Who Do You Trust? And Why?

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June 3, 2019

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Timothy J. McClimon, Senior Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility

In the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, one of the findings was that people have shifted their trust to relationships that are closer to home – particularly their employers. 75 percent of people trust “my employer” to do what is right – significantly more than nonprofits (57 percent), business (56 percent) and media (47 percent). 58 percent also say they look to their employer to be a trustworthy source of information about contentious societal issues.

But, how do employers gain and keep this kind of trust?

One good source of advice is Barbara Brooks Kimmel’s book Trust Inc. – Strategies for Building Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset. In it, over thirty trust experts make the case that elevating the idea of trust within an organization brings about major improvements in employee engagement and performance.

Specifically, through short case studies, real world situations, models and examples, the authors share insights on:

  • Why trust matters
  • How trust works in practice
  • What it takes to be a trustworthy leader
  • How trustworthy teams impact business
  • How to restore trust
  • What the future holds in store for trust

“Without trust, people give up on relationships and leave organizations, cynicism reigns, progress grinds to a halt, and self-interest trumps the common good,” states Ken Blanchard, co-author of The One Minute Manager and Trust Works! “But, in a trusting environment, people feel free to move faster, risk more, and give it their all. They don’t feel the need to protect themselves or hold back the way they might in a less trusting environment. Creativity flourishes, productivity rises, barriers are overcome, and relationships deepen.”

Kimmel has created a framework to give stakeholders a way to define and compare organizational trustworthiness. Five quantitative markers were chosen to indicate whether an organization is trustworthy or not:

  • Financial stability and strength
  • Accounting conservativeness
  • Corporate governance
  • Transparency
  • Sustainability

Each of these indicators is explored in depth by different authors throughout the book. Some examples:

“The truth is that trust rules,” according to James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, co-authors of The Leadership Challenge. “Trust rules relationships. Trust rules your influence. Trust rules your team’s cohesiveness. Trust rules innovativeness. Trust rules brand image. Trust rules financial stability. Trust rules performance. Trust rules just about everything you do.”

Bob and Gregg Vanourek, the father-son co-authors of Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical and Enduring Organizations, list 20 “trust busters.” Some of my favorites:

  • Blaming
  • Corner cutting to get results
  • Disrespectful behavior
  • Micromanagement
  • Responsibility without authority
  • Tolerating toxic behavior

In his conclusion, Robert Easton, a senior managing director at Accenture, suggests that most of the dialogue in today’s world is about the trust deficit or distrust. Instead, Easton argues that we need to think more constructively about “positive trust” – a force for helping people, corporations and societies to thrive.  “We must encourage leaders to view trust as more than just an instrument to improve corporate profit and organizational accomplishments to one of fundamentally increasing the total positively of the organization.”

The Edelman Trust Barometer suggests that employees want and need to trust their employers and this trust should lead to more positive employee engagement and performance.

Portions of this blog post first appeared on Forbes.

If you have a comment or question, please follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and start a conversation there. Thanks for reading and sharing this blog posting with friends and colleagues.

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