Who Do You Trust?

Do you trust your employee’s, your customers, your vendors, your management? If there is no or little trust between these groups then your business is in trouble. Trust is the social oil that makes things happen with much less effort. When you trust your boss, you have less stress and feel empowered. When you trust your staff, you have more time to mentor, facilitate and innovate. Trusting your customers gives them warm fuzzies and results in better experiences for companies and customers. Trusting vendors helps with scale and transforms them into partners.

This kind of trust does not just happen. It’s largely a byproduct of culture. Your company’s culture has to bring about trust. Companies like Zappos, Netflix, Semco, Google and Best Buy all have cultures that result in trust. What do all of these companies have in common? They embrace transparency; they help their employees not to just get good at their jobs, but to find their passion. They treat their employees like adults. They build relationships with vendors and treat them as partners. They have cultures that don’t lend themselves to bullies or assholes.

It turns out that trust is a chemical, oxytocin, not to be confused with oxycontin. Its ability to induce trust was discovered by Paul Zac, known as Dr. Love, during his research in 2004. When we trust someone and demonstrate that trust, we secrete a bit of this chemical and it feels good. Compare that with the feeling you get from doing a fraud investigation or feeling that you have to keep someone under your thumb. We are wired to trust people. Think of how young children are.

Recently I went to TEDxConstitutionDrive,TWTRCON and the Creativity World Forum. It was at TEDx that I met Paul Zac and heard him speak on trust, which was the theme of the event, at the time, I didn’t really get the theme. This morning while going through my blog roll I came across a talk by Peter Merholz of Adaptive Path:The Economist, Ideas Economy: Human Potential. It tied together the idea of trust that had been building from my research for the last several months. Thanks Peter! Now I can see the importance that trust plays in every aspect of our lives. As I look back at the reading I’ve done in the last year, and the conferences I’ve attended from a perspective of trust, I see it everywhere.

In my last job trust was a scarce commodity, after my hiring manager jumped ship my trust went with him. There were only 3 or 4 people higher than me in the food chain and they no longer inspired trust. Most of the staff didn’t seem to trust their supervisors and the feeling went both ways. With lack of transparency, lack of trust and a down economy, things were not going well

During my second year, the director team, which I was a part of, was left to solve our budget shortfall. The execs where hands off and we solved the problem. In the next budget cycle, the exec’s decided to fix the budget problem behind closed doors, with minimal input from the directors. The first budget cycle was stressful and it was manageable as we were able to keep our staff up to date on developments. In the second budget cycle, even we didn’t know what was going to happen. Talk about stress! It was compounded by a series of events that lowered trust all around and by people jumping ship when they saw the writing on the wall.

Don’t let this happen to your organization! Develop a culture that inspires and encourages trust. Care about the people you work with, work for and serve. Remember, caring for someone is demonstrated by action, not words, though the words are nice too. Be careful about who you hire and about their acculturation process. Create a culture that discourages bullies and assholes and encourages trust and engagement.