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How to (re)Build Trust in Times of Transition

Our learning history - past experiences that have constructed our beliefs - is a big deal. It teaches us that, no, going back to touch the hot stove isn't a good idea, and that, yes, we can trust our parents to pick us up from school. It largely predicts how we will behave in the future in work, life and relationships. In the midst of the buzz on post pandemic life and what, exactly, a return to work will ask of us, trust is what people are leaning on. Employees are asking themselves, "Will it be better this time around? How can I be sure?"

Enter the Say:Do Ratio (SDR). This simple ratio is the launchpad for not only trust and culture, but performance, retention and financial success as we get comfortable with life and work styles these days.

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The SDR is a simple metric by which companies, teams and individuals can understand complex phenomena like trust and communication. The basic functions of the Say:Do Ratio are: 1) to effectively measure the likelihood that the company, team or individual will be trusted in the future, internally and externally, and 2) to set a simple, objective foundation for improvement moving forward, if necessary.

It is used first as a baseline and then as a metric for improvement to work on gaining or regaining trust by holding parties accountable, in writing, in a non-threatening and simple document. It can be done quickly and reviewed in seconds during board or performance meetings, making it an easy and consistent component of culture change.

One would think an effective, trust-building SDR would be the same across the board, meaning that falling somewhere around a certain ratio would be a consistently effective number. However, things like likability and other emotion-driving variables make this tool unique to each user. For example, one may be more likely to trust someone they are interested in romantically, even if the SDR is low, due to confirmation bias (we want to believe we are right about this person's good intentions becasue the value of a romantic partner is high). Conversely, the SDR may need to be much higher for a company where moderate to severe cynicism (another phenomena the SDR can explain) is present. This means that a company with high cynicism might need a consistent SDR of 9:10 or even 10:10 to crawl out of this morale-crushing hole, whereas a “perfect on paper” romantic interest may only have to produce a 5:10 metric to maintain the other’s trust and interest.

The point is, the SDR is an ongoing and dynamic measure. One can only survive with a low to moderate SDR for so long until potentially permenent mistrust settles in. The exception to this is when expectations are low and tolerance is high, but it is doubtful that any company or team would succeed with employees who have learned to expect little and tolerate anything. Conversely, a company can compare SDRs on a monthly or weekly basis and see if they correlate to higher retention, happiness or performance ratings. The tool is a guide that supports behavioral changes over time, influencing impactful actions far past meeting notes, potentially unanswered questions, and empty promises.

See below for an example of how I have used this in organizations and, if you find yourself pressed for time but in need of immediate change, give it a try.

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