The Importance of Trust in Business

Trust in business

Trust is essential to getting anything done.  How it is expressed makes a huge difference in how things go, however, and it’s one of those things you can ignore (though you may do this at your peril).  I always told my kids “trust, but verify”.  Trust is earned through consistently following through on your commitments, and trust grows stronger over time if it is not betrayed.  While it is often spoken of as if it was an absolute, it is actually a continuum stretching from complete and absolute trust to complete distrust.  Even the heinous criminal is trusted to an extent, though it may only be that we trust that they are untrustworthy.  High levels of trust are required for effective business relationships, however.

If you hire someone you often expect them to do work you cannot, and micromanaging them (a common response to a lack of trust) reduces your productivity as well as theirs.  For maximum effectiveness (theirs AND yours) you need to be able to trust them completely.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep tabs on how they’re doing, however.  After all, if you are their supervisor or manager you may need to clear bureaucratic obstacles for them, arrange for needed training, give strategic direction and reasons why the work needs to be done, help them better understand the customer and customer’s needs, or otherwise help them do their best, but getting “too deep in their shorts” is a counterproductive waste of time.  Over time and with good communications you will see how they work and better understand how trustworthy they are.  If there is a problem it will soon be evident, at which time it can be dealt with.  Given that, it is always best to hire people you can trust, and then trust and enable them so they can do their best work.

Trust is not complicated, but it is essential.  In a parallel to the old saying “if you’re not having fun, why are you doing that?” I say “If you can’t trust me, why did you hire me?”  Micromanagement implies the subordinate is untrustworthy, but mentoring suggests the employee is worth the time and energy invested, and this implication can easily improve their performance as much or more than the mentoring.  That suggests that the basic attitudes of the supervisor play a big part in how subordinates perform and improve, and trust by a superior can improve employee performance, while distrust can undermine it..  As the sign in the picture says, “I am passionate about doing the best job I can, but if you persistently ignore me, second guess my decisions, or make my decisions for me my only recourse will be to “plod” and “do what I’m told” (and be depressed).”  The latter scenario occurs all too often in business, and works against effective operations and profitability.

As always, I appreciate your comments. — Tim

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