"While a code of ethics
often specifies what people ought to do, the creation of trust depends on what
people actually do."
-Gerhard Gschwandtner, Publisher, Selling Power
Every summer, Mom would
enroll my brother and me in swimming lessons. The town we grew up in did not
have a heated regulation public pool. The local swimming hole was a section
of a mountain feed stream routed through a manmade dam. Large oak and sycamore
trees shaded the stream making it even colder then it already was. We shivered
from cold as we sat on the edge of the stream waiting our turn to jump into
waters that seemed like the Pacific Ocean to a six year old. The water moved
constantly and it was impossible to see the bottom of the stream. A drowning
leaf that tickled our leg would be mistaken for an alligator (certainly not
native to northern California). Fear was constant for all of us as we kicked,
paddled and glubbed our way through the daily exercises and challenges. Our
instructors, dressed in all red suits, used a variety of techniques that ultimately
got us to put our faces in the water and blow bubbles through our noses before
progressing to the next stage of the lesson. At some point during the two-week
process, we were expected to leap into the water and swim unassisted to our
instructor. It seemed like a mile and was a huge challenge to a small child.
We did however take the plunge. We trusted that our instructor would be there
to save us just incase we floundered or could not make it.
How did we know our instructor
would be there when we jumped? We knew because over the course of time he had
built our trust one day at a time. Managers must do this with employees and
companies must with customers. Trustworthiness is the backbone of any credible
organization. In order to grow and survive in our fast paced world, an organization
must develop credibility through trust with its customers and employees. Consider
the results of a recent survey conducted by Development Dimensions International
Inc. Fifty-seven organizations surveyed 1108 workers in four different countries.
A total of 56% of the non-management respondents indicated that a lack of trust
at work was a problem and 46.5% of all respondents including managers indicated
it was problem. A recent Gallup Poll on public trust indicated that no one is
trusted 100% of the time. Americans gave trust ratings to public entities as
- 64% United State Military
- 58% Police departments
- 57% Religious organizations
Additionally, the professionals
trusted the most were pharmacists, doctors, dentists, individual clergy, engineers
and college professors. The survey further indicated that the clergy was trusted
more than twice as much as journalists, who were trusted twice as much as politicians.
Trust is indeed an important
issue in American business today. So how does an individual or organization
create trust with it's customers or employees? It is done carefully one building
block at a time. Trust creates a solid foundation that endures through time
because organizations and individuals have proven themselves by their actions
on a daily basis. In order to create trust within your organization, try the
Keep your commitments
and promises. If there is any doubt that you will be unable to complete
a commitment or promise, then do not give your word that it will be done. Once
trust is broken it is very difficult and next-to impossible to re-establish
after it has been damaged two or more times.
Share yourself honestly
with open communications. When you are unwilling to share your feelings
and concerns it is an indication to others that you have something to hide.
Effective interpersonal relationships can only be created when people are willing
to share and to except the information presented in a non-judgmental way.
Listen. People trust
others whom they believe understand them. Use your very best listening skills
by confirming your understanding of the conversation and the information presented.
If you have not restated the information correctly, then accept the corrections.
If you want to destroy trust in a heartbeat, repeat information that someone
else has shared with you in total confidence. If your client has provided helpful
information but chooses to remain anonymous, then it is your responsibility
to maintain their trust. Gossip has destroyed more then one organization, as
well as individual reputations because someone was unable to keep a confidence.
The World War II saying loose lips sinks ships could easily be turned into loose
lips destroys relationships.
Be accessible. When
managers are available for their staff and customers, relationships are personalized.
Strong and stable organizations have leadership that is approachable and caring.
That message is indicated through the manager's actions as well as their word.
A customer, who feels respected, treated fairly and promptly will not only trust
the individual, but the organization as well.
Tell the truth. Mark
Twain once said, "Tell the truth and you don't have to remember anything." Honesty
is always the best policy. If someone asks a question, and you don't know the
answer, tell them "That's a good question, let me find out and I'll get back
to you." You can create trust in the relationship through your honesty and willingness
to follow through on your commitment or promise.
Show respect. Respectful
individuals create a climate of trust by looking out for the best interests
of another individual. When you willingly go the extra mile to satisfy or create
the best possible business scenario for a client, you establish a foundation
of trust. By creating opportunities for your staff members to learn, grow or
be promoted also indicates, "I respect your ability and want you to succeed."
Be fair and consistent.
People like to work and do business with individuals that are predictable and
dependable. Individuals who vacillate, easily change their view point depending
on whom they are talking with, or refuse to make a decision because it may upset
some people, are viewed as wishy-washy. Because their actions and decisions
are unpredictable in similar situations they are viewed as untrustworthy.
Cooperate and look for
ways to help. Rather then avoiding a potentially challenging situation,
confront it head on with a willingness to develop alternative solutions. Your
cooperation during uncomfortable situations will indicate your willingness to
help even in the most difficult of times. It will further establish that you
will not run from difficulties and can be trusted to stay with a challenge until
it is resolved.
Avoid excuses and blaming.
If you made a mistake, be honest and own up to it. Even if you personally did
not make the mistake, avoid blaming another department or employee. Excuses
and blame diminish not only your personal credibility but also that of your
Be accountable. All
interpersonal relationships are ultimately based on personal responsibility
and accountability. A climate of chaos is created by lack of accountability.
People are never sure if they will receive an open, honest answer when others
do not take responsibility for their actions. A business will only flourish
as long as the employees are held accountable for their actions toward the customers
and each other.
Habits and practices that
foster trust are fairly obvious. Creating trust within an organization requires
daily commitment. From the top to the bottom of the organization, everyone must
establish their credibility and reputation as trustworthy individuals repeatedly.
It is a matter of managing your own behavior on the job while doing what is
ethically right and equitable with everyone. As a child, I learned to trust
the swimming instructor based on his behavior and actions on a daily basis.
He was consistent, listened to my concerns and fears, was always honest and
had a genuine desire to help me. He walked his talk. I knew everyday that as
I placed my life in his hands, he would never let me drown. Do your customers
and employees trust that you will never let them drown?
For permission to print
How to Create Organizational Trust in your company newsletter or professional
journal contact Eileen.
© 2000 Eileen O. Brownell. All Rights Reserved.