The Absence Of Trust

We are living in uncertain times. It’s hard to deny that there’s an abundance of chaos and turmoil in the world around us these days. From the divisiveness of national politics to the tension that exists between law enforcement and the African-American community, it feels as if we are, at times, on the brink of disaster. When you throw in the uncertainty associated with the national and world economies, it’s hard to get a good night’s sleep. I believe there’s a common thread that ties all of these situations together. At the root of these particular issues is simply an absence of trust.

While it’s relatively easy to see how a lack of trust can affect personal relationships, it’s a little more complex when you apply the same theory to business relationships and societal issues. Regardless of the scenario, when you dig down to the core of the issue, you will almost always find that humans tend to behave differently when they don’t trust the system or those empowered to run the system.

Several months ago, I came across a book written by Stephen M. R. Covey called The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything. In his book, Covey tells us that the most important currency that leaders have today is trust. When there is no trust, you have chaos and uncertainty. When you apply this very basic concept to politics, you recognize that the failure of the Obama and Clinton administrations to bring about social change and equity gave birth to the Bernie Sanders movement. In a like manner, the failure of the Republican Party to adhere to a platform of fiscal responsibility and a strict adherence to the Constitution ignited the Tea Party movement, paving the way for a dark horse candidate like Donald Trump to find his way to the top of the ticket. It’s all about trust.

Covey’s book is full of practical advice on building trust. I’ve taken the liberty of sharing a few snippets of his wisdom that I think best fit the issues we face today.

Demonstrate Respect: Since our early childhoods, most of us have been told that we should do unto others as we would have others do unto us. The “golden rule” has been drilled into our heads so often, yet we fail to let it guide us. Covey stresses that we must show ALL people respect and show them that we care about their trials and circumstances. It’s often been said that you can gain a lot of insight about people’s character based on the way they treat servers in a restaurant. This is a great litmus test and one worthy of paying attention to.

Create Transparency: In business, politics and our personal lives, there should be no secrets kept from key stakeholders. We should not hoard information or resources. Covey advises us to be upfront and honest in all situations, offering complete disclosure to those whose trust we desire to earn.

Confront Reality: Sometimes the truth isn’t pretty. To gain trust, we have to dive into the tough issues and take them head on. They’re not going to go away, so we might as well confront and expose them for what they are. I’ve noticed that people are very quick to share the good news but seldom do they mention bad news for fear that it might reflect poorly on them or break the team’s momentum. We must also share the bad news. We must slay the sacred cows that exists in our culture and in our companies.

Listen First: This one is simple, but hard at the same time. To gain trust, we must first understand and respect the other person’s viewpoint and then work hard to find a mutual benefit.

Honor Commitments: While it seems obvious, if you promise someone that you’re going to do something, follow through. So much of distrust is the result of broken promises. A person is only as good as his or her word. Keeping commitments — no matter how tough or inconvenient — is paramount to building trust.

Extend Trust: Trust is reciprocal, but so is distrust. To gain a person’s trust, we must first extend our unconditional trust to them, showing them that we trust them completely. That’s a risky proposition these days given the complexity of relationships. Remember that it is always better to give than to receive. Everything else will fall into place.

While Covey may have intended his book to be used mainly in the marketplace, the more I think about it, the value of his concept of trust as a currency transcends business world dealings. Our ability to build trust in all facets of our lives, and in society, will pay dividends beyond our wildest imagination. What will you do today to establish trust?