Which do your prefer – happiness or trust?


Photo by yewenyi

Today in our marketing class we talked about customer’s happiness and trust. If you create a simple 2 by 2 matrix you can allocate your customers to 4 groups. Then you need to think about how you treat each group and what the reasons for the existence and size of each group are.

And that got me thinking about transferring the same kind of measurement and thinking process to other arenas. Let’s think about politics. If you are a president or a prime minster, what is more important – that the citizens trust you or that they are happy with what you are doing? Or think about being a manager – do you want your employees to trust you or do you want them to be happy?

I know that trust and happiness are interrelated. I also know that the definitions are not completely clear. But life (and leadership and management) is about making decisions in a scarce and uncertain environment. And when your resources are limited you are faced with the choice of what to concertante on.

If I was a marketer, I think I will concentrate mainly on happiness. But as a leader and a manager of people, I would go with trust every time. In the marketplace of the consumers – happiness will generally lead to trust. In the leadership sense, happiness is important – but doing the right things and making the right decisions is a way that will lead to trust, is even more important. The trust will lead to happiness.

Leaders and managers need to make tough choices even though their followers will not always like it. In a book I am currently reading called: “The last argument of kings” one of the characters uses the phrase: “One cannot be a great leader without a certain … Ruthlessness”. I believe this is true. First create trust in your vision, in your cause, in your decision making. First create respect. Happiness will come.

What do you think is more important? Happiness or trust?


5 Responses to “Which do your prefer – happiness or trust?”

  1. Randy Zwitch Says:

    Nice blog, and interesting question!

    I think that trust is the most important in the marketplace. Underlying trust leads to happiness, especially if the customer believes you are acting in their best interest (or mutual interest). But just happiness is fleeting, a “what have you done for me lately” attitude.

    In politics, I think happiness is probably the more important. There should always be a healthy distrust of politicians, but as long as they are following the direction you would prefer, it should make you happy. On the flip side, I may trust that a politician is operating in good faith, but if I disagree with their rationale then it won’t lead to happiness.

  2. sherfelad Says:

    Hi Randy,
    Thanks for your very interesting comment and your compliments.
    Your point of view is very interesting. I would like to challenge your thinking regarding politics. If we take happiness as the most important thing, that leads to decision making according to polls and surveys. This is a very dangerous path. One of the early prime ministers of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, once famously said: “I will not do what the people want; I will do what they need”. To a certain degree, I agree with that. Leadership, especially in the politics sense, should not be a popularity contest, but about taking the initiative, the hard decisions, and if need be – the responsibility for your actions.
    Would love to hear your point of view on that.
    Thanks again, hope to see more of your comments on the blog.

  3. Randy Zwitch Says:

    I see what you mean about the ambiguity in my statement…I didn’t mean happiness as “Tyranny of the Majority”, where as long as popular opinion rules that is the most important thing. I was more thinking from a philosophical standpoint; as long as the politician is operating in a manner of what you view as “right” (vs. wrong in a moral sense), then to me that seems like it would be better than just trusting them.

    Of course, if you define “trust” as you trusting them to do what you believe is right, then you will be happy.

    Tough question!

  4. sherfelad Says:

    Tough questions is what I live for… the answers are less important…

  5. More on stopping with the rules « The Comparative Advantage Says:

    […] mechanisms of safety, efficiency and motivation instead of using our mechanisms of control. Where trust leads to happiness. Where we promote responsibility and accountability. Where we celebrate common sense, humanism, […]

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