For the past 24 hours I have dealt with something ugly- a senior leader I work with engaging in activity that short-sightedly served their purposes yet had severe repercussions on their relationship with me, their employees and their brand.
The issue is being resolved yet today in a reflective mode I realized yes, people make mistakes, big ones even and we can often forgive them. There is a huge difference however between forgiving someone, moving on… and trusting them again.
Pausing for reflection and learning after going through a big obstacle is often where the biggest learning happens. What follows is my two cents connecting the dots between the importance of trust individually in our relationships and collectively in business, workplaces and society.
“Reputation is like fine china once broken it’s very hard to repair.”
Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865)
1. To trust or not to trust
There are two approaches: “I trust you until you prove to me I shouldn’t” and ”you have to earn my trust”. I tend to fall in the former, always have. I will say though that my tolerance level over the years has become very low for “second chances” if I have fundamentally lost trust. I can forgive, but I have found trust is very hard to regain once it has been broken. So for me, I do trust you until you prove to me I shouldn’t… but if you lose my trust we are all but done. You may mess up, I will too, but when it comes to trust it’s not a switch you flip on and off.
2. Trust your animal instinct
We all do it- I can see my 3 year old and 5 year old do it, I see it in meetings, at cocktail parties. It’s that lower brain that fires up and asks “safe? not safe? trust? don’t trust?” Of course your instinct can be wrong, but I think we have to pay attention to those little signals our “gut” tells us. Usually if something doesn’t FEEL quite right, it isn’t. We make those calls in split seconds when we meet someone… and then spend the next phase of introduction proving ourselves right. Not everyone connects well with everyone. Yet if we conduct ourselves with authenticity and integrity, we have a much higher chance of not setting off people’s lower brain stem.
3. Trust Building Is Not a Passive Activity
To build trust in each and every one of your relationships you MUST conduct yourself in a manner worthy of earning that trust. Trust is something you don’t get to decide if you have- others decide for you. If they decide we ARE trustworthy then our work is only beginning. With each interaction with that person, the people around them, our clients, our business, we validate that decision they made to trust us… or little by little we change their minds.
4. Suspicion, not proof is enough to destroy trust
Whether it’s your boss, your spouse, your co-worker all it takes is suspicion to erode even the tightest bonds. As soon as suspicion emerges, it has a nasty habit of tainting our filter through which we view everything about that person. We have all felt it- in school, at a party, at the office… the suspicion that someone is being underhanded, or cheating, or stealing, or doing something they shouldn’t. We can’t prove it, but we protect ourselves, take a few steps back and now look at everything they do differently. Our employees and customers do the same with us as leaders.
5. Loss of trust hurts you and your company
“There is a direct correlation between how employees view their company and how customers and stockholders view it. Once leadership has lost the confidence of their employees, that negative energy has a measurable impact on the messages employees — and especially front-line employees — deliver to customers, the community at large, and stockholders.” (Stephen M. Dent, founding partner of the consulting firm Partnership Continuum) click here for full article
10 ways to build trust as leaders, parents, teachers, colleagues, spouses or any hat we wear
- Make contribution that add value
- Elevate others not yourself
- Have a “give” mindset not “take”
- Show with your actions not your words
- Believe that others want a safe and supportive relationship with you
- Show compassion
- Be truthful
- Value input
- Demonstrate personal credibility and Integrity
- Trust others
Who is on your most trusted list?
As I reflect on the past 24 hours and dealing with a small crisis, I realize that the people I instinctively turned to to help me figure out options were people who I have a HIGH trust level with. I know they have “my back”, I trust that they will drop everything to help me, I value their opinion. In some cases I may have never met them in person but even via social media I have come to regard them with the highest degree of trust. People like Nathan Latka, Kemp Edmonds, Jeff Waldman; Melanie Anne Bitner and so many more I am lucky to be surrounded by.
I add to that incredible list my daughters, my husband… I often wonder- do we have “most trusted lists” for different things?
In this case it was a business issue and an identity theft issue that needed quick thinking. There was a social media angle to it so that filtered my list even more. If the issue at hand had been more on the personal side, I wonder if I would have tapped into other parts of my “list”?
Who would you call if you needed immediate help? who do you have the highest levels of trust for? what would be a deal breaker for you?
Who do you think would have YOU on their most trusted list?