Trust is an earned trait that needs time to grow. And it’s this trait that can have a large effect on your credibility. It can reflect good leadership, or, when it’s lacking, can highlight poor leadership. When your trustworthiness is questioned, it can require a dedicated effort to regain credibility.

Trust can come in many shapes and forms. We trust others with our lives (thinking of First Crossings, I am indeed meaning literally!). We trust people and organisations with our health, education, and our business. And we trust local and central government to create a fair and just society for all.

Questions of recent ‘brain fades’ from our Prime Minister around the Government Security Communications Bureau’s appointment of Ian Fletcher, and handling of the Kim Dotcom home raid, dominated media attention over the last week. The unfortunate case of Key’s ‘faulty memory’ has raised media and public eyebrows over his trustworthiness. As political commentator Brian Edwards notes, “people do trust him to be a straight-talker and to tell the truth, and people are a lot less clear that that’s what’s happened in this situation”.

Trust is also a large part of any organisation’s brand, and key to customer loyalty. In fact this can play a very big role in an industry’s reputation itself. Dare I say, think of financial advisors? Recent high-profile financial failures from Hanover Finance, Bridgecorp, and South Canterbury Finances certainly haven’t helped. Cadbury’s troubles a few years back is an example of just how damaging loss of consumer trust can be to a business. When it came to light that Cadbury had substituted cocoa butter with palm oil there was a huge public uproar, including a Facebook petition. By 2010, the company had lost its title of “New Zealand’s most trusted brand” (held for the previous six years), slipping all the way to 36th place on the annual Readers Digest NZ survey. Not only did Cadbury lose consumer trust, the chocolate market was left wide open for their competitors to gain creditability and market share.

If someone is questioning their trust in you or your organisation, they are questioning your leadership, and their relationship with you. It’s important to remember that your actions speak louder than words. If there is a perceived disconnect between what you say and what you do, it can have very adverse effects.

In my leadership reflections blog, I define good leadership as someone who has clear vision and purpose, is consistent, leads by example and displays integrity. Public eye or not, any leader should remember trust is a 24/7, 365 days of the year requirement. Be a straight talker when the need arises. Tell the truth, tell all that you can, and tell it quickly is a general rule any leader should follow. Come clean on all of the facts, apologise, and, I would suggest, do not call anyone names in the process (such as the media). Make good on your commitments, and do as you expect your employees to do.

Think of those who you trust at work and in your personal life. What makes you trust them? And what’s the difference when you compare them to others?

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