Home » Behavior, Trust Insights » Trust Insights Week #5: Charles H. Green

Charlie, thank you for participating in our 2020 Trust Insights series. What is your trust insight?

“Trust” is what happens when a risk-taking trustor meets a virtuous trustee.” Charles H. Green, Trusted Advisor Associates

(The definition is surprisingly important, because it is rarely followed in practice.)


Can you expand a bit on this important insight?

Much talk about ’trust’ is abstract and not practically useful. Change in trust happens only when either someone becomes more willing to trust, or someone else becomes more trustworthy. 

We intuitively use personal trust as the paradigm – the strongest form of trust. We describe people as being trustworthy or not – a set of personal virtues, if you will. For example, using the Trust Equation, it breaks down into Credibility, Reliability, and Intimacy: all divided by Self-orientation. A trustworthy person exemplifies these virtues in all their interactions.

The trustor, by contrast, is the one who initiates the trust interaction. They, by definition are taking a risk, putting themselves willfully in the way of some kind of harm through the potentially untrustworthy behavior of the trustee. 

The business world is much enamored of ‘measuring’ things; but when it comes to trust, it is largely a fool’s errand. Measuring ’trust’ per se is elusive: most measurements are, and should be, actually metrics of the trustor’s propensity to risk, or of the trustees level of virtuousness. 


Can you provide a real life example of a trust “challenge” where your insight has been effectively applied.

One headline from Edelman PR’s annual Trust Barometer is “trust in social media is down.” Substitute ‘brands,’ ‘banking,’ ‘politics,’ and a host of others, and you’ll find similar headlines. But what do such sentences actually mean? Take banking, for example:
  • Does such a headline mean that banking has become less trustworthy? 
  • Or does it mean that people have become less trusting of banks in general?
In the case of Wells Fargo, you can make a good case that the problem was specific to the firm – rampant cases of untrustworthy behavior. Wells Fargo showed itself to be unworthy of trust. 
But take the case of violent crime: it is down, verifiably, over two decades in the US. At the same time, just as verifiably, fear of violent crime is up. That is a problem of perception on the part of would-be trusters. 
If you are interested in improving trust, you must define the problem: does it lie in the trustworthiness of specific would-be trustees? Or does it lie in excessive risk-avoidance on the part of would-be trustors?
Focusing on ’trust’ itself masks the practical question: is it a problem of trusting, or of trustworthiness. 


Charlie, generally, do you think the global “trust” climate is improving or worsening? What actions are making it better or worse?

There is plenty of data – some flawed, but some very good – that suggest we are in a period of declining trust. It is tempting to ascribe this to political polarization, tribalism, and nationalism. But I think there is a bigger threat. 
The larger problem is that we have come to de-emphasize the inherently personal nature of trust. The strongest form of trust is personal, not institutional. Yet much of the public dialogue is about institutional trust: and much of the discussion about how to improve trust is also about institutional or structural fixes to trust. 
Factors driving down the focus on personal trust include:
  • A deep-seated business preference for metrics and quantification, including on things that are frankly quite non-measurable
  • A fascination with ’scientific’ explanations of trust, including many neuroscientists and Big Data, which have the effect of downgrading traditional, and still valuable, other approaches to the subject 
  • The de-humanization that comes out of most participation in social media
  • The de-humanization that comes out of the very nature of ‘online’ social media participation as a substitute for direct human conduct


Many claim we have a crisis of trust. Do you agree?




Charlie, how has your membership in our Trust Alliance benefitted you professionally?

Invaluable direct contact with other fellow-travelers interested in the exploration of this very rich topic. 


Charlie, thank you so much for your time and more importantly for your commitment to elevating organizational trust. What would you like our audience to know about you?


Charles H. Green is an author, speaker and world expert on trust-based relationships and sales in complex businesses. Founder and CEO of Trusted Advisor Associates, he is author of Trust-based Selling, and co-author of The Trusted Advisor and the Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.  He has worked with a wide range of industries and functions globally. Charles spent 20 years in management consulting. He majored in philosophy (Columbia), and has an MBA (Harvard).

A widely sought-after speaker, he has published articles in Harvard Business Review, Directorship Magazine, Management Consulting News, CPA Journal, American Lawyer, Investments and Wealth Monitor, and Commercial Lending Review.

And while you are here, Tap Into Trust and complete our 1 minute/1 question quiz. Find out how the level of trust in your workplace compares to hundreds of others.

Did you miss our previous 2020 insights? Access them at this link.


Contact us for more information on elevating trust on your team or in your organization.

Copyright 2020, Next Decade, Inc.


If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

, , , , ,

Add reply