Relationships Hang In The Balance Of Trust

If loyalty is a thing of the past, then trust is a necessity of the present.

Lots of folks would say that corporate loyalty is a thing of the past. Corporations can re-organize and re-structure, and they can downsize and rightsize — almost forever — without giving too much thought as to how it will affect their employees. Corporate loyalty seems to be missing in some of those situations.

You even read about companies who hold the line on employee wage increases while they give large bonuses to their executives. Corporate loyalty is certainly missing in those situations.

The same might be said of customer loyalty. Research from the Forum Corporation says 40% of your “satisfied” customers will switch to your competitor. Customers aren’t as loyal as they used to be.

If that’s the case, if loyalty is somewhat lacking, then you’d better have trust in your relationships, for trust is the basic ingredient of every effective human relationship. In fact, no marriage, no team, no organization ever goes beyond the trust it builds.

So how do you build that trust? I talked about two things you can do in last week’s “Tuesday Tip.” Let’s go a bit further in this week’s “Tip.”

=> 3. Be absolutely honest.

The strange thing is most people think they’re honest. But on the other hand, they don’t think there’s anything wrong with a little dishonesty. They rationalize that white lies, exaggerations, or minor distortions of the truth are okay.

But what would you think of a manager who says, “My staff is really upset about the company’s new quality initiative,” but later you discover there had been only one, minor complaint? Obviously you wouldn’t trust that manager quite as much in the future. As the philosopher Nietzsche said, “What upsets me is not that you lied to me, but that from now on I can no longer believe you.”

The truth is — anything other than absolute honesty does not build trust. It doesn’t and it shouldn’t. I tell sales groups, “If the truth can’t sell, nothing should.”

=> 4. Keep your promises.

The Center for Creative Leadership compared executives who were kicked out of the corporation and those who made it all the way to the top, becoming the CEO. The one major flaw of those who didn’t make it to the top was the fact they did not keep their promises. They didn’t do what they said they were going to do. They couldn’t be trusted.

Every time you make a promise and don’t fulfill it, you destroy trust. And let me suggest that your colleagues never forget. If you tell someone, “I’ll get back to you,” and then fail to do so, you destroy the trust in your relationship. You can’t say, “I got busy…or…I forgot” and expect things to be okay. They won’t be.

If you want an energized workplace, you must keep your promises…period! Avoid mushy language such as “I’ll see… I’ll give you a call… or I’ll think about it.” Give clear “yes” or “no” responses. And write down your promises, if need be. Make sure you don’t forget. And follow through on your commitments, even if you don’t feel like it.

=> 5. Admit your mistakes.

Of course, that’s not easy. As Sydney Harris says in Pieces of Eight, “The three hardest tasks in the world are neither physical feats nor intellectual achievements, but moral acts: to return love for hate, to include the excluded, and to say ‘I was wrong’.”

It’s never easy to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Forgive me.” But it’s one sign of an emotionally healthy person. He or she is open to new information, new learnings, and new ways of doing things. And sometimes that requires an admission of a mistake. But it builds trust. The coworker begins to think, “I can trust you. You won’t try to bluff me.”

Golfer Arnold Palmer does it all the time. On various occasions he has given himself a one-stroke penalty for a rules infraction that no one else has noticed. Even though he has astonished spectators and officials with his openness, and even though he has jeopardized thousands of dollars in prize money, he has earned the public respect.

So be a Palmer! On occasion say, “I made a mistake. I was wrong.” After all, nothing turns us off quicker than someone trying to cover up his mistakes or refusing to admit it when he’s wrong.

Gordon H. Taggart said it very well. He wrote:

“I wish I were honest enough to admit all my shortcomings; brilliant enough to accept flattery without it making me arrogant; tall enough to tower above deceit; strong enough to treasure love; brave enough to welcome criticism; compassionate enough to understand human frailties; wise enough to recognize my mistakes; humble enough to appreciate greatness; staunch enough to stand by my friends; human enough to be thoughtful of my neighbor; and righteous enough to be devoted to the love of God.”

Everything you say — and everything you do — either builds or destroys trust. So don’t leave it to chance. Consciously choose to do more things that build trust, and your relationships will be in much better shape.

Action:  It’s easy to say, “Ill get back to you,” and never do. And it’s easy to say, “Ill look into it,” and forget to do so. After all, you’re very busy.

How good are you at remembering the promises you make? And how good are you at keeping your promises?

If you’re not very good at it, start writing down every promise you make. Carry the list with you, and keep on carrying that list until you’ve followed through on every one of those promises.