According to The Edelman Trust Barometer, “People’s trust in business, government, NGOs, and media remained largely unchanged from 2017 — 20 of 28 countries surveyed now lie in distruster territory, up one from last year. Yet dramatic shifts are taking place at the country level and within the institution of media.” (https://www.edelman.com/trust-barometer)
The United States had a 37- point drop in all types of institutions. China, in contrast, had a 27-point gain.
The results of the study are broad, but I got particularly interested in what it might tell those of us who work across cultures. If you are from Country X and you want to do business in Country Y, it would help to know how they are likely to view people from your country as well as from your type of organization.
I know that when I work outside the U.S., people tend to view American consultants with suspicion. They often see us as arrogant know-it-alls. That’s not new news, but the report seems to suggest that perceptions of trust across borders may be getting much worse. Even though I don’t see myself that way, that doesn’t matter. It is in my best interest to try to demonstrate that I am worthy of their trust.
How do gain you trust when you are working in other countries?
Recognizing that your colleagues or prospective clients may not trust who you represent is an important first step. The next step for me is to think about what I can do to confound their expectations. So, if they are expecting an arrogant consultant who has all the answers. I begin my conversation using only their own data. I try to join a conversation on things that are already important to them. On my better days, I resist the temptation to try to impress them with my ideas and models.
And it helps to be introduced to a group by someone they already trust. I’ll be working in Scandinavia in March. And you can bet that I will be talking with my new clients trying to build bridges before I arrive. Small things to be sure, but it can help to create a foundation for work.
Let me end with some good news. The report says, “. . . voices of expertise are now regaining credibility. Journalists have risen 12 points, and CEOs recorded a seven-percentage-point gain, since 2017. Technical experts, financial industry analysts, and successful entrepreneurs now register credibility levels of 50 percent or higher.” (https://www.edelman.com/trust-barometer)
What advice do you have when working with international clients? I'd like to hear your ideas.