I am convinced that "trust" is the most important five-letter word in business -- not "sales" or "money." Trust can be fragile, especially in the workplace. Once it's broken, few companies, managers or employees ever win it back.
At every level of every organization, workers need to understand the importance of keeping their word and living up to the organization's values. Customers and co-workers want to know they can depend on management. Trust between managers and employees is crucial to the long-term enthusiasm, loyalty and productivity of the company.
If you have ever been on the receiving end of a broken promise or a warranty that doesn't cover whatever is wrong with your item, you understand all too well why trust is central to a working relationship.
And although I preach this message constantly, I'm always surprised at the people and companies that just don't get it -- they think the rules don't apply to them. Believe me, they do.
The late management consultant and author Peter Drucker once wrote of trust: "In the ethics of interdependence there are only obligations, and all obligations are mutual obligations. Harmony and trust -- that is, interdependence -- require that each side be obligated to provide what the other side needs to achieve its goals and to fulfill itself."
Your "trust fund" grows in many large and small ways. To develop a healthy balance of trust in your work relationships, make these "deposits" every day:
-- Tell the truth. Never assume that certain people "can't handle the truth." Be as honest with your employees as you expect them to be with you. If you get caught in a lie, your employees won't trust you. You may get a second chance, but don't count on it.
-- Share information. By demonstrating that you are willing to keep employees informed, you help them make good decisions on their own. And it builds their confidence while increasing their willingness to actively participate in the growth of the organization.
-- Speak one-on-one with employees. There's no better way to build a relationship of trust than through personal, face-to-face contact.
-- Resolve conflicts quickly. Whether a dispute is between two employees or two departments, promptly resolving the situation will prevent its escalation and minimize disruption of productivity. Better yet, allow the disputing parties to find a solution. Doing that shows you trust them to use their best judgment.
-- Avoid showing favoritism. Equal treatment must be practiced to promote trust, teamwork and respect.
-- Don't guess when you don't know an answer. When you make a mistake, admit it so you can move on and start fixing it. Honesty is the best way to show people you're dependable. Be straightforward. Admit that you don't have a ready answer rather than waffling or throwing out a haphazard reply that lacks credibility.
-- Show flexibility in your decision-making. Make exceptions to the rules when common sense dictates it. And consider unusual alternatives for problems that can't be resolved by typical methods.
-- Put other people's interests before yours. Focus on what's best for your organization and people, not just on what will benefit you and your career. When employees see your good intentions, they'll often make heroic efforts on your part.
-- Keep your promises. Don't commit to a promise you can't deliver. Think about what's realistic, and do your best to live up to your word. Your employees will notice.
-- Behave ethically. Do the right thing in all your dealings with others. Stand up for your employees, and at the same time, refuse to accept anything but the best from them -- and from yourself.
A remarkable example of trust exists in the deep blue sea, in an arrangement between the shark and the pilot fish. Sharks, as we know, will eat almost any ocean dweller -- except for the pilot fish. In fact, they invite pilot fish to join them for -- not as -- lunch. The smaller fish act as an automatic toothpick and eat the leftover food between the sharks' mighty teeth.
In this unlikely partnership, the shark gets clean teeth and the pilot fish get nourishment. Both swim away satisfied, trusting that the next encounter will be just as successful.
Mackay's Moral: For any successful working relationship, trust is a must.