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Do you sometimes find yourself having conversations with different people where a similar theme tends to come up repeatedly?  In the past couple of weeks, this has happened to me quite a bit, with discussions about the significant and not always positive impact that occur for businesses when suppliers make some serious promises but do not deliver. In several cases, the supplier apparently was viewed as a strong performer in their field but based on what happened when the goods were not delivered as promised, the trust factor had significantly plummeted to now being virtually non-existent.  Other discussions focused more specifically on the value of performance versus trustworthiness for employees as well as for providers and other people.  Some conversations have centered around the performance of employees and what happens when someone is a great performer but not deemed trustworthy.  In contrast, employees may be trusted by other employees and clients but may not be a top performer.  Who would you employ?

One of my friends deeply appreciates Simon Sinek’s work and she recommended having a look at his YouTube presentation on Simon’s perspectives about performance versus trust.  In a matter of minutes, he nails the issue as far as I could see.  When businesses seek high performing employees for their teams but don’t factor in role of trustworthiness, the outcomes may not be what the business actually wants.  As he says, everyone knows who the asshole is on the team (and can no doubt explain why that is the case) and they can also point to people they can trust.  Simon goes onto explain the difference in engaging someone who may not be a top performer but is trustworthy versus the high performer who doesn’t inspire trust. I know which person I prefer to have around me!  Looking at my daughter’s team, I can certainly see this in practice – performance can be addressed through training and coaching, but trustworthiness is pivotal and a non-negotiable requirement.

Trust – what an interesting word!  So much of what I do in my own life is based on trust: being reliant on the truth of what someone is saying or doing, being reliant on other people’s character and ability, providing assurance to other people that I will do what I have said I would do, the list could go on and on. In her book, Trusted, Jane Anderson says that trust is one thing that really matters in the world, even though different people and different cultures have a wide array of perspectives on what trustworthiness means.  Looking into this further, it’s easy to see that trust means having confidence in and respect for something or someone.  As Stephen Covey says, ‘Trust is the glue of life.  It is the most essential ingredient in effective communication.  It’s the foundation principle that holds all relationships together’.

What can we do about this?  I think there are several things we can consider, such as:

  1. Finding out what our internal and external customers really value in the way of trust. What does this mean to them?  What happens when we attend to their concerns – or when we don’t?  This may mean having the courage to face the strengths of what we do as well as the courage to face a different point of view than the one we hold about our trustworthiness.
  2. Finding out how people view our own trustworthiness. Do we speak and act in a truthful manner all the time?  What happens when we let people down? We may need to find deep courage to do something about this!
  3. If we are only thinking about using personal or circumstantial power to influence other people or make them do what we want, where does trust fit in? Courageously addressing the impact and fallout on reputation, credibility, respect and valued connections may be required if we are solely relying on these forms of power.  Our customers certainly can sense when power is used incorrectly or for self-serving purposes (even if this is unconsciously done).

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