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The Risky Business of Trust

What have you got to lose?

Trust is defined as the “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something,” by the very trustworthy Merriam-Webster dictionary. Why do I trust this particular definition? Well, the dictionary’s been around since 1828, it’s used in the education system, and even though the concept of “look it up if you can’t spell it” doesn’t make much sense, the book hasn’t yet let me down. In short, the dictionary meets its own definition of trust.

Almost two centuries of unfaltering service sets the bar pretty high for the rest of us, even if we are more colourful characters than black on white. If we know we’re worthy of others’ trust – how do we get it?

Stephen M.R. Covey’s The Speed of Trust is aptly subtitled, “The one thing that changes everything.” Calling out trust as the essential ingredient to business success, the younger Covey states his belief in the power of trust:

“The ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust with all stakeholders—customers, business partners, investors, and coworkers—is the key leadership competency of the new global economy.”

Trust isn’t a “will I, or won’t I” proposition in business. What have you got to lose if you can’t trust—or can’t be trusted? Everything. You’ve got everything to lose, and nothing to gain. Without trust, who takes the first step to make a relationship, who offers the initial idea to get the ball rolling, who offers their hand to shake on a deal?”

Without trust, nothing happens.

The Speed of Trust offers some common beliefs about trust, and some myth-busting truths around our notions of trust, including:  trust can be lost but gained back; trust isn’t a constant, but can be affected by your most recent words or action; and trust isn’t only acquired through long-term relationships. Having a poor understanding of trust, and how to get it and keep it, will hold you back at all levels from personal career growth to the bottom line of your business.

Myth:  “Trust is built solely on integrity.”

Truth:  “Trust is a function of both character and competence.”

Opportunity lies in the truth. Believing trust comes only from integrity shuts the door to giving or getting trust from people we don’t know (yet). Character follows us around (including our integrity), and especially in these days of digital communications, often precedes us, qualifies us, offers opinion about us (and can be punctuated with images or social posts we didn’t initiate). With certainty, then, our character must be consistent to support gaining others’ trust.

Add in competence with character, and what comes to front and centre is our reputation for hard skills, expertise, and ability to get the job done. Competence is proven with the work, but it’s also part of the prior-presented evidence. It doesn’t have to be presumed: competence can be demonstrated through meticulous presentations for potential clients; meaningful conversations at networking events; sharing knowledge through public speaking, guest columns, white papers.

Myth:  “Trusting people is too risky.”

Truth:  “Not trusting people is a greater risk.”

We take a risk every time we extend our hand, idea or business proposition first. And every time we don’t, we risk nothingand get nothing. Leaders trust, and trust will follow.


Peter.jpgPeter Reek is the Founder and President of Smart, Savvy + Associates. We find high-calibre marketing, communications, creative and sales professionals with proven track records and in-demand skills for companies who need them, across the Pacific Northwest and in Toronto. We also provide leadership and training development programs for workplace programs, corporate retreats and individual growth opportunities. Contact Peter to discuss your organization's training needs.

Peter Reek

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