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The Importance of Trust in Business

  • July 13, 2022
  • Written by Community Futures Meridian

The following extract is from Building Trust: Exceptional Leadership in an Uncertain World by Darryl Stickel. Published this month by Forefront Books and distributed by Simon and Schuster.

Trust. It’s a simple word, one we all think we understand. It underpins all human connection, from our impersonal daily interactions with strangers to our most intimate and long-lasting personal relationships. It is a priceless commodity that is becoming rarer by the day. Take a moment and think about someone you trust unreservedly: perhaps your mother or father, your spouse, sibling, child, family doctor, pastor, or mentor. Now think about how much you really trust them. Is that trust absolute, or is it conditional? As in, “I trust them with my life, but I wouldn’t trust them to pay me back if they borrowed $5,000.”

Now, think about how much you trust politicians, the police, the people that managed the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, climate change advocates and naysayers, or the anchors on CBC, BBC, CNN, Fox News, or other media sources. Trust can be complicated, and a lot depends on your personal perspective. For instance, if you had been a Black person in 2020 in the United States, on a scale of one to ten how comfortable would you be if you were pulled over late at night by white police officers?

On a broader scale, trust, or its absence, is an underlying critical factor in how society deals with its biggest and hairiest challenges. The problem is that most of us have a feeling about trust but lack a deep understanding. We don’t know whom to trust, who trusts us, or what it really means to trust or be trusted, nor do we know how to decide whom to trust (or not).

While there is a growing understanding that in today’s world there is a lack of trust, few people understand the role it plays in the function or dysfunction of personal relationships or larger societal issues. This absence, and its impact, is highlighted when multiple police officers are accused and charged with murder close to where you live. Or when a virus roams the earth indiscriminately infecting people and your chances of contracting the disease, or dying, is dependent on where you live—or more to the point, who is governing you.

In this chapter we look at the global trust crisis, but we need to be aware that historically low levels of trust in society also challenge the corporate environment. There is a trickle-down effect that will affect your business at every level. Like most challenges, this trust crisis also presents an incredible opportunity for those who are able to get it right. Those who are able to effectively build trust will be seen as offering a safe harbor, an environment that provides reduced levels of uncertainty and where vulnerabilities don’t feel as significant. The result is a place where customers want to do business and will share and recommend to their friends, an organization that both attracts and retains the best people, an institution that is seen as a thought leader whose opinions have weight.

Big, hairy problems are knocking at the door, and we all need to become aware of trust and the role it plays in our ability to address these problems—or not.

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