It’s hard to have trust in anyone these days. Governors John Edwards, Elliott Spitzer, Rod Blagojevich, and Mark Sanford all violated the trust of their States. The senior leadership of AIG, GM, Chrylser, Bear Stearns, Bank of America, Citigroup, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac all violated the trust of their employees, shareholders, and customers. And the 65 billion dollar Madoff-Ponzi scheme has shocked the world and made us suspicious of all private investors. According to the 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in institutions has declined in the U.S. and around the globe. The report states:
This year, the world had more reasons than ever before to suspend its trust—and for the most part, our data reflect this. Nearly two in three informed publics—62% of 25-to-64-year-olds surveyed in 20 countries—say they trust corporations less now than they did a year ago. When it comes to being distrusted, business is not alone. Globally, trust in business, media, and government is half-empty; and trust in government scores even lower than trust in business.
Without trust in their institutions and leaders, people everywhere will stop using these companies and stop listening to government officials and captains of industry. This will make everyone’s job more difficult and threaten the very existence of these organizations. Much of commerce depends on trust and leaders who can build trust. Stephen M.R. Covey, author of The Speed of Trust, says that leaders can't be effective unless they have the trust of their employees and customers. He writes:
The first job of any leader is to inspire trust. Trust is confidence born of two dimensions: character and competence. Character includes your integrity, motive, and intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, skills, results, and track record. Both dimensions are vital.
Trust can be restored, but it will take hardwork, time, and a commitment to telling the truth and communicating frequently and clearly with all stakeholders. Sean Murray offers specific suggestions for building trust in an organization. I think these behaviors boil down to three simple things that will go a long way toward building trust: 1) tell the truth; 2) do what you said you would do; 3) treat everyone fairly (Sounds a lot like what I learned in Kindergarten.). However, these behaviors don’t mean much if you don’t communicate; let everyone know what you’ve done to earn their trust.