trustAmericans are saying, “I just don’t know who to trust anymore.” According to the latest poll, 75% of Americans do not trust most companies. This includes a lot of nonprofits as well.

Trust is key to an individual’s or a company’s success, yet only in recent years has any thoughtful discussion of anything to do with trust appeared in business school curriculum.

Trust is a key building block in the creation of a company’s reputation.  As a direct result of that it impacts shareholder value.  Nine out of ten people agree that a corporation’s reputation plays a large role in forming opinions about products and services. 8 out of 10 agree to pay more money for goods and services from a company with a well-regarded record.

Here are some truths about trust:

  • Trust never stands still. It’s never neutral.  It’s either accelerating or decelerating what you are trying to do as an organization, a leader, or family.
  • High levels of trust offer you the benefit of the doubt. They will look past mistakes.  They are more willing to put up with little irritations and pesky inconveniences.
  • Low levels of trust become time vampires.  Things go slowly and sloppily because you are being questioned on everything you do.  No good deed goes unsuspected, and every action will be labeled with a negative intent.

Sometimes trust is impacted by an external cause.  If there’s a downturn in the market, fear and mistrust are familiar by products.  Fear and mistrust travel in the same circle.  Leaders should not be blindsided by this.  Communication must be ramped up.

Effective leaders know that trust is the glue that holds everything together.

Here are five tips on building a culture of trust.

1. Start With A Person. This personal approach has a way of impacting the whole group.  It’s actually contagious.  Others pick up on the vibes and grow in their trust.

2. Market Transparency. If you are transparent, people will trust you more.  A problem with a lot of organization is that their trustworthy inner workings are hidden.  Nobody knows about it.  Maybe all the needed information is available.  But do people know how to acquire it?  Do they know where to look for it?  Do they even know it’s available? Be proactive in pointing it out so that others can see it.  Talk about it and demonstrate it.

3. Seed Accountability and Weed Blame.

The person that can describe the problem without assigning blame   is leading.

Blame-free problem solving is better than a blame storming session. People respect being held accountable, but we naturally avoid an atmosphere of blame and punishment. Accountability encourages corrective action.  Blame encourages self-protection—ducking and diving so as not to get hit. See it. Own it. Solve it. Do it.

4. Speak About Others As Though They Were Present. Do this, not just at work, but everywhere you find yourself.  There are few better habits for building your trustworthiness and their trust.  This draws people to you, increases their trust, and sets a strong example for them to do likewise.

 5. Master The Habit Of Apologizing. When you fall down or misfire on a commitment, don’t hide it.  Hang a lantern on it so everyone involved can see your acknowledgment and ownership.  Too many leaders have never been trained how to do this.

This doesn’t mean you have to fix the mistake immediately, but you need to acknowledge the mistake or grievance so you can move forward.  Do three things:  (1) I’m sorry, (2) I will do better in the future, (3) shut up (because excessive explanations can come off as excusing behavior or actions).

Trust is an accelerator for everything you want to do as a leader.  A lack of trust is a decelerator—like running in water that’s waist deep. Trust is an essential component for creating an extraordinary organization—and more importantly—an extraordinary person.

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