintaining trust — within the organization, with sellers and buyers and any portion of the Amazon customer base.

In his article, “The Neuroscience of Trust”, (Harvard Business Review, January-February 2017), Paul J. Zak outlines eight leadership behaviors based on his experiments and surveys that can help develop an environment of greater trust:

• recognize excellence
• share information broadly
• induce challenge stress
• intentionally build relationships
• give people discretion in how they do their work
• facilitate whole-person growth
• enable job crafting and
• show vulnerability

Online Service Provider

Ultimately, trust has an economic value that is leveraged and relied on by individuals in trusted relationships (transactional). When trust is a portion of the foundation that forms the values and the culture of an organization, the economic potential can become a value-driving engine. Geoffrey A. Moore describes in his book, “Zone to Win” (Diversion Books, 2015) the impact of the strong, cohesive culture at Salesforce that is derived from the top leadership (Marc Benioff, CEO) and spawns a culture of trust among its workforce that elevates generosity as one of the core cultural tenants. Moore states, “By building generosity into its core structure the company is redefining the role of the corporation in philanthropy, but just as important, it is attracting and retaining people who genuinely care and want to serve that spirit spills into everything they do and is amplify many times over by events like Dreamforce, where it can inspire tens of thousands of people to lean in all at the same time. This is why the company can punch so far above its weight class. In a tech landscape anchored by far larger enterprises, it is Salesforce who leads. They are the company all of enterprise computing is looking to for guidance and direction.” The Salesforce culture and value set, grounded by a solid component of trust, has allowed the company to attract and retain exceptional individuals who help the company evolve, excel, and add value.

As technologies emerge and adoption increases in today’s world, is our comfort level with established trust models sufficiently unyielding that we are adequately prepared for evolving new forms of trust? And, do our organizations contain the elements of trust, transparency, communication, respect, assurance that form the foundation of values and a culture that will yield success?

Founded in 1884, Philadelphia University represents professional university education offering undergraduate and graduate programs. The University provides an active, collaborative, and real-world learning environment infused with liberal arts.