The difference between horse meat and beef…..

…..or 3 things you’re probably doing to erode trust

Over the weekend I received four emails from big companies that count me as one of their valued Customers. Even though they didn’t explicitly say so, all four emails were about the same subject – Trust.

Two emails were from businesses that were proud to let me know that they had a trustworthy supply chain and that what they called ‘beef’ was actually beef. The other two emails were from businesses that were being upfront about the mistakes that had been made in their name and were assuring me that they would be doing better from now on.

I read them all and then deleted them from my inbox. I am confident that the story is sufficiently huge that things will change for the better and as a trusting soul I shall hope that this is the case. The jury is still out on how this has changed my relationship with each company, I don’t even know the answer to that yet, but I’m sure that time will tell. What I do appreciate is that fact that they’ve had the good sense to hold their hands up and say, “We made a mistake and we are looking at how we can make amends,” which in my book is a great starting point.

The whole horsemeat palaver has not only created some pretty funny jokes (I’m sure that you’ve seen then circulating on various social media platforms) but it has hopefully been a wake up call to businesses about how trust (a highly valuable commodity that is possibly taken for granted until it is put to test in this fashion) is an integral part of doing business and when it is damaged there’s a whole lot that needs to be done to get things back on track.

The reaction has been significant and, for example, the frozen burger market has seen a 43% drop in sales since the situation was reported. It’s not difficult to jump to a conclusion that trust has a direct link to the bottom line.

Stephen M.R. Covey, in his book ‘The Speed of Trust: the one thing that changes everything’ says:

‘There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organisation, nation, economy and civilisation throughout the world – one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love.

On the one hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time.

That one thing is Trust.’ 

And when you think back over the news stories of recent months I’m sure, like me, you can see far too many examples of how trust is being eroded, typically by people with power over our food, over the legal system, over our money, over the way our country is run, the list goes on…..

When we’re getting on our ‘high horses’ (ahem…excuse the pun) about how these organisations have let us down, it’s useful to turn the tables once in a while and reflect on what each of us might be doing that erodes trust with our people and our customers.

Here are 3 things that you’re probably doing to damage trust:

1. You’re not being clear enough about expectations. 

Perhaps you think you are, but do you know for certain? Your people have an expectation of you as the boss; they want reliability, predictability, dependability and consistency.

But if you’ve never really spelled it out to them, if you’ve never said what they can expect of you, how you will behave around them and what exactly you will do for them, and even more fundamentally, if you’ve never thought it through for yourself, then you may find you are falling short of the expectations your team have created for you, and are secretly harbouring!

2. You’re breaking the promises you have made

You’ve committed to a regular meeting with a team member, but it’s not always at the top of your priority list so it regularly gets bumped for something else.

You wouldn’t have committed to it if it wasn’t important. It’s your opportunity to spend quality time with an important member of your team and to understand how they are progressing against their objectives and how you can support them. It’s also a chance for you to collaborate on the kind of issues that could propel your team to greatness.

But it’s one of those things that is consistently being pushed back and rescheduled to fit around something that you think is more pressing and business critical. When you do keep the meeting you often turn up a few minutes late.

Confidence in you as a boss is shaken by this because the perception you’re creating is that you don’t think the meeting is important, you don’t think they are important, you don’t keep your promises, so why should they? Unwittingly, you begin to create a culture of broken trust and mediocrity.

3. You create a communication vacuum at really crucial moments

Change is afoot; isn’t it always? But communication about the change isn’t forthcoming and it’s from you that it’s expected to come forth!

You inadvertently create a communication vacuum, and it’s a space that your team expertly fills with supposition and speculation. They start to imagine the worst and before you know it, the practicalities of making the change actually happen become a real battle as your people play out their scepticism by throwing up unusual objections, refusing to modify ways of working, and complaining about what’s being done to them. They are no longer sure of your motives or if you are worthy of their trust.

What this means for you……

When there’s not enough trust in a relationship, you can expect progress to slow down, whether you’re trying to keep your people motivated to do the day job, or introducing a change in the workplace with your team or even negotiate a deal with a customer. That slow-down costs you money which makes trust more than just a nice-to-have; it creates motivation and inspiration, making it an essential element of modern business.

The development of trust within your team and organisation has never been so vital. Could it be that the rogue contents of a frozen beef burger that has served as a timely reminder to do something about it?