Thursday, January 10, 2013

Trust Is Not A Given

Thinking Trust

Recently, I finished reading Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Teal Book of Trust.  The book attempts to outline the many aspects of trust: earning it, losing it, how to keep it, and why it’s important.  It got me thinking.  Who do I trust and why?  Who trusts me and why?  Seemingly, simple questions to answer but I found that to not really be the case.  There is much that goes into trusting and being trusted.

What is Trust?

Trust is defined by the dictionary as “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.”  However, trust is really much deeper than a simple definition.  Trust is also fragile; it must be earned; it can easily be lost; it can be a measure of the level of predictability; it can be acknowledged through a decision; it is the fact of knowing and believing; once established it is very delicate; and it comes with risk.  Trust can be something you feel or the result of a cause and effect.  In just about everything I do I am either trusting or distrusting the person, thing or situation – there is no gray area.  You either do or you do not trust.

Easy to Earn

Ernest Hemingway stated “the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”  The proof is in the pudding so to say.  Your actions are evidence of your trustworthiness.  When entrusted to complete a task or follow through on something, do you?  Do people have confidence that you will get the job done?  Trust is earned through actions.  “People ask me why it’s so hard to trust people, and I ask them why is it so hard to keep a promise? – unknown” Governments trust or distrust other governments based on actions.  Products are trusted based on delivering capabilities promised and the confidence in the manufacturer to continue delivering quality products.  Just as Craftsmen Tools are trusted our Military is trusted as a result of integrity, strength and the ability to get the job done.

Easy to Lose

As quickly as trust can be earned it can be lost.  When promises are not kept, distrust is the result.  If I promise a client that I will deliver a widget or service by a certain date the client is expecting that widget or service to be delivered by that date.  The client may build other plans around the date I provided building to the level of trust and expectations.  If the date slips the level of trust my client has in my ability to deliver slips.  If the date continues to slip at some point the client will distrust any date I provide and will begin to question my ability to deliver on what I promised – at this point the client has lost trust in me.  My credibility and the client’s confidence in my ability to deliver fade, and their level of trust in me diminishes to the point of distrusting me.

Business deals, transactions and relationships happen because of trust.  An element of trust is the expectation that someone or something will do the right thing.  When you trust there is a feeling of confidence, of being safe and comfortable with the deal, transaction or relationship.  The opposite is true when trust is missing and the deal, transaction or relationship fails to happen.

The Best Situation

Mutual trust is a great achievement which requires commitment.  When each party trusts the other great things can be accomplished.  When soldiers trust their leaders to make the right decisions in the heat of battle and the leaders trust their soldiers to follow through battles are won.  In business the same holds true.  When management trusts the workers, and the workers trust management, not only is a competitive advantage realized but great things are achieved.  Breaking down walls by building levels of trust is instrumental to any relationship.  Mutual trust builds long lasting relationships in both personal and professional worlds and decreases undesirable outcomes.  When you think about it everything we do in our personal and professional lives are centered on some type of relationship.

When I think of trust, I think of it as an end result.  Everything I do should be driving towards an end result of trust.  The result is dependent on many things but most importantly on two characteristics:  my character and my competency.  Character reflected in my ability to have good intentions and integrity to do the right thing.  Competency reflected in my capacity and capability to provide positive results.  In the end George MacDonald said it best “to be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.”  Who do you trust and who trusts you?