Carnival of Trust

The Carnival of Trust is the brainchild of Charles Green of Trust Matters. It’s intended to highlight the best posts about trust in the business and professional workspace over the previous month. He apparently ran out of worthy people to host his carnival and, in what must have been a moment of weakness, asked me to host the Carnival of Trust for July.

Compliance and trust are an odd fit. After all, compliance can be seen as the opposite of trust. Compliance lays out policies and checks to make sure you are complying with those policies. Trust, but verify, and mostly verify.

I love carnivals. So before Mr. Green could change his mind I agreed to host the carnival. Still unsure about how compliance and trust worked together, I’m even more unsure how carnivals and trust go together. So I decided I would write about some of my favorite things at a carnival:

The Happy Clown

Clowns are a highlight of the carnival, with their faces painted in a bright red smile. The classic clown uses “clown white” to cover his entire face, hiding his underlying features. Then the clown adds a perpetual grin. Is there a problem with having a perpetual grin?

Steven DeMaio writes When Being Positive Is Positively Meaningless. Being super-positive can create so much “white noise that when clear, authentic positive feedback is given, it gets muted and loses its punch.” Being positive all the time can lower trust.

The Sad Clown

On the other side of the midway is the sad clown. Everyone can’t be happy all the time. As the character clown, the sad clown is likely the one who will end up getting a pie thrown at his face.

Scott Greenfield of Simple Justice takes on the Happysphere? You can’t get there from here. If you’re going to write a blog or expect to hear the truth from your peers, you need to expect to get some pie thrown in your face. Scott is happy to throw a pie at those sad clowns who cross the line in the legal blogosphere.

(Expecting a pie myself, I’m sure Charlie is starting wonder why he let me host this.)

The Clown Car

It seems that all of our financial institutions piled into a clown car and engaged in the same foolish activities with home mortgages. It’s fun to see clowns pile out of the impossibly small car. It’s less fun when you realize it’s taxpayer money helping the clown banks get out of their predicament.

Peter Birks writes about Trust and Naivety when it comes to looking at the health of our financial institutions. He writes about how Europe has decided to follow the U.S. lead in running financial institutions through stress tests. Running the tests was fairly successful in the U.S. for improving the public’s confidence in the banks. Birks points out why it’s not as successful in Europe. Different societies have different levels of trust in their government and their institutions.

Ball Toss

It’s pretty easy to throw a ball. It should be easy to win at the ball toss. The game’s barker has little to judge. If the ball goes in, you win. Baseball umpires have a harder job.

Charles Green talks about Baseball, Billy Budd and Business, using the blown call by baseball umpire Jim Joyce as the backdrop for his article. He presents three lessons to be learned:

Lesson 1. From umpire Joyce: face facts. Deal with reality. And the minute you see the facts are against you, call it. Call it on yourself. Take full responsibility.

Lesson 2. From pitcher Galarraga: accept life gracefully. Do all that you can; when you win, be gracious; and when you lose, that’s when you really demonstrate class.

Lesson 3: From Commissioner Selig. Celebrate the humanity of sports, business, life. The humanity of the sport really does transcend winning and losing.

Lion Tamer

The lure of the lion tamer is man against beast; realizing that you are not at the top of the food chain. The hungry lions are looking to eat the lion tamer when he steps into their cage. Health care costs are threatening to devour the American economy. Congress stepped into this cage of hungry lions when it passed the huge new health care law this spring.

Gregory Warner brings us an interesting story on Marketplace about a link between the way private oncologists get paid and how much chemotherapy they prescribe. No surprise. Doctors, like the rest of us, are influenced by how they get paid.

Fortune Teller

What awaits us after we leave the carnival’s midway? The lure of fortune tellers is the hope that their mystical powers will help us see the future and better deal with it.

One of a leader’s job skills is planning for the future and leading their people to best deal with it. Mike Myatt points out the importance of truth & leadership. “Telling the truth is not always easy, and may subject you to substantial opposition and controversy over the short run, but it will do nothing but help build your reputation, success and sustainability over the long haul.”

Elephant Ride

Elephants impress us with their massive size. Mr. Bailey’s biggest triumph as a circus entrepreneur was gaining possession of the first baby elephant born in captivity. This allowed his circus to compete with Barnum’s traveling circus.

Outside the carnival people are often unwilling to talk about the elephant in the room. If you want to be successful, you need to address the obvious problems. Jan Schultink shares a great insight (and image) in VC Pitch: Talk about the elephant in the room.

Demolition Derby

One of the loudest parts of the carnival is the demolition derby. I love seeing old cars smash into each other again and again until there is one fiercely-damaged car left still moving in the arena.

Tom Cox points out that Nice Teams Finish Last. Being nice will lead to workarounds and uncrossed bridges. On the other hand, you don’t want to be fierce, where you attack preemptively and build walls. He proposes a middle path where you are bold. That may not lead to victory in the demolition derby, but it may be a better way to lead a team.

Bumper Cars

The bumper cars offer people of all driving skills the ability to rampage through a pack of cars, with the inevitable collisions resulting in nothing more than a sudden jolt.

Over at Trust is Everything, Karen Mishra shares some trust lessons she learned as part of her teenage daughter getting ready to drive in Drivers’ Ed: A Whole New Meaning of Trust. I hope her daughter’s learning process is more like the bumper cars than the demolition derby.

Bearded Lady

Carnivals are full of odd people. For most carnivals, that includes the attendees, not just the sideshow performers. The bearded lady has been a staple of the side show for over a century. Although there were many famous bearded ladies, there were also many fakes.

When do Exaggerations and Misstatements Cross the Line? asks Knowledge@Wharton. “Embellishment is part of human nature, experts say, and almost everyone is guilty of it at one time or another. Left unchecked, however, exaggerations that seemed innocuous at first could result in serious, potentially career-ending consequences.”

Big Prizes

The lure of many games at the carnival is that big prize hanging on the wall behind the barker. Everyone wants the big prize. You’re bound to feel some envy when you see a winner carrying that huge stuffed animal around the midway. That envy may drive you to play again, hoping for a shot at the prize.

Jon Ingham looks at the problem of Promotion (and salary envy) in Social Advantage. The workplace is a social environment and workers will “behave dysfunctionally if they believe they’ve been treated unfairly in just a relatively minor way.”

Cotter Pins

Pay close attention to the cotter pins. Carnival rides fold down into truck-sized boxes for transportation to the next venue. Those cotter pins keep the ride re-assembled and keep you from flying off  into the crowd. A cotter pin is the glue that keeps the ride together.

Jack Vinson points to a story with the theory that trust is the glue that holds people together. “Trust is the most important currency in business. By opening up to what is true and creating a vision for the highest good, leaders can build a culture of trust and enhance the bottom line.”

Ring Toss

The ring toss game at the carnival is notoriously difficult. Failure is the usual result. If it were easy, they wouldn’t be giving prizes for winning.

John Scalzi in Whatever discusses the failure mode of clever. He points out that to be really clever you need to know when not to be clever. Before you write that clever bit, realize that the perception of the recipient will affect it. “Just because you intended to be clever doesn’t mean you will be perceived as clever.”

(I should have read that advice before I put this post together.)

You can read more about the Carnival of Trust and find links to past Carnivals of Trust at Charles H. Green’s Trust Matters. You can also use that site to submit an article for consideration in the next carnival.
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9 Responses to Carnival of Trust

  1. michael webster July 12, 2010 at 12:48 pm #

    I liked this collection of stories, but I wish people would stop categorizing all coordinated activities as requiring trust. The reason we have many of the conventions we do is to eliminate the requirement that I know sufficiently enough of your reputation to trust you.

    • Doug Cornelius July 13, 2010 at 7:59 am #

      I don’t necessarily trust my bank or my bank teller. I’m still willing to deposit my vast fortune with them. It’s not that I distrust them. I just have trust in the system.

      So if it’s not about have trust in people, then I think it’s about having trust in the system. In the highly regulated financial services system, the regulators are trying to instill trust in the system even though you may not trust the individuals.

      Trust in the individuals is an important part of business (and life). In most cases it’s merely trust that they will get the job done.

      • michael webster July 22, 2010 at 10:52 am #

        @Doug;

        When you say you “trust” an institution, I suggest that what you really mean is that the standard operating procedures give you reliable results.

        Just like a the 4 way stop convention, if I know people are following it, coordinates a group without there being any trust so do many other conventions.

        As for the regulators in the financial system, here is a different view:

        http://www.bizop.ca/blog2/ponzi-schemes/the-regulator-and-the-blowoff.html

    • Charles H. Green July 15, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

      Michael, interesting and thoughtful comment, thank you.

      I suppose it depends a little bit how you define trust. In my own lexicon, I include the concept of reliability, which I think speaks to Doug’s idea of trust in the system. Whatever you call it, that phenomenon covers a wide range of human behavior, from bank tellers to stop lights to rental car companies; we willingly put ourselves at theoretical risk.

      I tend to call that trust, but I hear you as suggesting perhaps that word is getting overused; certainly you are right in pointing out situations where personal reputation is not required for things to work.

      • michael webster July 22, 2010 at 10:54 am #

        @Charles, I think it is important to sort out those situation which require a personal understanding of the motives of the other person, and those in which such an examination would be irrelevant.

        We only have so much time to investigate, and building conventions which circumvent the need for constant vigilance is important.

  2. John Gies July 15, 2010 at 8:33 am #

    Doug,

    Great collection of Stories and i award style points for the circus motif. I think that is the best done I have seen with the clowns, fortune tellers, etc.

    Articles were well chosen.

    Thanks

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