Is Trust the Key to making more profit?

I have often wondered what makes us trust or not trust another person. I do believe there are those who naturally start from a position of trust, until it is broken, and then a smaller group who start with little or no trust of another and let this be built over time. I have also been curious to understand the difference, perhaps in the history, of individuals in these two groups.

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” 
 Ernest Hemingway

When reviewing our work in 2014, we noticed that one of the most common challenges we were given by the teams we worked with was helping them to “grow the trust within our team.” The thing is, all teams are unique and different and the issues and behaviours that have led to their current position can differ greatly. Simply, and sadly perhaps, there is no one cure for this.

As we dug into the trust issues we were presented with there were some consistent themes that came out. One of the tools we grew to love was The Trust Equation described in the book by Maister, Green and Galford and shown below:-


It is clear and I suppose obvious that when someone has prior knowledge, experience and/or skill that they automatically have credibility and are more likely to be listened to and we are likely to trust what they say.

It is also understandable that the more someone does what they say, and delivers well against our expectation, the more likely we are to trust them to do the same again; as the saying goes “the best predictor of future performance is past performance.”

I think the word intimacy could be replaced by vulnerability also. I think leaders who show vulnerability and are prepared to admit their own mistakes and short-comings do create a safe and secure environment for others to do the same; this creates more of a learning culture. Leaders who do this are more likely to be trusted as a fellow human being. If not replaced, I think vulnerability is a core element of intimacy and certainly weaker leaders rarely have the courage to be vulnerable.

That leaves self-interest, the negative side of our “ego”. We all know them! Those people who seem to do everything with an edge of “how can I do best out of this?” (I guess I recognise this well as this reflects a lot of my own attitude in much of my corporate life!) Those who say the right thing in the meeting, but you know they’ve taken a slightly different interpretation to everyone else. Those who say things purely to be heard and noticed. Those who say things for the impact it has back on them. Those who help others primarily for self-gratification purposes and, at an extreme (and thankfully rare), those who really don’t give a damn about others as long as they get their own way. Clearly the stronger this self-interest element, the lower the chance of trust existing within the team.

There are sayings about it only taking one bad apple to ruin a fruit bowl. Our experience would indicate that just one strong “self-interest” in a team severely attenuates the commercial and cultural performance of that team (their profit and their smiles). People see such behaviour and think “well if they’re going to do that then so will I” and so the vicious circle begins! Sadly this is simply standard ”human operating system” and it’s just how things go. Thus it is very important to nip such behaviour and attitude in the bud.

So if there is self-interest present what do we do about it?

The truth is that unless this element is eradicated then the team will simply not function as a team, and the commercial and more importantly the cultural well-being (the profit and the smiles) will be compromised. Other members’ energy will be sapped, hours dedicated to worrying and stressing about the situation, focusing on the negative behaviours and how to deal with them rather than how to grow the business together.

As a leader your challenge is simple; you change the people or you change the people! Start by showing the trust equation and having a common language to “call it” when anyone witnesses self-interest from others. Have a way of “calling it” in a safe and not-so-serious way. Then, if things don’t change, you have to move the person in question on, no matter how painful. My personal experience has been that when this step is finally over my thoughts have always been “why did I wait so long?”…..and perhaps more importantly, the speed of change in those that remain has ALWAYS been quite remarkable! Profit and smiles rapidly follow.

Good luck with your teams and your goals in 2015. We would love to hear from you, so if you are looking to increase your profit and the volume of smiles in your team(s) this year, then give us a call. Happy New Year!!