The Most Valuable Business Commodity: Trust

“The best way to learn if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway

To succeed as a business, you must assess the quality of relationships across your organization—from leaders to employees, employees to leaders, employees to employees, and employees to customers. Do the individuals in all of these groups honor and respect one another, or are they neglected and considered unimportant?

You’ll always be able to see, hear, and feel when trusting relationships exist in organizations. A healthy organization is full of people who:

  • Are loyal to one another. They keep their word and honor their journey.
  • Never judge — seek first to understand.
  • Laugh with (not at) others.
  • Take issues directly to the source. They don’t talk behind others’ backs.
  • Express genuine appreciation up, down, and across their organizational structure.
  • Help others with critical tasks. You don’t hear, “That’s not my job” in a successful organization. You hear, “We’re in this together.”
  • Recognize that people aren’t problems—problems are problems. People who have been hurt sometimes turn around and hurt other people. They need to see beyond the hurt and help others instead.
  • Smile frequently. People should leave work better and happier than when they arrived.
  • Don’t start sentences or thoughts with, “What’s in it for me?” but with, “How can I serve you?”

Quality of Promises

Strong relationships are based on trust. Organizations can build a culture of trust by cultivating honesty and integrity in workers’ interactions. Here are five questions to ask that will help you measure the quality of a company’s promises:

  1. How committed are team members to keeping their obligations? The answers to this question are generally evident: When leaders and employees make and keep their promises, they see strong trust and respect across the organization. If they frequently make commitments but fail to keep them, they see frustration and self-serving behavior.
  2. Do employees hold peers accountable for their commitments? In an environment of trust, people are free and have the confidence to be direct and assertive when promises are missed, and quick to thank others when they’re kept.
  3. What happens when circumstances cause people to fail to keep commitments? Ideally, the promiser should update all stakeholders who are affected so that they know well in advance, and should do all that they can to move to an appropriate and acceptable “Plan B” or even enlist the stakeholders in helping them arrive at a mutually acceptable “Plan C.”
  4. Do team members consider promises to customers to be no more and no less important than their promises to peers?Think about this closely. If it is easy to forget a promise to a co-worker, it is just as easy to neglect a promise to a customer as well. The continuum runs in both directions, wherever you are.
  5. Is everyone at your organization willing to forgive themselves and one another? Sometimes it’s easier to forgive others than it is to extend that grace to yourself. Similar to the principle of self-respect I discussed last week, we need to learn to smile at our shortcomings and forgive our own follies, day to day, as we work to continually grow and succeed.

In summary, these are the traits—and these are the critical questions—to ask as you examine the culture in your own place of work. If trust is lacking, take the necessary steps to allow this vital unmeasurable to improve. The foundation of trust will permeate every aspect of your company: the people, the products they produce, and the corporate culture. This is why we consider trust to be a non-negotiable trait.

How does the level of trust currently stand at your company? What could you do to help it increase?

This article was contributed by David K. William (

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