How to Rebuild Trust in our Nation, in our Businesses and in Ourselves

As published on page 12 of the Business Newsday April 19th 2012

Our survival is linked to trust. Trust is inherent in our biology. As a species we are most dependent for the longest time, entrusting ourselves to the care and protection of our parents.

Our life experiences shape us as we grow and bit by bit we set up mental frameworks as to who we will trust, if we will trust and when we will trust.

Trust is necessary for a business as oil is to the engine of a car. If there is no trust the business will seize to move forward and eventually shut down.

I see a lack of trust in the business of running our country -Trinidad and Tobago. The people are questioning the gaps between what Government officials are saying and what they are doing. The Union officials are suggesting that leaders in the private and public sector must be watched with a keen eye and called out for all unjust actions and have put the identified wrongdoers under advisement that they will be “coming” for them. Those working in the public sector are being told that the very use of the word ‘servant’ as in public servant or civil servant is a mental slavery strategy and that they should no longer refer to themselves as such. Oftentimes we are hearing that our country will be brought to a standstill if necessary if demands are not being met.

And then there is the small business owner with fewer employees but still not immune to trust issues. A worker who has been with the organization for more than twenty years is caught running a private business in direct competition with his employer’s business. Another worker who was considered a “right hand man” was found stealing. Still another digs her heels in and refuses to participate in the company wide transformation program, concluding that she sees no reason to augment her ways – she’s not going to change and no one can make her… “Oh, and don’t try to get rid of me because I am doing my job.” Gone are the days of the “gentleman’s handshake” and “your word.” Now everything is documented, signed and co-signed by a witness.

It seems everyone is focused on covering their butts and not on moving the business forward.

How did we get to this point?

The thing is that trust takes a long time to build. Sometimes it takes years. However it takes just one instance and all trust can dissipate at the drop of a hat!

Whether you are a Government official, Union leader, public or civil officer, contract worker, monthly paid employee or business owner – if you want to do your part in reestablishing trust in our twin island nation here are four specific steps from author Michael Hyatt that you can take:

  1. Keep your word. This is where it starts. People have to learn that they can count on you to deliver on your promises. If you commit to following up on something, do it. No excuses. If you can’t do it, proactively let the other person know.  Also, be prompt to meetings. Tardiness also erodes trust. Sometimes, circumstances beyond your control prevent this, but you can’t allow it to become a habit. And, if you are late, apologize. Show some empathy and explain briefly why you were late.
  2. Tell the truth. This is harder than it sounds. Most of us like to think of ourselves as truth-tellers. But it’s easy to round the numbers up, spin the facts, or conveniently leave out the evidence that doesn’t support our position. But if we are going to build trust, then we have to commit ourselves to telling the truth—even when it is difficult or embarrassing. People are more forgiving than you think. They don’t expect you to be perfect. However, they do expect you to acknowledge your mistakes and to come clean when you screw up.
  3. Be transparent. People will not trust you unless you learn to share yourself, warts and all. You have to take a risk and be vulnerable. This creates rapport and rapport builds trust.  However—and be warned!—you can’t use this as a gimmick or a technique. If you do, people will see it as manipulation. Instead, you have to be authentic. The reason this builds trust is because you are demonstrating trust. You are taking the initiative to go first. In essence, you are saying, “Look, I trust you. I am taking off my mask and showing you my true self. Some of it isn’t very pretty. But I am willing to take that risk, believing you will still accept me.” In my experience, this kind of self-revelation almost always gives the other person the courage to take off their mask, too. And that builds trust. The relationship is deepened. It goes to a new level.
  4. Give without any strings attached. Nothing builds trust like love. What does love have to do with the workplace? As Tim Sanders points out in Love Is the Killer App, everything. You have to be willing to share your knowledge, your contacts, and your compassion—without expecting anything in return. The more you take the initiative to give, the more it builds trust. Giving lets others know that you know it’s not “all about you.” From this, people learn that they can trust you, because you have their best interests at heart. You aren’t merely looking out for yourself. You’re taking care of them, too. But, like being transparent, you have to be careful how you give. Otherwise, it will be perceived as manipulation. You have to make sure your motives are pure. You can’t expect something in return.

There is no way that we can prosper as a nation without trust. Regardless of what has transpired in the past, I do believe that trust can be rebuilt. According to Piero Ferrucci in his book -The Power of Kindness – “Businesses function better where trust is the norm. How could it be otherwise? In what kind of situation are we more likely to work better? In one where everyone suspects everyone else and interprets with suspicion every action, word, or expression? Or in a group of people ready to be friendly and united?”  I suggest that we all as citizens of Trinidad and Tobago contemplate those words and then decide whether we want to resolve our trust issues or whether we want to remain not trusting and right!

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