Big Picture

Trust: The Missing Metric of Business

Scan any company’s balance sheet, and you won’t see any column with the heading of “Trust.” It’s not something we typically think of as having an economic value. But scratch the surface of all those numbers, take a hard look at what is reflected in the data, and you find trust — or lack of trust — everywhere you look.

When trust increases, so do output, morale, retention, innovation and loyalty. Conversely, when trust goes down, every metric starts moving in the wrong direction. The lower the trust, the more time everything takes, the more everything costs, and the lower the loyalty of everyone involved.

Think of sending an email to someone you trust. How long does it take? Almost no time.

Now, think of sending an email to someone you don’t trust. How long does that take? Second-guessing how they will interpret this or that and re-writing multiple versions of the same message — that valuable time is lost because of a gap in trust.

A lack of trust is the single biggest expense for each of us.

At the core, problems are never about leadership, communication, sales, marketing or even finances. Every issue falls under one or more of the “8 Pillars of Trust™.” These pillars correspond to eight specific traits that the most trusted leaders, brands and organizations have in common. Like the columns of a building, the pillars hold up the entire edifice. When even one of these eight traits is weak, trust will predictably be compromised.

The good news is that trust can be learned, practiced and profitable —with astonishing results.

To establish a high-trust culture, create a common language around organizational trust as you strengthen the 8 Pillars of Trust™.

Pillar #1 – Clarity. People trust the clear and distrust the ambiguous. Clarity is essential not only on the what and when, but also the why of a given target or benchmark. Strategic and communication clarity are direct benchmarks for success.

Pillar #2 – Compassion. People rely on those who put others’ interests ahead of their own. In today’s interconnected business world, compassion is more than a purely interpersonal priority — it’s a global value. Show that you genuinely care about others, put their interests first, and you’ll stand out in your industry.

Pillar #3 – Character. People notice those who do what is right over what is easy. Organizations who systemize and incentivize towards high-character gain loyal customers who advocate for their brand, products, and services.

Pillar #4 – Competency. People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant, and capable. The exceptional organizations build a culture of ongoing learning and development. A direct correlation can be made between how strongly and consistently a company invests in training its people and bottom-line success.

Pillar #5 – Commitment. People believe in those who stand through adversity. Commitment motivates mutual loyalty, and one of the most valuable business assets is a fiercely loyal staff and customer base.

Pillar #6 – Connection. People want to follow, buy from, and be around positive relationships. All great innovations and accomplishments are the result of powerful connection and collaboration.

Pillar #7 – Contribution. People immediately respond to results. The relationship between contribution and trust is self-reinforcing. Where there is a high trust culture, there is greater contribution and where there is high contribution, trust increases.

Pillar #8 – Consistency. People trust those who do the little things  consistently. In every interaction, we either increase or decrease trust and we are trusted — good or bad — for what we do consistently.

Most people think trust is an ambiguous, complex idea you either have or you don’t. But when you build the 8 Pillars of Trust™, you gain the leading indicator of success because high-trust teams and organizations bring out the best in their people and get the greatest results.


Written by David Horsager. Have you read?
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David Horsager
David Horsager, MA, CSP, CPAE, is the CEO of Trust Edge Leadership Institute, Trust Expert in Residence at High Point University, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Trust Edge. David has advised leaders and delivered life-changing presentations on six continents, with audiences ranging from FedEx, Toyota, MIT and global governments to the New York Yankees and the Department of Homeland Security. His new book, Trusted Leader: 8 Pillars that Drive Results (BK Publishers, March 20, 2021) describes how to create a companywide foundation of trust.

Books by David Horsager: Trusted Leader: 8 Pillars That Drive Results (Berrett-Koehler Publishers; March 30, 2021)

David Horsager is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.