There is one element common to every individual, relationship, team, family, company, country, economy and civilization throughout the world; this one thing, if removed, will destroy even the most powerful organization, the most successful businesses, the richest economies, the most influential leaders, the greatest friendship, and the heartiest brand. On the other hand, this one thing, when developed and leveraged properly, has the greatest potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every area of your life. So powerful, yet it is deeply misunderstood, mishandled, neglected and possibly the most underestimate element of success in the world.
That one thing is TRUST.
Pick up a newspaper or turn on the tube, and you’ll be immediately bombarded with stories about eroding trust in banks, corporations, politicians, leaders and relationships. Truly, it will only take a moment to realize we are in a crisis of trust, and Trust flows through everything. But what is it exactly, and how does it affect us so much?
“I trust you.”
For many of us, these words are something abstract — a rather fluffy, sometimes fuzzy thing. Yet, trust is not some soft, ethereal or elusive quality you either have or do not. Rather, trust is a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that must be developed, and you can create it much faster than you might believe possible. This is important, as transcendent values, like trust and integrity, literally translate into profits and prosperity in whatever way you count real value.
In the end, we only work with those we know, like and TRUST. When you trust others, you feel assured in their abilities to do something or to remain true to and steadfast in a partnership. When you trust a brand or a product, you see it as reliable and dependable.
Simply put, trust is confidence. It is the ability to depend on the integrity, strength and skill of another to perform as promised and keep us informed of all those things that will impact our success. When you trust people, you have confidence in them, in their integrity and their abilities. You know when they say, “I will”, they do.
The opposite of trust is distrust – it is suspicion. When you distrust someone, you become always wary of them and their intentions, their agenda, their true abilities, and whatever they espouse about their track record. It is that simple. You know when they say, “I will”, there will likely be a big gap between that promise and performance.
Every brand today, whether that be a company or and personal brand, should be seeking to build trust and become top of mind when individuals consider choices about who and what they can depend on….That depends on what you are communicating to the marketplace, and in every way. Message your brand well, through action, speech and in print, and you will rise to the top. Fail to do so, and you fail to invest in the future, or worse, rob yourself and your company of the best possible future you might otherwise create.
Trust affects everything. It significantly impacts every relationship, every work project, every communication, every business venture, and every effort in which we are engaged, every day. It changes the quality of every present moment and alters the trajectory and outcome of every future moment – both personally and professionally.
While corporate scandals, office politics, politics in general, terrorists’ attempts to disrupt our lives, broken relationships, and people just flat out behaving badly have created low levels of trust on almost every front, let us accept the ability to establish, grow, extend and even restore trust is not only vital to our personal and interpersonal wellbeing, it is the key to success in this new innovation economy.
Rather than focusing upon recovering from the devastating consequences of mistrust and deception, we benefit greatly through the development of impeccable character, strong moral fiber, transparency in every motivation and unshakeable confidence in producing sustained, superior results. In every situation, nothing moves quite as fast as the speed of trust. Accelerating trust is something you definitely control.
Everybody wants something different out of each relationship, project and job, accept when it comes to integrity. While we all have different goals, the one thing we all want from everyone is trust. Learning to accelerate trust is a profoundly important skill you must develop and constantly nourish; that is, if you want to achieve your goals quickly, if you want to build an impeccable reputation, and if you want to create a network of believers in your brand
The benefits of instilled trust or the costs of a trust implosion are either financially and psychologically rewarding or devastating. So, consider what Forbes and others say about the importance of investing time and energy by employing the following in your corporate and personal brand success strategies:
Avoid the Hype
People have an inherent and immediate distrust of anything that comes across as “too salesy”. We are under a constant assault of advertising messages; combine this with ever an increasing paranoia about the profit seeking motives of others, and we often reject those that are “jumping the shark”. I recently had a candidate who missed the perfect job opportunity (perfect for him and the company) for this very reason. He came out of the interviews as the favorite, yet He consistently messaged them in the days that followed in such a way it actually removed trust. Too much of a good thing.
This doesn’t mean consistent messaging makes one untrustworthy; consistency is essential. Instead, it means people are hyper-aware of being sold to, and if they feel they’re being sold to, they’ll have a lower tendency to trust whatever message they are receiving. It’s a delicate balance. To remedy this, work on decreasing the amount of self-aggrandizing messaging and hard selling you do on social and digital platforms that simply sell your services to your followers. Instead, find ways to contribute meaningful value.
Let Them See You Smile
While many today have an inherent distrust around apparent branding, the flip side is we are all returning to an inherent trust of other people. Including a face along with your message instantly humanizes it and makes it more trustworthy. Smiling is even better. As a company, an uncomplicated way to do this is to include stock photography or some other generic human face in ads, posts, and designs, like we did here….The handshake also displays trust.
To truly level up, use the face of someone real on your team — possibly top leaders and especially members of your staff. Personal brands complement corporate brands well, and immediately imbue them with a greater level of trustworthiness. We used this element on our Instagram feed on Sunday.
For individuals, especially those seeking new roles and opportunities to advance their careers, a professional looking “headshot” is essential across social platforms. LinkedIn users with a professional headshot receive 14 times more profile views than those without. Upload a current photo that’s closely cropped to your face. Remember, you should be the focal point, so avoid any busy backgrounds—and smile. The warmer and more welcoming you appear, the more likely recruiters are to contact you. For guys, wear a collared shirt, and possibly a coat and tie, depending on your industry. For ladies, business attire appropriate for your industry is the best. Do not use a photo where you are cropped from a group.
Seek Real Testimonials and Reviews
People trust other people, but sometimes a face isn’t enough to convey authority and trust. According to a recent survey, 39 percent of online users regularly consult online reviews before buying anything, and another 49 percent of people do so occasionally. That’s a whopping 88 percent of people who consult reviews before buying on at least an occasional basis. Reviews and testimonials, as long as they’re genuine, are an instant way to win trust. Be sure to include some in ads and landing pages if you are a business. For individuals and corporations alike, ensure you have the testimonials of others in your social feeds.
For job seekers, having current and former colleagues and managers endorse you is one of the easiest and most effective ways to define your personal brand, allowing others to communicate your value for you. Just as a business might cultivate customer reviews and testimonials for use in collateral, you must also cultivate your own reviews in the form of recommendations.
LinkedIn is an incredible place to ask for endorsements, and these recommendations will likely catch the eye of future hiring managers. Don’t forget to ask the people endorsing you to act as an actual reference during your job search, being sure they’re willing to speak with a potential employer or write a bonafide letter of recommendation if needed.
Not sure who to ask? Former managers who mentored you closely are ideal, but other connections can also craft effective recommendations, including leaders of volunteer organizations you serve.
Honesty Is Always the Best Policy
Honesty and transparency are qualities which make us trust other people in our lives, so why should brands be any different? Expressing honest opinions, thoughts, insights, and news with your audience will automatically make you seem more trustworthy. For example, you could respond to a negative review with an admission of failure and an apology, or you could make a public post that your product shipments are being delayed. It may not always be good, happy news, but people will respect you more if you’re direct and honest with them.
Be Clear and Concise
Conciseness might not seem like a valuable trait when it comes to trust; in fact, it might seem like the less you say, the more suspicious people would be of your intentions. In reality, conciseness shows that you aren’t trying to cover up anything and you aren’t trying to fool or sweet-talk people. Keep all your messaging concise—not short, necessarily, but concise. The more you try to stuff your material full of fluff and unnecessary filler, the less trustworthy you’re going to seem.
Make An Emotional Connection
People feel trust when they experience an emotional connection with another person. Corporate brands can’t exactly feel emotions, but the people behind them can. When writing, posting, and communicating as a corporate brand, let your natural personality and voice come through. Speak a few true feelings, and draw on the power of memory and emotion to enhance the power of your messaging.
Always Be Listening
Listening is the easiest way to build trust with people because you don’t have to follow any fancy tactics, and it shows you genuinely care. Whenever someone reaches out to your brand — whether that’s in the form of a comment on a blog, a complaint on social media, or a phone call about their service — take the time to listen to them. Address them personally. Repeat back what they’ve said to you in your own words to show you understand, and give them a real, personal response. Avoid templated responses you’ve written in advance to dole out to these types of inquiries. Those watching your brand will appreciate, and trust in the brand will be compounded in return.
“Decide what to be, and go be it” — The Avett Brothers
Make the Message Aspirational. Your brand is more than a reflection of who or what you are today; it’s a roadmap of where you are heading. In addition to understanding what you are great at today, it’s essential to message to everyone what you are becoming.
By doing this, you’ll be unveiling the traits that make you distinct, as well as sending an invitation to others to join you in the quest. Forecasting where you want to be in five or 10 years—and the attributes you want to be known for—can help you better determine all it will take to get there and will help you network with those who will make it possible.
Trust Yourself and the Process
Society, organizations, and relationships aside, there is an even more powerful and affirming dimension to trust that should be woven into all this — self-trust. Make commitments and then fulfill them. Better yet, Exceed them. As a result, you will build trust within yourself and your organization. If we cannot trust the person in the mirror, we will have an incredibly tough time earning the trust of others. Any personal or organizational incongruence will often become the cause of suspicion from others.
In fact, the fastest way to build trust is to make and then KEEP commitments. Even the smallest of commitments become essential in creating a trust account.
Maintain the Mantra
While many of us are fairly resilient, with each new level of trust deficit, we begin to wonder what will happen next. What else is out there…? What other proverbial shoe will drop? WE naturally become increasingly suspicious of others, and we begin to project the bad behavior of the few onto the many. WE then all pay for it dearly.
For brands, both corporate and personal, and especially how those intertwine, it is essential we constantly commit to making trust a key asset. Each of us must realize we can make trust a competitive strength and tool we can equip ourselves to build confidence. Embrace and live out the ideal nothing is faster than the speed of trust and nothing creates greater friction against success than the lack of trust.
Trust informs all aspects of your character, and character defines your brand. Without it, any true success is impossible, as, once real trust is broken, your word becomes tainted, your reputation contaminated, and, your future in question. We have all had the experiences that demonstrate to us the unlimited potential of relationships built on trust versus those that are not. These experiences point to the fact the difference is not small; it is dramatic and almost infinite.
You can have all the facts and figures, all the bells and whistles, all the glowing accolades and references you want, be the absolute best in your space, but if you do not command trust, you will not get much of anywhere. Your ability to create trust and share transparency in all you do is perhaps the smartest investment you can make in your personal and professional life and the future of your company.
Gary Ryan Blair
The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey