As a leader in business, you are familiar with the fact that you have risks that need to be managed or avoided completely. But let me ask you this – have you ever considered a breakdown of trust as the greatest risk to your business?
If you’re shaking your head, you’re in the majority – but if you truly want to outshine and outstrip your competitors, if you want to significantly increase what I call the 3 R’s of trust – Results, Retention and Relationships, then listen up!
Your greatest challenge and opportunity in 2011 is to join the growing number of leaders who are focusing on a breakdown of trust as the greatest risk, and creating a “Building Trust Plan” to address it.
Watson Wyatt concluded in a 2003 study that organizations with high levels of trust delivered shareholder returns 3 TIMES that of organizations with low levels of trust. We’ve seen similar results from organizations that apply a concerted effort on understanding where trust is breaking down inside and outside their organization and leading with trust as the foundation of doing business.
One of the issues “trust” has in playing a significant role in the business world has been its complexity and a reputation as being a “soft skill” that “we don’t have time to really focus on – we’re trying to make money.” Trust has taken a back seat to a host of culture development programs and, over the past few years, cost cutting measures to survive the global financial crisis have eroded trust even further.
In a study my organization, entente, conducted in 2006, we asked over 600 people “What is trust?” And guess what? We got over 600 different responses! I realized that we had a problem right there – how can we build something if we don’t even know what we are building?
But when I asked business leaders around the world “How important is trust to your organization?” what did they say? “It’s critical” was the most common response. Great, so then I asked, “So, what do you do, then, to build trust? How do you know when you have it and when you don’t? How do you measure it?” The response – lots of blank stares, red faces, drained faces, and less than 5% could actually tell me what they did to build trust.
So, we have a lack of understanding of what trust is, a recognition of how important it is, with no clue as to what to do! Is it any wonder trust has taken a back seat all these years?
As a leader, this is your chance to lead with trust, and reap the rewards.
First, what is trust?
I define it as this:
Our ability to rely on:
- A person (or group of people)
- An organization
- Products and Services
. . . to deliver an outcome to us.
So, when your staff trusts you, they’re relying on you and your organization to deliver an outcome to them. When your customers trust you they are relying on you, your organization, and your products and services to deliver an outcome to them.
The problem is unless you’ve been asking, you don’t know what outcome they are relying on you for. And, I can tell you this for certain, if you think you know, you don’t. Assume nothing! There will be things that they are relying on that will blow your mind.
There are 3 core components to the Trust Wall, a revealing model for trust that explains quite a bit about human behavior.
Expectations are the first things that come into play. All your stakeholders will have expectations of you that come from:
- Their previous experience with you
- Things they’ve seen about you
- Things others have told them about you
- Things they’ve experienced with people/organizations/products and services that are like yours, but are not you
That means your customers, your staff, your shareholders, all have a range of expectations that they are relying on you to deliver.
Needs also play out in the trust dynamic – by Needs, I mean the basic human needs that drive us (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is what I draw on). Some people are relying on you to make them feel safe, others just want a job, some want respect, others growth and development. When you meet their Needs, they stay with you. Fail to meet them, and they are gone!
Then there are the Promises you make – both explicitly and implicitly. When you make Promises that meet the Expectations and Needs of others, they are drawn to you. When you make those Promises and then don’t deliver them, you break down that trust sometimes quicker than you can blink.
These 3 things, what I call ENPs®, are what we all rely on others for, and our trust sits on a balance of those. Keep them all in check, and trust flourishes and Results, Retention and Relationships all improve. Fail to meet them and trust breaks down, and all those things that you see in your business that cause you sleepless nights – the lack of performance, slow sales, high turnover, customer complaints, infighting, shareholder selling out, all take hold and destroy everything you are trying to achieve.
A breakdown of trust is the greatest risk to your business – building trust is your greatest challenge. That is the truth about trust.
Can you handle the truth?