Trust Me – I’m an Expert!
Walking by a local business the other day, I noticed a sign that said, “trust us, we’re the experts!” I thought, “That is an interesting statement, since trust is not built on somebody being an expert.” When was the last time you looked at somebody and extended automatic trust because they had a certification, degree, or other credentials? As leaders in business and in the community, do we expect others to trust us because of what we have accomplished or achieved in our own lives? Doubtful.
What is trust? John Settle, a Certified Mediator at Northern Virginia Mediation Service, gave a seminar last week on trust and distrust. John believes trust is when one is saying, “That’s my promise.” It caused me to think about when my daughter was growing up. I remember saying to her that we would try and go and do something, like swimming or getting ice cream. She sometimes would then ask, “Is that a promise?” I would answer her “I will try, but I won’t promise.” On occasion I did promise her, but it would have to be something I was pretty certain would happen. As entrepreneurial leaders, we also need to take as much care and precaution in what we say and do—considering every member of the community as extended family.
The old saying, “trust is earned” has a lot of merit. However, as leaders, somehow we have to take the risk and learn to extend trust to another in order to start establishing a foundational bridge. It is in forging that bridge a relationship is formed regardless if it is in friendship, business, marriage, or around a financial transaction. Trust is essential for relationships and relationships are the backbone of business. Author Barbara Smith says, “It [trust] is the beginning place, the foundation upon which more can be built.” Unfortunately, it can sometimes seem lost in the world of business with scandals that shake people’s trust of the leaders who run them, such as at Enron or Lehman Brothers in the 2000s. People need leaders they can trust or misunderstandings and negative expectations will run rampant.
Opposite of trust is distrust. The outcomes of a distrustful relationship are barriers and distance. When this occurs, it doesn’t matter what one says or promises, it will be looked at with negative intent. For a leader of a business, this can be the beginning of the end. The reality is that leaders have a responsibility to manifest an environment for trust to grow if they are serious about leading others, and not just about self. This doesn’t mean the leader is an expert in a field; it means the leader is transparent, consistent, and fair.
Leading requires the courage to be honest and the empathy to listen to others, while seeking the best outcomes for people, community, and the business.
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