Whom do you trust? Do you trust business leaders today? Do you trust those who lead your own organization? Do you trust your local, state, and federal representatives? Do you trust economists and those running the Federal Reserve Bank? Polls say that most of you don’t trust these people. The current economic and cultural conditions here and abroad have highlighted the importance of trust. Is trust really the problem?
Mark Sheffert writes a regular column for Twin Cities Business, arguably the nation’s best regional business magazine. Mr. Sheffert is the chairman and CEO of Manchester Companies, Inc., a Minneapolis-based investment banking and consulting services firm. In July 2011, he published an article, The High Cost of Low Trust. He noted, “At the foundation of every personal interaction, family, organization, economy, and even culture is one fundamental value: trust.” Yes, trust is absolutely fundamental to all relationships and organizations. Each and every forward-moving interaction we engage in depends on trust. Stephen M. R. Covey, in his book “The Speed of Trust”1 adds an important insight to this point: trust means confidence and the opposite of trust is suspicion. With confidence we move forward. With suspicion, movement slows and then stops.
Mr. Sheffert wrote in his column, “I’m convinced that the lack of trust is the underlying cause of the current economic breakdown and slow recovery from the recession.” I’m sorry, Mr. Sheffert, but you’re wrong. Lack of trust is not the cause – lack of trust is the symptom. The symptom? A symptom of what?
The cause of the current economic breakdown is a lack of trustworthiness.
When business and political leaders make poor decisions, when thy lack of integrity, when they allow greed to overcome responsibility, when they sacrifice long-term for short-term wins they have shown a lack of trustworthiness. The results of these actions is a lack of trust from others.
Leaders need to take responsibility for their actions. Followers need to hold leaders accountable for their actions. Look at it this way: Cars do not cause accidents; guns do not shoot people; substance abuse does not destroy families. People do. Economies do not fail. Businesses do not collapse. Governments do not start and end wars. People do. It is easy to point to external forces. Taking responsibility for decisions and actions is tough, but paves the way to recovery.
Am I splitting hairs? Perhaps.
Be honest, though: Whom do you trust more? The leader who says, “The economic situation created by Washington and various finance scandals has created a highly competitive environment that has forced us to lay off a portion of our workforce and cancel a few projects.”
The leader who says, “When I led our strategic planning team three years ago, we did not anticipate the current conditions. We assumed a certain level of competitiveness and overall economic health. Obviously, we were off target. We are going to have to make some painful adjustments, but I believe that together we can recover and regain our footing soon.”
We all know the phrase, “In God we trust.” Have you ever asked yourself why? Why do we trust in God? The answer is simple – God is infinitely trustworthy!
When the pressure is on or you have made a mistake, do you take responsibility? Do your followers have a lack of trust for you? Are you trustworthy?
1Covey, Stephen M. R. The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2006.