It’s a Matter of Trust: Part Six


This is the sixth installment of a seven part series exploring the concept of trust, including how it pertains to the workplace. Read Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four and Part Five now.

When Things Go Wrong…Step Up

By Doug Turner
Perhaps the best known case of a corporation “stepping up” in the face of a potentially crippling disaster is the Tylenol product contamination incident.1 Through no fault of their own, people were getting sick and dying as a result of taking Tylenol capsules that had been injected with poison. The key factor here is that the president of Johnson and Johnson immediately took accountability (NOT blame, remember) and removed all Tylenol products from all stores, designed a new tamper-proof package, and replaced all packages with the new one.

The public quickly trusted Tylenol again and there is considerable evidence that the product became an even bigger seller after the controversy. Furthermore, Tylenol established an entirely new packaging protocol that is used by virtually all of the companies in that industry.

This can be applied on a personal level. If you make a mistake, admit it, and do whatever you can to make it right. Even if there is nothing you can do, admitting the mistake and being accountable goes a long way in the direction of greater trust. We can all smell a cover-up and the press particularly enjoys uncovering examples of where a public official tries to hide a mistake. Once found out, the political career of that person is often ended. The trust account is closed permanently. There is no greater sin than lying to the public to protect your pride.

Living with Loyalty2
People like to think that they can trust the people around them to be loyal to their friendship, that others will be supportive of them when they themselves are not present. We ‘trust’ there will be no gossip. This is true in personal relationships and in business transactions.

Nothing destroys a relationship faster than discovering that your friend or associate said things about you to someone else that were not consistent with what you thought they would say. In other words, their behaviour when you are present is different from their behaviour when you are absent. This is a killer.

Do What You Say You’ll Do3
There is no better way to generate trust than to deliver results when you say you will. This is a combination of demonstrating success, being accountable and keeping commitments. It is important to get the right things done and to accomplish what you are asked to do, whether it is a job, or a family commitment. (One could argue, as Covey does, that family commitments are the most important of all).4

People will tend to trust people who are known to be competent; that is, they have consistently shown that they can successfully deliver results. In corporate environments, this is painfully clear sometimes, as when the boss promotes the person who consistently produces the best sales figures, or whatever is considered the key indicator of performance. This is often the “default” characteristic that is used for success, and this is often the basis upon which people will trust a leader, whether their trust is well placed or not. (Remember, character is the other piece.)

Clearly Communicated Higher Expectations
We mentioned that an important component of trust is integrity. This is clearly linked to keeping your word and doing what you’ll say you’ll do. What becomes apparent is that these behaviours are not separate and distinct, but rather all linked together and consistent with each other.

Who knows where integrity stops and accountability starts? Taking accountability for your results and the results of others, and not playing the blame game are obvious ways to engender trust in those around you.

If you hold others accountable and communicate clearly that you will be doing exactly that, and then follow up with questions when the specified task is to be completed, people will get to know that your word means something and you expect people to do what they say they will do. And you’ll check up on them. You won’t let it just slip by. This is the key to strong team leadership—clearly communicated high expectations!

Watch for Part Seven—< href="">Got Trust? Listen, Listen, Listen—now.

Doug Turner is a leadership and executive coach at True Balance Coaching.

1. Covey, supra note 8, at 120-21
2. See id., at 165-71. See generally George P. Fletcher, Loyalty: An Essay on the Morality of Relationships (1993)
3. See Canfield, supra note 25, at 359-63
4. Covey, supra note 8, at 220.

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