Trust Goes Both Ways

Years ago, many years ago actually, I was calling on a candy manufacturer in the Eastern United States. They generously offered me a tour of their building and since there were bowls of my favorite candy all over the place I quickly accepted their offer. 

 

The tour somehow felt a little weird from the start but I couldn’t figure out why. As the tour continued it dawned on me that none of the offices or conference rooms had doors. There were door frames and you could see that at one time there were doors but they had all been removed. 

 

That struck me as very odd so I asked what happened to the doors. One of the founders of the company was giving me the tour and his answer was confusing too. He simply said that “they” didn’t like rumors. 

 

He went on to say that information is the enemy of rumor so they share as much information as they possibly can. He also made a point to say that nearly all information is shareable. He felt that most companies needlessly withhold information from their employees and that is how rumors begin. 

 

When I asked about information such as recipes and other intellectual knowledge he said they share as much of that as possible too. I mentioned something about needing a lot of trust to do that and his instantaneous response was that they didn’t hire people they couldn’t trust. 

 

Considering that trust is a necessary ingredient for leadership that statement has stuck with me for all these years. I think everyone would agree that a leader needs to have the trust of the people they hope to lead. 

 

But what about the other direction? Does a leader need to trust their people in order to truly lead them? 

 

Before you answer that question think about this…do you find it easier or harder to trust someone who doesn’t trust you? If you’re like most people you find it harder, much harder. Maybe even impossible. 

 

That would mean that a leader who doesn’t trust their people is a leader who isn’t trusted by their people. That means that they aren’t a leader at all. 

 

I go back to my conversation with the candy maker who wouldn’t hire people that he couldn’t trust. I’d bet one of the reasons the company has flourished since 1941 is that incredible level of two-way trust.

 

So what about you. Are you hiring people who you can’t trust? I’ve asked that question to leaders face-to-face and they always tell me “of course not.” But they share very little information with them. They allow them to take minimal if any risks. They are not allowed to deviate even a little from long established processes and procedures. These leaders claim to “empower” their people but they don’t trust them enough to let them make a single change.

 

They are trusted in word only. Every decision and action indicates that they are not trusted in practice. But the organization’s leadership expects the trust of their people. 

 

It doesn’t work that way. 

 

Trust is a two-way street. Either start hiring people you can trust or start trusting the people you’ve already hired. 

 

The fastest way to make someone trustworthy is to trust them. If you’re waiting for them to trust you first then perhaps you’ve forgotten that YOU’RE the leader…you go first. Show that you trust your people because if you don’t it’s unlikely that they will ever trust you. 


Trust goes both ways or it doesn’t go at all! 

The High Cost of Low Trust

Trust is hard to come by today. In the United States the two people who will compete for the Presidency this fall are the least trusted candidates ever to run for that high office. 

Laws are put in place basically to combat lack of trust. U.S. Federal regulations cost businesses the equivalent of a little more than 10% of the gross domestic product. Lack of trust is truly expensive.

When trust is low within an organization then every communication, every interaction, every strategy, every decision is doubted, slowing things down and increasing costs. Some research shows that a lack of trust can as much as triple the time it takes to accomplish anything worthwhile.

Building trust and credibility should be a daily activity for all leaders. Just because you have trust today doesn’t mean you always will. Trust must be constantly nurtured. Assuming that you are trusted simply because you consider yourself trustworthy is an all too common mistake for leaders. 

There are many actions that a leader can take to build trust on a daily basis, here are just a few.

Be a straight talker. Use tact, be polite, and show compassion. But when something needs to be said then say it. Say it in a way that won’t be misunderstood. Ask a question or two to verify that the message you intended to convey is the message that was heard. Assume 100% responsibility for the effectiveness of your communications, after all, you have the audacity to call yourself a leader. So don’t make someone else responsible for understanding something you said.

Admit when you’re wrong. Leaders can be wrong, just like every other human being on earth. Dale Carnegie said, “when you’re wrong admit it quickly and emphatically.” That is an important principle for leaders to keep in mind. Trying to hide a mistake is often a bigger mistake than the mistake you’re trying to hide.

Be trusting. If you want other people to trust you then you need to trust other people as well. I recently had a conversation with someone who told me that they would never “just trust” someone. They said that trust had to be earned. They said that they “tested” people by asking them to do little things, the kind of things that it didn’t really matter if they were done or not. The people were not told they were being tested with meaningless tasks. 

When I said it seemed to me that they might be deceiving people to determine if they were trustworthy I was told that “you can’t be honest with people you don’t trust.” That my friends is some messed up thinking and the kind of thinking that will certainly kill trust. 

The only honest way I know of to find out if someone is trustworthy is to trust them, really trust them. If you’re a leader and you want people to trust you then you must trust them first. It is called leading for a reason, you need to trust first.

Those are but a few of the many actions a leader must take daily to build trust. Clearly one of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is to assume they are trusted just because of their title or position. 

Actually, in today’s environment the opposite is more often true.

Trust is no Accident

I’m putting the finishing touches on a new program I’m going to present for the first time next week. I’m pretty sure I’ll title it “Building a Trusted Relationship.” It has been fascinating to research the subject of trust.

I’ve learned a lot.

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is that trust rarely just happens; it must be earned. More than that, it must be intentionally and repeatedly earned. Pretty much everything you say and do, everyday, either adds to or subtracts from, the level of trust that somebody has in you.

Once earned it must be protected like it’s your prized possession. Actually if trust isn’t one of your prized possessions then your likely not doing enough to earn it intentionally and repeatedly.

Trust is amazingly fragile; while it is usually a long slow process to build and maintain trust, it can be destroyed in an instant. It doesn’t have to be something big that destroys it either, it can be something that seems almost trivial…. except to the person whose trust has been lost.

Lots of honest people aren’t trusted. It’s not because they have done something to lose the trust of those around them, it’s because they have done nothing to earn it. You see, there seems to be two distinct types of people in the world. Those who trust you until you do something to destroy that trust and those who won’t trust you until you do something to earn it.

Sadly, it appears the later group is growing.

The class I’m preparing is 3 hours long so the “how to” build trust part of this post could go on a very long time. It won’t, but let me sum it up for you like this:

If you want to earn the trust of the people you interact with then just be you. Whatever you are, you’re better off as you then you are trying to be somebody you’re not. When you try to “fake it” there is so much to remember; who you told what and when you told them. How you should dress when you’re with this person or that one. How you speak and which words do you use.

When you mess around like that you WILL be found out. You just can’t fool anyone forever. Life is so much easier, earning the trust of others is so much easier, when you’re just you. Research shows that the average person lies 7 times a day. My own little very unscientific research says the vast majority of those lies are people trying to project an image that isn’t really them. And yes, those little white lies are still lies, no matter how much you want to believe them.

I don’t suppose this has always been true for me but at this point in my life it certainly is – I’d rather be thought of as an honest idiot than a dishonest genius.

It really makes no difference whether you’re trying to build trust as a leader, as a sales professional or just a person living life; if you can’t maintain trust in a relationship then you can’t maintain the relationship.

Do not take the trust of others for granted. Building trust isn’t something that happens, it is something you do. You may be the most trustworthy person on the planet but if you’re not proactively building trust then trust most certainly will not be built.

Build yourself a bit of trust today….. and everyday!