What Everybody Ought to Know About Trust
Well, think about trust just for a moment. When trust is high, it’s much easier to solve even the most complex problems together with other people. But when trust is low, it’s difficult to solve even the easiest of problems and including the fact you may not even want to be in the same room with the other person where there’s this low trust.
I’d like to invite you to think of someone with whom you have low trust. And just think for a moment, why is there a low level of trust with that person? What have they done that may have bankrupt the trust bank if you will, and so the trust meter is at empty? So just think about that for a few second. What are the events, what are the actions, that broke that trust? And I hope that you have somebody in mind specifically.
And there may have been one time or it may have been a repeated set of actions and we’re going to talk about something called the trust meter in a moment and you’ll see how those actions either drive that trust meter down or push it up to full. Now on the converse, I want you to think of somebody with whom you have a high level of trust. Why is there such a high level of trust with that person? What does that person do that deserves such a high level of trust? And what are the things that you do?
Well, as you keep those two different examples in mind, building and maintaining trust is a choice. And it is one of the principles of highly successful leaders. It’s something that we do unilaterally really, it’s better when you have two people or a team or a whole organization. In other words, when it becomes a total culture. And I’ve seen that in many instances and this is where you have very successful organizations on a sustained basis. However, let me ask another question. How many people does it take to build and maintain trust?
Well, really it takes one person, doesn’t it? So regardless of where trust is today, one person can make a difference by the choices and actions that they make to improve trust. It’s really this unilateral choice that I was just talking about. Now I’d like to have in your mind’s eye, have you think about a gas gauge. And imagine yourself driving through the desert, late at night, on a very cold kind of wintery night. And you look down and the gas gauge is at full. How do you feel? Well, yeah. You feel confident, you feel happy, you’re not worrying about if you’re gonna make it to the other end of the desert. Okay. You can enjoy the trip. It’s far more pleasant if there’s other people in the car, you can enjoy a nice conversation and you can focus on the things that really matter most.
Now on the other hand, let’s say that you look down to the gas gauge and it is showing empty. Now how do you feel? Well, now of course, there’s apprehension, you’re upset, you’re wondering what’s gonna happen, you certainly can’t enjoy the trip, you’re thinking of all the options, “What happens if I ran out of gas in the next 10 minutes? Here I am in this cold environment.” Well, you get the feeling. Well, trust is just like that and we call this taking a…having a trust meter. And it’s very much just like a gas gauge. And so, when that trust meter is on full, then that means that your relationships are strong, they feel good, they’re solid.
On the other hand, if that meter, the trust meter is what we call it, if it’s at a quarter tank or going down or even at empty, think how that relationship feels. It’s far different, isn’t it?
Well, this a powerful metaphor that you and I can use to measure levels of trust with family members, friends, fellow workers, a boss, direct reports, customers and clients and even competitors. And it is uncannily accurate. All you have to do is in your mind’s eye is hold up this trust meter in front of you with the gauge that’s free moving and it can move to full or empty. And now just hold it up to each relationship that you have. It might be a son or daughter. How does it look? It might be a spouse or a partner. Or any of these individuals that I just mentioned and pay close attention to where the needle’s going.
And then once you seen where that needle is, then the real question is what can you do to improve, build and maintain a high level of trust? What can you do to move that needle up to full? And I think this is really the set of questions of things that we can do. Here, for example, are a few example…and by the way, one of the great exercises that we have in our seminars is for people to…on the left-hand column is to list specific relationships that you may have in mind, similar to the ones that I just mentioned. So for example, it might be a spouse or a partner, specifically by name. A son or daughter, specifically by name. And a customer, perhaps someone that you work with, a brother or sister.
And then, out to the right by each of those names, what are some specific actions that you can take to move that needle up, to get that trust needle up to full on every single relationship? That’s really the objective. And this is what you can do unilaterally. And my experience has been, that as you do this to other people, they have a desire to want to do the same thing to you and what happens then you have this culture that starts building between people and teams and organizations and customers and clients. And it leads directly to excellence. It leads directly to moving the level of performance to a high level of performance. It is what creates the environment of going from good to better to best.
And so, what are some things, examples of things that you could do? I’m just gonna list a few of those. Here are some specific, unilateral actions that you can take, that you can do to be the difference. Here’s one. Be determined to be a world-class communicator. And so, you’re working with other people especially if you’re the leader. Paint the picture, paint the vision and confirm that they understand what you’re trying to accomplish. Everyone appreciates this on projects or on where we’re going as an organization. So that’s one thing you can do.
How about this one? I love this when we do this frequently. My partner and I, Dave Clark, as we’re working with some of our key associates or key managers, we’ll just be walking through the office and we’ll stop and we’ll say, “Well, how are things for,” whoever it is. Let’s say, Matt. “How are things for you, Matt?” Matt has the chance to just visit and…but then we’re gonna go a little bit further. So what are Matt’s goals for the next one to three years? In other words, “What do you want to accomplish, Matt? What’s important to you?” And we just listen. And this is so engaging because as a leader, now that I know what Matt’s thinking about, I’m in a position to help him reach his goals but I can also be better informed on how we can work together to create excellence.
So imagine the impact that this would have. What does it do for trust, how does Matt feel, especially if we’re really sincerely listening? Well, we’re all better off. Here’s another one of things that you could unilaterally do. This was one that came through on an email today from somebody that was working on their pre-week planning. I love it. They listed about 10 or 15 things on their pre-week planning that they could do that essentially equated to building and maintaining trust. That was the result.
Here was one of them. Take a walk with my wife. Great. I think that’s way cool. Think of all the things that can happen. And then just listen. Ask how are things going. Here’s another thing you can do that unilaterally allows you to build and maintain trust. Take a client to lunch or call someone on their birthday or write a thank-you note. I thought you might appreciate this experience that I read about in the Washington Post. And by the way, I’ve been at this for a while and…but even though I’ve been working on leadership for a long time, I found that these principles apply at all levels. Whether you’re millennials, next generation, these powerful principles are what allow us to be…to develop the skills of being great leaders ultimately.
All right, well, here you go. Here’s the experience. The “Washington Post” reported that just a couple of years ago, the Facebook founder and Chief Executive, Mark Zuckerberg challenged himself to write one thank you note each day. The young entrepreneur, who was just 19 when he established Facebook in 2004, had grown sensitive about his reputation for being critical of people and especially his employees. So he decided to make an effort to build and maintain trust by being more appreciative of those around him. And this started changing Mark’s thinking and interchanging, interfacing with the people within his organization and started creating a higher level of trust. You know, Zuckerberg is not alone in seeing the value of this.
There is a former CEO of Campbell’s Soup Company, Douglas Conant. He told “Post” reporters that during his 10-year tenure with that major food brand, he’s written at least 30,000 thank you notes to connect with employees. And Conant said that he takes at least an hour a day to write thank you notes to employees who have done well. And he recommends the practice to other top executives who tend to over-develop their critical muscles. And so, this is a way to bring balance. And this is exactly like the reservoir that we’re talking about, building up the strong reserve so that people can have a healthy relationship and work in the crucible of challenges, day-in and day-out and freely give and take and…but there’s ultimately a foundation there.
Well, these are things that you and I can do. Pre-week planning, by the way, is a great tool to help you consistently build and maintain trust. I will never forget an experience that I had three or four years ago as I’ve been invited by someone to Washington D.C.’s National Prayer Breakfast. This is where the president, the majority of senators, congressmen, the legislative body, members of the Supreme Court are all invited to join leaders from around the nation to pray, to ask regardless of your party, for help to work on unity. This is a powerful experience and in conjunction with this, they also have workshops.
And I will never forget as I noticed one of the workshops that was being conducted by an executive by Chick-fil-A. And it was on building relationships. Well, I thought this is interested because at the time, Chick-fil-A was having some challenges because they’d taken a stand on a number of social issues. And this has become a tense and awkward public battle. Many people were picketing various Chick-fil-A locations. So this executive, as I attended this workshop, arranged to sit down with some of the protesters. But he didn’t have high hopes for a positive resolution. As a matter of fact, he had a lot of trepidation about what might take place.
And as they sat down, the Chick-fil-A executive…all of a sudden it occurred to him rather than just getting into it, to ask one of the principles from the picketing group about his background. He said, “I’d love to hear how you became an advocate for this cause.” And so, the fellow said…you know, the executive appeared sincere and so he did, he started responding. And the picketer said that he lost his father 16 years earlier when a drunk driver had killed him in an accident. And then he gave a brief history of his involvement in this cause.
Well then, the Chick-fil-A executive said that he was grateful for the man taken a few minutes to share his story. And then the executive said that he too had lost his father to a drunk driver 30 years earlier. And sharing their backgrounds, the two potential adversaries had established a common ground which is where trust begins. And they made a significant progress regarding the issues at hand and agreed to work toward shared goals. This is what I am talking about in creating a culture that allows people to work together because the trust is a higher level of trust.
So one of the things that you and I can do is ask people, “What is your story? What’s your story?” And then, just listen. We do this frequently in our seminars. We’ll have people be put into pairs and working groups and we’ll say, “All right, share what a dream is that you have? Or something that really inspires you or something that you would like to accomplish. In other words, what’s your story?” And inevitably, at the end of that short exercise, there’s such a high energy in the room. Such a connect between people that they maintain the connection after the seminar.
So mastering this principle of building and maintaining trust, will bring you greater peace and happiness personally. Especially as you unilaterally take the high ground when the difficult situations come into your life and you just say to yourself, “I will only do things that move the needle up.” That takes discipline and willpower. But 100% of the time, every time, you will end up in a better place. It will build greater and stronger relationships. It will build your business and be responsible for millions of dollars of business in the things that you do.
So may you find the internal power and peace that comes from unilaterally doing things that push the trust meter gauge towards full. And as you hold that trust meter up and assess your relationships, just fill it inside, you’ll know where it’s at, then you will make the right decisions to do the right things. And you will make a difference every single day to lift things to good, to make them better and best.
This is Steve Shallenberger, your host today with “Becoming Your Best”, Global Leadership.