For many years, I was a banker. I worked in many locations, carrying out many roles, in areas of high trust and integrity. Although it shouldn’t, when a scandal in the financial sector occurs it still shocks me.
That started me thinking about who we trust and why. How the way we view an individual, can colour our view of a whole company. So, what makes us trust one company and not another? What makes the difference? Do our perceptions change and if so, how?
For those who think that leopards don’t change their spots, I’m going to start with two short examples taken from our history books…
Back in medieval times, many doctors were viewed as charlatans, people who would make outrageous claims. If their remedy worked, they took the credit and if it failed, it was someone else’s fault (usually God). On the other hand, just a few decades ago politicians were often seen as great leaders; wise, honest men. Certainly, over the years those perceptions have massively changed. We now see politicians as the liars and cheats, while doctors are the honest men.
If your company is perceived the way a modern doctor is, then read no further. If you are not sure how your company is viewed, then here are some suggestions to ensure your company is viewed as trustworthy.
It is a top-down process. The first step is for leaders to treat our teams with honesty and integrity.
If we pressure our employees to achieve exaggerated targets, then it’s likely they, in turn, will pressure our customers to buy unwanted or unnecessary products or services. When we listen to our team and gain their trust by working out ways to fulfill their needs, while still fulfilling the needs of the company, then they can listen more closely to customers and can offer a better and more honest service.
Trust is not really earned; it is built. Think of trust as a brick wall. Every time I make a promise to my team or customer and keep it, I am adding another brick in the wall. Every time my actions accurately reflect my words, I am adding another brick. Every time I choose to share bad news with a customer, instead of lying or evading, I’m adding another brick.
Is this wall built overnight? No. It is built a little stronger and a little higher each day with each honest action and interaction. Like a wall, trust can be destroyed in a minute. When we act dishonorably to employees or customers, it’s not one brick that is taken down; a whole section is, leaving a gaping hole. Before long, our strong wall begins to look like a piece of Swiss cheese.
It is becoming commonplace to be skeptical, mistrusting and cynical about most industries. We need to actively demonstrate our integrity, not just hope that people will believe in us and our company.
In truth, most of us rarely think about whether we are acting with integrity. Why? For me after years of working in an environment where your word was your bond, I believe it is now an automatic process. For others, it may not have come onto their radar yet. It up to each of us to take a little time out to reflect on our words and actions. To ensure that we are acting in good faith, with the best interests of all stakeholders at the heart of our words and deeds.
And, yes, for any of you who are wondering…I do love Pink Floyd.