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To Trust or Not to Trust: What Choice Do You Have?

Without trust, customers won't do business and employees won't be loyal. Here Inc. columnists share how to manage trust in modern times.

The talks between the U.S. and Iran are moving very slowly. And the main issue is trust. How can you trust what you can't see?

The problem doesn't only exist in foreign policy. Lying is everywhere, especially in business. Wall Street and even main street businesses suffer from big corruption and petty lying. Even resumes have become fodder for scrutiny and skepticism.  It's difficult to do business in today's environment where exaggeration and falseness seems to be considered almost normal.

Even if you are a trustworthy person, you may have your trust betrayed. Then you will have to decide whether or not to trust again. At one time in my business a key employee betrayed me. Firing him could have killed the business. Rather than sacrifice my values, I set specific requirements for him to continue with strict verification.  He managed to conform long enough for the company to become un-reliant on his performance, at which point he left of his own accord because he no longer fit the culture. You probably can't know for sure if you are being lied to in most cases. And it's a tough road to try and grow a business without some level of trust. The only way to move forward is to establish your own set of values and live by them consistently.

Here are additional insights from my Inc. colleagues.

1. Trust Must Be Demonstrated to Be Earned

Trust is the basis for all successful leaders and all successful relationships, for that matter.  You cannot buy trust, but it is free.  Trust is not spoken, it is demonstrated.  Trust cannot be requested; it must be earned. Trust can be complex, so here are three simple steps to become trustworthy:

Serve your team's best interests (rather than your own).

Communicate all the information your team needs to be successful.  Don't make assumptions about what you think they can "handle."  Leaders who underestimate the intelligence of their teams tend to overestimate their own.

Keep each and every commitment you make to your team. This is tough, so watch your words.  Even a casual comment from a leader can be interpreted as a commitment.

Now more than ever, your success may come down to a matter of trust.  Lee Colan--Leadership Matters

Want to read more from Lee? Click here.


2. Accept the Risk

When envious outsiders ask Bobby Harris why his company BlueGrace Logistics has grown at such a rapid clip, his simple answer is that he trusts his employees. "Trust is the secret sauce," he says. It's a conundrum: Some people will lie. But approach everyone with mistrust, and you'll be less successful than you should be. The only answer is to accept the risk that you'll be deceived--and that's OK. What's the worst that could happen? Unless it would be catastrophic, offer your trust. And don't stop trusting if you get deceived once or twice. Assume people will be honest, and the majority will be.  Minda Zetlin--Start Me Up

Want to read more from Minda? Click here.


3.
Fool Me Thrice; Shame on Me

There's a fine line between trust and naiveté, and for many it becomes easily blurred. Due diligence prior to any commitment is non-negotiable: don't enter into an agreement just because you like what you see and hear. At some point however, trust is also a non-negotiable since any partnership not built on trust is doomed to fail. Where many people fall short is in taking action when the trust is broken.  Giving things a "second chance" is fine in many cases, but keep count: stop at two! It is naïve to believe that things will magically fall into place, so trust yourself to find a better solution. Marla Tabaka--The Successful Soloist

Want to read more from Marla? Click here.

4. Do Your Homework

The lifeblood of business is trust--with it, you can accomplish anything, without it, nothing. I personally believe that it's important to trust business associates and employees until such time as they provide evidence that they should not be trusted. However, this requires doing some serious due diligence before entering into any business relationship. Get on the Internet and look for any information you can find about the parties--Google is definitely your friend here. Ask around--have any of your colleagues run into problems with these people? Once you're convinced that someone deserves your trust, then give it freely. But don't be blind to the possibility that this trust may eventually be broken. Peter Economy--The Management Guy

Want to read more from Peter? Click here.

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IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Nov 13, 2013

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. Sign up here and never miss out on Kevin's thoughts and humor.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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