Trust is important. Yet, it’s in historic short supply, from our low trust in the media, market, and government, to our increased weariness of health care professionals, pharmaceutical companies, religious leaders, and even each other.

It seems we are a bunch of skeptics fearful of hidden agendas sleeping with one eye open.

I have a HUGE problem with this. And, you should, too. Because trust greases the wheels to allow society to function smoothly. Forgetting for a moment how miserable it feels to operate sans trusts, let’s focus on the problems it causes for your business.

I’ll flat out say it; you cannot afford a lack of trust. It’s costly.

Companies with scant little in the bank of trust lose employees and clients faster, have their fees and judgment questioned more often and simply cannot weather a crisis.

And, guess what happens if the aforementioned are occurring? Your business is on life-support headed toward eventual death.

Does your business have a trust problem? Well, let’s find out – answer yes or no to the following:

  1. Do you have high employee turnover?
  2. Do most of your client relationships last less than 2 years?
  3. Does your office lack creative energy and new ideas?
  4. Do your clients copy everyone on emails?
  5. Are your clients and staff quick to place blame when a problem occurs?

If you answered no to all of these questions, don’t read any further, you’re probably doing many things right. However, if you truthfully answered yes to even one, you have a trust problem. And, the scale of it is in direct proportion to the number of times you did so. So, if you are reading on, rebuilding trust is probably on your mind.

Here’s the thing about trust. There’s an entire industry designed around forging it. However, I don’t think you manufacture it zip-lining with your team or falling backwards blindfolded into your co-worker’s arms. Real trust requires an ongoing consistent effort to keep your word. And, it’s worth it if energetic, creative employees who produce intelligent work that appreciative clients are willing to pay for to help your business thrive and grow sounds appealing. The good news is it’s easier than you think. I find that six small tweaks make a big difference:

  1. Treat the little things as if they are of major importance. Truly, when it comes to building trust, it’s the little things. Like saying you’ll get together for coffee and really doing it. Promising to send a draft release over by 3, and making that deadline. Offering to give feedback on an email, and really sending it. If you fail with the little things, you’ll damage trust in a way that’s tough to repair because no one will believe you can handle the big things.
  2. Use deadlines as a chance to show you keep your word. As PR and marketing pros, we live under intense deadlines. I could have five major deadlines everyday. And every single one of them is a chance to prove I’m a practitioner who keeps my word. And, in those extreme cases when I can’t meet a deadline, I manage expectations.
  3. Keep the meetings you schedule. Nothing is more annoying than to have time blocked out on your schedule, only to have the person who took up that time cancel at the last minute. When people show disregard for the schedules of others, it’s difficult to trust that they have anything but their own interests at heart.
  4. Embrace accountability. Don’t make excuses when you fall short. We are all really busy. We live in an accelerated world where it’s easy to run out of time to do the things we’ve promised we’ll do. But, it’s not okay to the person you let down. And pretty soon, they see you as someone they cannot rely on. So own up and apologize. Really mean it and don’t repeat the failure in the future.
  5. Do things because you said you would. A mantra that serves me when I’m overloaded, overstressed, over tired and over it — yet still needing to keep my word — is because I said I would. I say it out loud to remind myself that my word means something only if it’s backed up by action.
  6. Don’t change the rules midgame. Don’t. This requires no explanation. It’s the reason many Americans don’t trust the government, politicians or health insurers. If you have trouble remember what you said the rules are, put them in writing to keep yourself on track. Other people are very aware when you change them. Even if they don’t call you out, believe that they are making a mental note that they cannot take you at your word.

I come from the branding world where brand affinity (built on trust) is a continuous process by which consumers are always scoring a brand up or down based on how well it lives up to its promise. I think it’s the same with people. Our trust — or lack of it — is based on hundreds of little scored interactions everyday. As human being with an evolutionary bias toward skepticism, in an age where trust doesn’t come easy, it can be pleasantly surprising to find a trustworthy person or team. That one trait –trustworthiness – more than any other separates you from the competition, strengthens client and employee relationships, and forms the foundation on which your business can grow and thrive. And, that makes trust the one thing that will truly set your results on fire.


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