We learned that “Trust Is Earned.” That might be too cynical, and may well propagate deeper mistrust, or longer delays in building new trust, or barriers to strengthening even deeper trust. I think a better descriptive might be to say that to sustain trust, it must be constantly earned, or else it has tendency to erode. Clearly, the news today gives us reason not to trust other people, other businesses, our government officials, and more. We all own the responsibility to change that.
To build trust, we must give trust first. I have read that we naturally give a baseline of trust to others we meet. I’m suggesting we do this more actively, so it can begin a healthy cycle of earning sustained levels of trust in general. If we are overly suspicious and untrusting of others, we can propagate a stalemate.
Trust is Two-way
Earning trust, alone feels too one-way to me. We naturally want trust to go both ways among us. Businesses and customers. Government officials and constituents. We as individuals want to trust each other. We earn trust with our own actions. We must also trust others – first. If we wait to be trusted first, the wait may be long. If we trust first, we set a start point from which we can earn more. We engage another’s interest in trusting us in return.
Lucy P. Marcus, a Reuter’s columnist, wrote recently “Trust Must Be Earned.” She said “trust can neither be demanded, nor assumed.” I think this starts in the middle, when initial trust has been exchanged, and the two-way benchmark has broken down. Today people hesitate to trust banks, as they failed to trust us back. We trusted first by making deposits, taking investment advice, and more. Our trust was eroded when collectively, we lost much in the recent collapse of the economy.
It is difficult but we collectively need to all trust the other more, if we are going to recover. We must also deliver on the promise of that trust. Where else can we go? Who else can we trust? There are no banks on the Moon. It is the banks responsibility to pick up and strengthen what they have eroded. We have to trust that they do.
Start the Trust Is Earned Cycle, Give, Earn and Sustain Trust
To earn trust, trust others first – give your trust. To do this, if you are a business, exceed customers’ expectations by trusting them with better products and services than they expect. By giving trust and delivering on the expectations that trust sets, one earns back trust in return.
Earn trust through listening, action and communication. Deliver on what you say you will deliver, and focus on others, the customer or the greater good. Ensure sincerity when making decisions and saying what you are going to do, doing it and following through.
Sustaining trust is to recognize that earning trust is a constant of the same nature that change is. It takes diligent and deep pervasive development of a trust-sustaining culture in individuals and organizations. Social transparency in the social era will clearly reveal insincerity around earning and sustaining trust between people, businesses and customers, and governments and constituents.
When Trust Erodes
Trust can erode for a number of reasons. Some we can control, others we may not. A culture of building trust has a better chance of avoiding erosion.
When it happens, publicly accept responsibility for mistakes. Excuses will only erode trust further. Demonstrate commitment to corrective action. Collective will and organizational horsepower to rebuild, through giving and earning trust is the only way to reverse damage caused by any misstep that erodes trust.
Take Reasonable Risk
I hear it already, the outlier case where giving trust will inevitably produce failure. I’m not suggesting that one be reckless in taking risk by trusting others who cannot handle the trust given. Someone without a driver’s license should not be trusted to drive a car, for example. But where logic prevails, trust, statistically, this will produce better outcomes.
Clearly, when trust is broken, appropriate measures must be taken. It could be that we lower our own offered trust, until the balance is rebuilt and strengthened – by both parties. If the trust breakdown is of a criminal nature, we must uphold the law, allow judgment and swift penalties. We may be in the social era, but we are still a society and subject to its norms and expectations required to coexist.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote “the love you get is equal to the love you give.” They were not the first to identify the pay-it-forward nature of this human emotion. Trust is like love. If you don’t give it first, you will not get it back. Take this seriously – this means YOU, not the other guy. Where can you start a cycle giving, earning and sustaining trust? How can you lead by example, delivering on trust expectations of others?
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