First a quote: “Our distrust is very expensive.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
In my profession, I fly too many miles, and on too many airplanes! I don’t mind all that much, or I wouldn’t do what I do. While I dislike being away from home as often as I am, and really dislike the hassle that comes with delayed and/or canceled flights on jam-packed airplanes, I enjoy the actual flying part. There is a certain excitement that comes with going to new places, meeting new people and supporting different companies in different industries. I’m also usually quite productive in my “office in the sky”. I do much of my writing while flying, in fact, I wrote much of this article 35,000 feet someplace over Nebraska.
I am fortunate to fly in and out of my home airport in Boise, Idaho. It is new, modern, clean, friendly, small, and relatively speaking, fast and easy. Still, it is not as fast and easy as it was prior to what we now call 9/11. Before that horrific event in September 2001, I could arrive at the Boise airport 30 to 40 minutes before my scheduled departure time and easily make my flight. Not anymore of course.
Because we no longer trust who might be getting on an airplane, or trust what their intentions might be, the process of getting through security is far more time consuming. What used to take 30 to 40 minutes, is now easily 75 to 90 minutes, even longer at larger, busier airports. Our collective distrust, costs roughly three to four hours of my life, every single week I travel; and I’m obviously just person. Think of the millions of flights made every single year and the number of travelers; the lost time in total is unfathomable.
Now, think dollars and cents involved. I can’t begin to imagine how much we spend on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) every single year. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, distrust is very, very expensive! When the level of trust between people, departments and organizations goes down, the speed of doing business also goes down while the cost of doing business goes up… often a lot!
I use air travel as an example because the effects of distrust are so visible and readily apparent to anyone who travels. I follow up that example with this question; “What about the distrust that exists in our relationships, teams, departments, organizations and even families?” The cost of distrust in those places may be harder to see, harder to measure and maybe even harder to discern, but certainly just as real, just as pervasive and very expensive. Consider:
• You delegate an important project to someone and don’t trust the person to complete the job in the manner you expect. You then feel the need to follow-up, check-in or even redo the project. That person senses your lack of trust and now feels micromanaged, disillusioned and demotivated.
• We spend millions on lawyers to write contracts and legal documents because we no longer trust our employees, partners, supplies or even customers to do the “right thing”.
• Distrust between departments, functions or even shifts within a plant… B Shift doesn’t trust A Shift to clean up their messes between shifts and the destructive name calling begins.
• We wonder if our manager is taking personal credit for work we’ve done or ideas we’ve created.
• We send countless “CYA” emails and make sure to cc everyone’s boss in the process. Look at your inbox right now. I dare you to count how many cc emails were sent as genuine “FYI’s” and how many are really “CYA” because of at least some level of mistrust on your team. How much time do you spend reading those emails each week? Whatever your answer is, I would argue it is too much time and very, very costly.
The examples above don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the distrust so rampant in our lives and organizations today. Of course, the opposite of everything above is true as well. When we increase the level of trust between people, teams and departments within our organizations, the cost of doing business goes down and the speed of doing business goes up… sometimes exponentially.
Growing trust should be a priority for leaders at all levels in every organization, it is simply too expensive not to do so! Stop counting paper clips, reading CYA emails and start acting more intentionally to rebuild lost, or misplaced trust in all of your relationships.
The mistake too many of us make is that we assume trust either exists or it doesn’t. We conclude; it is what it is. Or, we wait for trust to grow organically, as if by magic, over weeks and months or longer.
I believe leaders grow trust intentionally, sometimes one relationship at a time. While we do full-blown multi-day workshops on this multi-faceted topic, here are a few simple tips for intentionally growing trust with the important people in your life:
• To be trusted, you must first be trustworthy.
• Work to make implicit behavioral expectations explicit wherever possible.
• Establish clear working agreements with all your stakeholders.
• Do not make or accept “fuzzy” or unclear agreements. (I’ll maybe call you sometime next week.)
• Do what you have said you will do. Keep your agreements.
• Give earliest notice when you know you are going to fall short on an agreement you have made.
• Apologize when you break an agreement and ask what you can do to “make it right”
• Always acknowledge your mistakes.
In an attempt to “walk my talk” and lead by personal example; I regret not publishing my weekly Monday Morning Minute missive last week. We had a family medical emergency, and at the same time, I overcommitted myself on several fronts. In the process, I missed my publication deadline and several other commitments with people who are very important to me. I am sorry if I disappointed you. If you are one of those people, please let me know if there is anything I can do to make it right with you.
How will you lead differently, or better, this week?
Have a great week!!
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”
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