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Trust has been replaced by self-interest

In any successful relationship, be it personal, business, or with an organisation, trust is a crucial factor. It isn’t just important in making you feel good, it is absolutely essential to making progress.

Adversarial politics has eaten away at Australians’ trust in democracy, with more and more voters breaking away from the major parties, a survey has revealed.

Despite two decades of economic growth, Professor Mark Evans of the University of Canberra Institute for Governance and Public Analysis said Australians’ trust in government and politicians are now at their lowest levels since 1993 – and Aussies’ loathing of political “blood sports” is to blame.

“Remarkably, disaffection increases with age so older Australians who’ve benefited most from the social entitlements of the postwar settlement and economic growth and superannuation are now the most disaffected group along with Indigenous Australians.”

It seems the older we get, the more broken promises we see, the more disillusioned we become. Only 37 per cent of Australians now subscribe to a particular political party, the lowest level since 1967.

As our major parties ponder the success of Palmer, Hanson and Xenephon, Professor Evans offers an explanation.

“There’s a significant number of floating voters who aren’t attached to a party, voters who are disillusioned with the mainstream political parties and have little trust in politicians. That provides fertile conditions for independent or minority parties who are able to develop political projects around trust building with their communities,” Professor Evans said.

As I pondered this loss of trust, I came across an article in the Huffington Post that really struck a chord. The following is an edited excerpt from it which, to me, really hit home to show how our politicians (and businesses for that matter) are doing it all wrong. Their motivation is wrong, their execution is wrong, and the system which encourages “high-self-orientation” is wrong.

Leaders in all contexts must build trust in order to achieve their goals.

But what exactly is trust?

In essence, trust is a feeling of security that you have, based on the belief that someone or something is knowledgeable, reliable, good, honest, and effective.

In her book, which she co-authored with Ken Blanchard and Martha Lawrence, Cynthia Olmstead speaks of four core aspects of trust, which she labeled “ABCD,” or able, believable, connected, and dependable.

  1. Able refers to your capacity for the task. Do you know your stuff and get results? Can and do you use your skills to support others’ work? And do you demonstrate a growth mindset to learn things that you presently don’t know so well?
  2. Believable people know how to keep confidences. They don’t talk behind people’s backs and act with sincerity and integrity. When they err, they willingly admit it. They also do not hide their lack of knowledge.
  3. Connected people work well with others. They listen well and solicit input into their decision making. Such people demonstrate care and empathy and express praise to others for a job well done.
  4. Dependability reflects the fact that you do what you say that you will do. This means keeping promises and commitments. It also includes being punctual, consistent, and responsive.

James Davis, professor of strategic management and the chairman of the management department at Utah State University, speaks about three drivers of trust, two of which differ in some way from Olmstead.

  1. Can they do what they say they can do? This is similar to Olmstead’s first trust element above.
  2. Do they care about me? Trusted leaders are not ego driven, but want to do good for others. (This is also called “low self-orientation.”) People who are capable but lack benevolence may do all sorts of incredible things, but only if it serves their benefit.
  3. Davis’ definition of integrity focuses on shared values. Are the other person’s values those that I can agree with? Can I relate to that person because they believe what I believe?

One way that leaders can help to increase trust and reduce the defensive posturing that is all too often found in today’s organizations is to create a culture that encourages risk-taking. If I offer my opinion at a team meeting and my views are respected regardless of their ultimate acceptance, then I will likelier pipe up the next time.

If, however, I learn that I am not really valued and that winning is the ultimate prize, then I begin to think less about trying something new and different and instead focus on self-preservation. “Don’t rock the boat,” I tell myself, “and everything will just be fine.” Such thinking may produce reliable workers but it will diminish trust, stunt growth and encourage people to spend time covering their own backs.

Blaine Lee, a founder of the Covey Leadership Center, expressed this dynamic as follows: “When people honor each other, there is a trust established that leads to synergy, interdependence, and deep respect. Both parties make decisions and choices based on what is right, what is best, what is valued most highly.”

This, in turn, leads to a happy, productive workplace that is sure to handle all obstacles and market changes in ways that continually move the organization forward.

Where are the people who can work together in the best interests of our country and its citizens, or is self-interest to be the pursuit that is encouraged and rewarded?

17 comments

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  1. Andreas Bimba

    “Leaders in all contexts must build trust in order to achieve their goals.”

    In Australia I put the Greens members of parliament in this category as well as NXT and a few minor parties and independents. Internationally I put Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein and Jeremy Corbyn in this category. The fact that I agree with most of their policies and don’t for others is also an important factor. For example I wouldn’t like even trustworthy Liberals (if there are any?) as I don’t agree with most of their policies or aims.

    The Bernie campaign, the international Greens movement and Jeremy Corbyn’s movement shows that trustworthy progressive leadership can arise but unfortunately a lot of organisations degenerate into something like those in this article:

    https://aeon.co/essays/you-don-t-have-to-be-stupid-to-work-here-but-it-helps

  2. Gangey1959

    James Davis has put it all in a nutshell.
    1. Can they do what they say they can do?
    2. Do they care about me?
    3. Are the other person’s values those that I can agree with?
    4. Can I relate to that person because they believe what I believe?
    And the mad monk put the answer best
    Nope, Nope, Nope, over my dead body.
    So when will we hit the ”refresh” button ?
    The longer Australians leave that up to the self interest that is burrowing deeper into the political core of our Nation, the harder and more bloody the extraction is going to be. As long as the powers that be understand that the extraction is coming, albeit over ”their dead bodies”, then I guess it’s just a matter of time, but surely the major parties must have learned something from the recent growth of the minors and independents, and even the strength of the nutjobs who fly under the lnp and alp banners.
    Let them all burn forever in the fires of Hades.

  3. Kaye Lee

    Speaking of “can they do what they say they can do”, Australia has been called out on its lies by an expert UN review into our update report on action on emissions, delivered by Julie Bishop and Greg Hunt last December, leading to 30 very pertinent questions by other countries. They are the questions our media should have been asking and the arrogance of the government in thinking they could slip these dodgy figures past the experts shows how lazy they have become.

    http://unfccc.int/files/focus/mitigation/the_multilateral_assessment_process_under_the_iar/application/pdf/sbi45_ma_questions_to_aus.pdf

    “The US, China, Europe and other major economies are clearly making low-carbon development a priority,” Mr Meyer said.

    “There will be diplomatic and economic consequences for any country that’s perceived as not joining in this effort… That’s a risk that Australia shouldn’t, and doesn’t need to, take.”

    Physicist Bill Hare, chief executive of Climate Action Tracker and an adviser to developing countries at climate negotiations, said the questions asked of Australia showed deep scepticism and frustration beneath a diplomatic veneer.

    “It is very strange that the government had put forward no projections, which are the sine qua non [essential ingredient] of this area of policy,” he said.

    “It is as if the Treasury produce a report for the International Monetary Fund with no future numbers in it. It raises alarm bells.”

    A Climate Action Tracker analysis found Australia’s emissions were headed to be more than 27 per cent greater than 2005 levels in 2030.

    http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australia-facing-questions-at-un-over-post2020-climate-change-stance-20161011-gs0avq.html

  4. John Richardson

    Surely the only thing that anyone can say about self-Interest is that ultimately all but a very few can be trusted to put it before anything-else?
    Concern for others, self-sacrifice, championing the ‘common good’, taking a bullet, are passe in today’s world.
    The paint on our once glorious institutions has peeled-off & our belief in noble philosophies has shown itself to be shallow & feeble.
    Just about everything of value has been traduced by marketing.
    In the prescient words of Frank Zappa: “The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater”

  5. Steve Laing - makeourvoiceheard.com

    Another great article Kaye, and one that I completely agree with. Trust is exceptionally important, and most of us have very little trust in many of our representatives, whom even when they sound like they are trying to do the right thing, still get caught with their hands in the cookie jar on far too many occasions. And if that person is on your team, the rest of the team protect them. And we can all see that that stinks.

    And regarding voter distrust, I would go further than just look at those voting for populist movements – there are many who may have voted Labor, Coalition or Greens who would have preferred to vote for someone else IF that option was available and IF they thought that person might be able to do some good. If many voters are anything like me, if I can’t vote for who I want to, I’d rather vote for the person most likely to keep the mob I distrust most out.

    Unfortunately politicians actually believe (or certainly act like they believe) that vote reflects a broad support for them. It doesn’t. It seems more often to suggest a lack of support for the other lot. I suspect many vote for the best of a bad bunch! Abbott’s election in 2013 is the perfect example of this (largely because the media conspired to talk Labor down and forgot to apply any form of scrutiny whatsoever to Abbott and his nasty minions).

  6. Terry2

    Have you noticed how those on the conservative side of politics, including our Treasurer, are increasingly referring to the age pension as welfare ?

    The other day, Twiggy Forrest at the National Press Club was promoting his cashless debit welfare card which precludes cash for those on ‘welfare’ and only allows for essentials to be purchased so that cash isn’t being spent on alcohol and gambling. He wants to see its use spread beyond aboriginal communities to anybody receiving government ‘welfare’ payments.

    When asked by one of the journalists if he wanted to see a cashless card used for pensions – as it was known that some pensioners were fond of a tipple and frequently had a punt or played the pokies – Twiggy sidestepped the question beyond saying that all “welfare” should be regulated by government.

  7. Kaye Lee

    I saw Twiggy’s address. He was nervous until he moved into southern preacher mode. He isn’t good on facts and kept quoting totals that included all government payments of which unemployment benefits are a very small percentage. The age pension makes up about 31 per cent of welfare, and total assistance to the aged accounts for about 40 per cent, In 2014-15 the aged pension cost $45.71 billion, $27.4 billion to families, $17.22 billion to disability, $6.87 billion to carers, compared to $5.3 billion for Newstart..

    Twiggy really has no credentials to be giving advice – he just regurgitates an agenda that could result in him overriding native title and employing cheap/free labour to work his business enterprises making a fortune from exploiting our resources whilst paying as little tax as possible.

  8. Kaye Lee

    Twiggy has far too much say giving advice to government. This is from May last year….

    One of the reasons Mr Forrest sought a parliamentary inquiry into the iron ore price was to “provide a forum for law makers and companies to discuss the impact of offshore marketing hubs on government tax revenue and royalties”. The Abbott government initially agreed to an inquiry and then changed its mind.

    When it was put to Mr Forrest on ABC Radio earlier this month, that Rio TInto and BHP would argue that they are huge contributors to the economy through the tax that they pay, Mr Forrest attacked their Singaporean marketing hubs.

    “Well that’s a really sensitive issue isn’t it,” he said. “You’ve made huge profits and then you’ve funnelled those profits through a tax shelter in Singapore. You’ve taken around a billion dollars in profits, you’re arguing with the Australian Taxation Office, you’re not playing a fair game, either on the iron ore volume, the iron ore price or even on the tax you pay.”

    Fortescue Metals Group established a company in Singapore that could buy and sell its iron ore more than a year before it started attacking its rivals for doing the same thing. The company, called Fortescue International Marketing, is incorporated and domiciled in Singapore. Still dormant, it is ready to be used at any time.

    http://www.afr.com/business/mining/iron-ore/fortescue-set-up-secret-trading-shell-in-lowtax-singapore-20150526-gh9y1b#ixzz4N2qlkR3B

  9. babyjewels10

    Other than a couple of the Greens, I feel nothing more than a deep loathing for all of them. And yes, I’m in the older age group.

  10. Andreas Bimba

    Lots of good comments but Gangey1959 your comment is particularly good. Evolution is better than revolution but when the Kleptocracy blocks evolution and every year takes a larger share – things are going to get interesting. Note also this is a worldwide problem and the elites of Australia, China, Russia, Europe, Canada and the U.S.A. are looking very much alike, but not necessarily united.

  11. Stephen Bowler

    Bullshit,
    I am retired after 47 years working in both private and public work organisations.

    The atribites of all of my supervisors (baring a few 3). Where as follows:

    Bullies
    Talk the talk
    Incompetant
    liars; and
    Members of the so called elite.

    Don’t think I am pissed off, I was very fortunate in my life, I made it to the piniccle of my chosen career (just before the Peter principle kicked in).

    All the management training I was able to access was as much use as those things on bulls.

    All you need is a lot of bull and a degree in macramé!

  12. townsvilleblog

    My first, second and third votes were for the greatest Prime Minister Australia has ever seen, the Rt Hon E.G.Whitlam Q.C. HAVING the best as my first ever vote has been a real privilege, however none since him have measured up. Hawke & Keating were the two best tory PMs we ever had, the came Rudd and Gillard. Gillard impressed me but abolishing the single mothers pension was a big mistake.

    To look at our current choice of right wing leaders Shorten v Turnbull it’s much of a muchness, although Shorten came out of his shell in the election campaign and picked up 14 seats, then proceeded to withdraw back into his shell. If the LNP retain govt til 2019 there will be no public services health and education will be privatized. The NSW LNP are well under way with public hospitals now run by privatized staff.

    Medicare will be easily ruined by govts allowing private insurance companies into our local GP Clinics and will not exist by 2019 if the LNP are allowed to retain govt.

  13. The Environment

    Self Interest has almost destroyed me . No one respects me .

  14. DisablednDesperate

    On the politics I blame the sport analogy. The us against them. On TV panels, political parties etc. everything has become like a WWE match. Everything. The Trump supporters are now saying Paul Ryan is part of the cabal. He’s not on our side.

    On the Basics card I’m terrified. Being on a pension I buy things from But Swap Sell sites and op shops. The card would inhibit my ability to buy anything.

  15. Marilyn R

    Excellent article and well written. All politicians lie is what the people are saying. The pursuit of globalisation has not profited ordinary Australian’s. A telling case at the moment is the Federal Government’s willingness to impose on the people of Western Sydney and the World Heritage Blue Mountains a hugely expensive piece of infrastructure in a location that was deemed in the nineties as unsuitable environmentally. I am talking about Western Sydney Airport.

    The lies and intimidation that have occurred regarding this are extremely disturbing. The NSW government has known since 2006 that Sydney has a problem with air quality. The investigative report is in their files but not one of the 45 recommendations has been acted upon. Residents are unaware, especially those in the Western Sydney Growth Areas. Indeed Baird has deactivated the air quality monitors. Hot spots for lung cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary disease, asthma, and stroke all exist now!

    Both international and local research has proven time and time again that airports spread pollution. KSA was deemed in 2006 as the greatest polluter in Sydney along with roads and vehicle emissions. The sea breeze protects eastern Sydney from this pollution as because of typography it is blown to the west and trapped by hills and mountains. In 2006 between 600 to 1400 people died from the health impacts of air pollution. Transurban and toll roads will have further added to this figure. The costs to the GDP from lost life years is enormous. Yet a blanket of silence contains it all.

    WSA threatens Sydney’s drinking water in Warragamba Dam and Prospect Reservoir. It will increase the problem of air quality by spreading contaminants over all of Sydney. It threatens the health of residents through noise pollution and sleep deprivation due to being 24 hours. The worst impacted will be the children. Penrith is already a hot spot for children’s asthma. The residents are already socially disadvantaged and now the children will also suffer more impacts on their learning outcomes by sleep disturbance and continual overflights of schools, daycares and preschools in the area.

    The new EIS is no better than the previous draft and fails to account for latest research, to use correct data analysis, or to consider cumulative impacts.All submissions have been acknowledged but dismissed, even that from the NSW Environment division. Emissions will exceed those standards in the WHO Guidelines. Those same emissions will blow over all of Sydney depending on the wind direction. No cap, no curfew, no noise sharing, and no insulation or any of the amenities for residents around KSA will be extended to WSA.

    This is the worst case of social injustice that any government has tried in Sydney. Yet the Australian Government is determined to ramp it through even thought the EIS has clearly failed the Government’s own Guidelines. WHY? Ask Transurban, The Property Council, land developers and speculators and most of all the large freight corporations. This is criminal negligence on a large scale supported by Murdoch’s media.

  16. townsvilleblog

    The reason that politics in Australia is adversarial is that the conservatives want to turn this great country into another US of A. As conservative governments in every country on Earth do, they are working for unregulated capitalism world wide, which encompasses removing ‘all’ benefits that PAYE tax payers pay to receive. The giant (mostly yank) corporations pay in most cases no income tax, or if they pay any it is from 5% downwards.

    Surely the Australian people must realize that only 1% of the global population own 50%+ of the global economy via their giant corporations, and our LNP govt is currently allowing them to pay no income tax, how about us, it isn’t fair, now we want our share!

  17. Steve Laing - makeourvoiceheard.com

    The reason its adversarial is because its from the UK system, and it was effectively set up by those from the legal “profession”, where outcomes are binary – Guilt or innocence. So winning at all costs, using the rules if it can’t be done using the evidence, is very much de rigeur. Thus it is an easy system to fix. Machiavelli nailed it – as long as you can get a majority to support you, bugger the rest. And this is exactly the Coalition approach. Highly inhumane, but very effective.

    Which is why I get so annoyed with Labor for thinking they can actually beat them at this game. Sure they could do if they chose to adopt similar tactics, but alienating the decent “well off” in order to get the indecently greedy to pay their way, is fraught with difficulty (particularly in a system where money talks, or at least pays for advertising and lobbying etc). Yet Labor (and indeed the Greens) continue to play a game that they cannot win.

    The most important thing that progressive parties need to do is to work out ways to change the rule book to their advantage, and once they are in power, do it. Otherwise we will continue to watch Labor becoming increasingly Liberal lite, and the Greens “old Labor” lite.

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