The following is an modified excerpt from Trust Me - Restore Belief & Confidence in an Uncertain World.
When I interviewed Harry Herington, the highly trusted CEO of NIC, he told me that instead of asking managers if people trust them, Harry asks, “How do you know people trust you?” He understands that in order for his leaders to be trusted, they have to know what builds trust, and he’s pushing them to find evidence to back up their assumptions about trust.
Research on team climate consistently shows that most leaders perceived trust to be a full 40% higher than did the team members. There exists a serious misassumption about trust, and Herington’s question could help unaware leaders get real.
Let’s look at it from a business perspective.
Tony Simons, an associate professor of management and organizational behavior at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration in Ithaca, New York, looked at the costs and profits associated with trust. He surveyed more than 6,500 employees at Holiday Inn Hotels in the U.S.A. and Canada. Workers were asked to rate how closely their manager’s words and actions were aligned.
Employees evaluated statements such as “My manager delivers on promises”, and “My manager practices what he/she preaches.” Once they had completed the questionnaire, they were asked about their commitment to the hotel and what they felt about the service environment. The questionnaire used statements like “I am proud to tell others I am part of this hotel”, and “My coworkers go out of their way to accommodate guests’ special requests”.
When the responses were correlated with the hotels’ customer satisfaction surveys, personnel records and profitability, the results were astounding. Hotels whose employees strongly believed their managers could be trusted, that is their promises were followed through and they demonstrated their values in action, were substantially more profitable than those where the managers scored average or lower. Even a one-eighth point improvement in a hotel’s score on the five-point scale resulted in an increase in the hotel’s profits by 2.5% of the revenues. That translated into a profit increase of more than $250,000 per year per hotel.
Whether it is business trust, societal trust, relationship trust, or even personal trust, it can make the difference between success and failure. It’s that important.
The Five Tenets of Trust
I call my model The Five Tenets of Trust. According to the dictionary definition, a tenet is the main principle on which a theory or belief is based.
My five tenets of trust are:
- You treat people with respect.
- You treat employees as individuals and not as a commodity.
- You use mistakes as learning opportunities and not as weapons.
- Management stands behind its employees and does not “throw people under the bus” when a mistake happens.
- You know the personal preferences of clients and staff and reward them accordingly.
- You keep your word no matter what. If you can’t, then you ask to be released from the obligation.
- You make a commitment to be excellent in all you do. But first know what that means and be able to explain it to others.
- You are committed to open and honest behavior.
- Your words and deeds match.
- The organization adheres to a code of conduct.
- Everyone knows the rules.
- The organization stands behind its product and services and provides consistent service.
- You encourage continual learning.
- You invest money in quality education.
- You reward risk taking.
- You show your employees how to resolve mistakes and never make excuses.
- You have real conversations, not scripted, phoney read-by-the-rule-book ones.
- Your communication is effective and transparent.
- Your letters, emails, and voicemails are direct and to the point.
- Your first line of communication with your staff in emotional conversations is face to face. If that is not possible because of distance, then video conferencing or phone.
- Your staff treats customers in a reflection of how you treat them.
- You return calls and letters promptly.
- You admit mistakes quickly and apologize.
They all work together, and when all the tenets align, the result is enhanced trust.
Lea Brovedani has presented and spoken internationally in Dubai, Mumbai, Cape Town and Singapore and across North America from New York to Nunavut to Florida and all points in between. She is a 15+ year member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers and Past President of the Atlantic Chapter. Lea works with leaders across Asia and North America delivering programs to increase trust in the workplace and trust ability in leaders. After winning awards as a Top Thought Leader in Trust for a number of years, in 2021 she received a lifetime achievement award as a Top Thought Leader in trust from Trust Across America.