Trust is the cornerstone of business

Home Editorials Trust is the cornerstone of business

by Al Wahnon

Most people, especially the honest variety, think of themselves as trustworthy. And they are. So, the idea that being trustworthy does not necessarily build trust may seem like a ridiculous concept or an obvious contradiction to the casual observer. But, think about it, haven’t you had at least one experience where people have questioned your motives or credibility without justification? The logic might escape you, but to them it is behavior that builds trust, not intentions. You know what they say about “good intentions” as a paving material. Actually, people don’t know your intentions and have little or no interest in them—they only know what you do and judge you by what they see, hear and feel. Simply put: Don’t tell me you love me, show me you love me.

The dynamic here is basic: Every interaction you have with another person either enhances trust or diminishes it. That also applies to managers and employees in your organization. Every interaction your managers have with their team members builds trust or diminishes it. Every interaction an individual in your company has with a customer either builds trust or diminishes it, as well. The theory is sound and unassailable and it would make sense to impress all managers and employees with the behavior that builds trust. How well the people in your organization learn and adopt the principles of trust can deter- mine your growth and success.

There are many aspects to building trust, but recent research has identified four elements that must be present for trust to develop. Reliability is the most obvious element. You must deliver what you say you will deliver. You cannot fail to deliver, nor deliver late, nor deliver the wrong products. You must keep commitments, no matter how difficult and at what cost; your actions will shout your reliability and not whisper your shortcomings. You must perform with all your skills and resources on all occasions and value a satisfied customer as a mainstay of your business—when you collect enough of them, you are assured of profitability and success.

Congruence is the behavior that lets people know you are trustworthy. Partly it is how you communicate—saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Don’t sugarcoat criticism; tell it honestly but sensitively. Don’t exaggerate performance; a dose of humility will go a long way with colleagues. You can build trust by trusting. The other part of congruence is walking your talk—operating by your personal and organizational values. The study indicated that people tend to respond in kind when a leader is forth- right, caring and patient. Customers as well respond to honesty and empathy.

Openness is essential for trust to flourish. Managers must be candid with employees, speaking personally and for the company. Learning something from an indirect source allows for distortion and undermines the confidence of the employee, who should be cultivated and made to feel part of the team. They should be kept informed and encouraged to speak up with ideas, even to disagree with the way things are done. Openness can provide the spark of understanding that could ignite the torch of trust. Being receptive and listening to employees and customers builds loyalty and trust.

Acceptance is the least understood element, but everyone needs to be respected and valued. This is a self-evident truth that should be the foundation of every business and the credo of every salesperson who comes into contact with the consuming public. Your employees and customers are the most valuable assets your company has, so treat them accordingly and you will earn their trust.

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