June 14, 2017

The currency of trust

tammy nienaber

By Tammy Nienaber

No subject is more topical these days than trust. It is the currency of the global economy and the basis of international relationships. Trust is also a key economic driver—almost every successful business relies on a strong bond of trust with employees as well as customers.

As communication professionals, we know our success is based on credibility. But how many of us think of trust as a set of behaviors, rather than a hard-to-define emotional bond with our audience?

David Kasperson of the FranklinCovey organization recently spoke at a seminar for the Great Clips’ services team in Nashville. After attending the provocative seminar, I was inspired to look more closely at the nature of trust, especially in communications.

FranklinCovey offers a program, Speed of Trust, which makes three important points about trust as a vital element of business success:

  • Trust is an economic asset, not just a social value. When trust is high, speed increases and costs go down in all relationships, transactions and interactions. Organizations that operate at a high-trust level outperform less-trusted companies by 286%.
  • Building trust is the No. 1 quality required of successful leaders. In the words of Campbell Soup CEO Doug Conant, “The first thing for any leader is to inspire trust. The second job is to extend it.”
  • Creating trust is a skill—and it’s the result of actions and behaviors that can be learned. Besides a pleasant atmosphere, building a sense of trust makes organizations more profitable, people more productive and promotable and relationships more rewarding.

People give you the benefit of the doubt when they trust you. You can make a misstep and be forgiven. Kasperson compared it to a bank account. If the trust balance is high and you make a “withdrawal,” you still have money in the bank. If you (or your business) aren’t trustworthy, you’ll end up being overdrawn and paying the price.

So where does communication come into the equation? Obviously, it’s an important tool in building trust. To be credible, communication has to be easy, natural, productive, supportive, honest and based on integrity and authenticity—all the qualities of your best friend. I like Kasperson’s observation: “In communication, trust is more important than technique.”

Just as trusting relationships have benefits, a lack of trust has drawbacks. For one thing, everything slows down when trust is low. I have to admit—it occurred to me that sometimes a little more trust during the seemingly endless approval process often required for corporate communication might save valuable time (not to mention stress levels). If delay equals decreased revenue, maybe every company should think about simplifying the collaboration process: Who actually needs to review a piece of communication before it’s delivered? A little more trust might speed things up!

Kasperson talked about 13 specific behaviors that create trust. I’ll just hit on three—the rest are on the Speed of Trust website.

  • Listen first. Don’t presume you have all the answers—or all the questions. Be a continuous learner.
  • Demonstrate respect. You should genuinely care about others—whether they are in the room or not. If you find yourself in the position of having to talk about someone who isn’t present, speak as though that person were in the room.
  • Deliver results—get the right things done. Don’t over-promise or under-deliver.

One more thing I’m keeping in mind: Lead with trust. You have to trust people before people will trust you.

As Kasperson said, channeling Gandhi, “Let us create the trust we seek in our world.”

Tammy Nienaber is Vice President of Sponsorships for IABC Minnesota and Director of Communications for Great Clips, Inc.