The Importance of Trust in Business

July 6, 2015

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


Trust in Business: If You Can’t Trust Me, Why Did You Hire Me?

March 5, 2014

This question is often asked by employees, mostly because good management practices are not prevalent in American society, and most are not taught in business schools either.  (That’s the reason I write these blog articles – Tim.)  Managers who were not properly trained or who simply haven’t the right personality, principles, and understandings for the job will not understand the importance of trust, or when it is most effective to give an employee the authority and autonomy needed to carry out necessary work.  Micromanagement – overly close supervision of employees – makes them think they are not trusted to do the work they were hired for, and results in diminished respect for the manager and reduced loyalty to the company.  It also wastes both the manager’s and employee’s time in needless communications often including unnecessarily effort-consuming details.  It’s is intuitively clear that lack of trust has a negative impact on company profits, but how does it happen and what can we do about it? Read the rest of this entry »


Smart Project Endings Add Serious Value

December 8, 2013

Failing to effectively end projects can have high but hidden costs.  Some companies are so buried in the latest and hottest project or in “fighting fires” that they fail to close projects constructively.  In doing so they not only miss opportunities to generate extra value for the company and everyone involved, but also to maintain the quality of management information (financial and other types) and prevent or limit cost overruns. When projects aren’t formally ended some workers may go on working on them unaware that it is time to move on to other work.  Other workers may find reason to continue to charge the project for their time, especially if they run into a slack period without enough work to keep them busy (which happens naturally in many product development organizations or in highly seasonal work).  This is especially likely where “charging overhead” has a negative stigma attached to it and project charge codes are not shut off.  There are many ways that project endings provide value, however, if they are timely, well planned, and properly executed .  Here are a bunch of them: Read the rest of this entry »


Avoiding Hiring Psychopaths and Sociopaths

October 4, 2013

Back in a 2011 Forbes article , a book about psychopathology (“The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry”,  by Jon Ronson) revealed that around 4% of corporate CEO’s are sociopaths.  (Sociopath: One who is affected with a personality disorder marked by antisocial behavior – www.thefreedictionary.com)  In case you were wondering, the term sociopath is often used interchangeably with the term psychopath, but clinically is used to refer to an antisocial person who became that way from being brought up in an antisocial or criminal subculture, while a psychopath has somewhat different personality traits and a condition that is often inherited.   (Psychopath: A person with an antisocial personality disorder, manifested in aggressive, perverted, criminal, or amoral behavior without empathy or remorse – www.thefreedictionary.com).  The most severe among psychopaths sometimes become serial killers or other types of criminal, and many wind up in jail but, more importantly, the less severe cases are much harder to spot without extended interaction and observation.  Thinking on this made me wonder if the seemingly predatory behavior of some corporations isn’t indicative of psychopathology at the top.  Needless to say, people with this disorder can be very harmful to their employer and the people around them, and often behave in ways business managers, coworkers, and investors would not appreciate, so how can you avoid hiring them in the first place? Read the rest of this entry »


Where Does a Manager’s Value Come From?

December 11, 2012

The value produced by managers is difficult to quantify and varies greatly.  For the most part, the value a manager produces depends a lot on their personality, which is a product of their attitudes about people, the work at hand, and their general background and experience. Since the essence of the job is the coordination of the efforts of others, communicating effectively and maintaining the commitment of others who will get the work done are of critical importance.  In corporations it is rare for a manager to produce much product-related value by themselves.  The real value of management is in uniting people who know what to do in coördinated efforts that multiply the value of individual results.  Other ways a manager can contribute are in development of strategy, bringing in outside knowledge including customer and business environment-related information, removing inhibitors to productivity, and generally enabling people to contribute to the satisfaction of customers and the success of the business, however they might be able to do this.  It is important to recognize that approach is an individual thing, and different managers will have different ways of dealing with people and issues that may be equally effective but strikingly different to the observer.  Read the rest of this entry »


“If I want it, you’re late.” – A Marketing Lesson from My Cat

November 30, 2012

My finicky cat teaches me a lesson in marketing.  I have had many cats in my life, and have learned to interpret their unspoken (and “spoken”) language pretty well.  My wife gets a laugh our of my verbalization of what the cats are thinking, and I’m honest about it – the cats supply the material via their sounds and body language and I just express it in words.  Every morning my wife gets up and gives the cats some canned food, and it’s an “important ritual”, especially for our nervous Persian cat Chloe.  At 6:30AM Chloe paces the floor and bed impatiently, walking on us, bumping us with her head and sometimes poking my wife’s sleeping face with a fluffy paw.  (Remember: Dogs have owners but cats have staff!)  As we arise Chloe alternately sits in the bedroom doorway and paces up and down the hall, waiting for that expected move toward the kitchen where the food is.  Looking at this cat haughtily surveying us from the doorway, I said to my wife the first words I could think of that expressed the cat’s thoughts: “If I want it, you’re late“.  My wife burst out laughing, but I instantly realized that this illustrates a key principle of successful marketing.   Read the rest of this entry »


Managers: If the Paycheck is Your Employees’ Main Motivator, You’re Not Doing a Very Good Job

August 20, 2012
English: Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Resized,...

English: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Resized, renamed, and cropped version of File:Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs.svg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are your people “keeping their heads down” and working for the next paycheck?  Take a quick peek at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and you’ll see that the paycheck (pursuit of basic necessities) ranks at the bottom, while the things that motivate people to do better get stronger as one moves to the top of the pyramid.  It is when people are motivated by the top two levels of the pyramid that amazing things happen and people perform at very high levels.  It has long been known that the best managers help their people feel like a team, supported fully by management, with everyone focused on common goals and feeling their contribution is important.  Sadly, few people have had the chance to experience that kind of management.  As a manager you can make it happen, though, with noticeable benefits to you, your employees, your company, and your customers. Read the rest of this entry »