Thursday, February 05, 2009

For crying out loud ... trust people!

I am getting more into iLearning Global and I recently watched a fascinating 10 minute talk from this exceptional learning site about all things leadership and management.

The speaker was Stephen M R Covey, son of the legendary Stephen Covey who wrote the mega best seller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – one of my favourite books.

Mr Covey Junior spoke on the subject of trust and how trust adds to the bottom line profit in business.

He highlighted a great story to illustrate his point. He talked about a donut store that was extremely busy and highly successful. The long queues however meant customers occasionally left the queue because of the wait. One of the biggest reasons for the wait was the issuing of change. The owner decided he would leave change on the counter for customers to pay for their donuts and sort out their own change.

By allowing this trust he discovered that profits went up because people did not have to wait so long. And of course there were the less tangible ‘repayments of trust’ by customers who probably told even more of their friends about the trusting donut store.

A fabulous story that underlines to me how trust is not simply one of those ‘soft woolly minded thinking’ issues in business – it makes real hard sense on the bottom line.

I am not at all surprised. In fact what always surprises me is that we are surprised that we can trust folks. I’m surprised this sort of story is news. Why is it news? Why is trusting people the exception rather than the rule? Why in fact does trusting people make news at all?

People can be trusted for crying out loud – I would say ESPECIALLY customers and front line workers.

The US Secretary of War during World War II, Henry Lewis Stimson (1867–1930) said:

“The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him”

I love that!!!

Don’t you think there is something quite sad when 'trusting people' is seen as somehow newsworthy and innovative in business .... or is it just me getting old?


JOHN O'LEARY said...

Trevor, I love Covey's basic point that when trust is generated in business relationships, it can be a major time saver. Not just between vendors and customers, but between departments and among associates. In a culture of mistrust - to give just one example - how much time is wasted in closed-door meetings among disgruntled employees?

Trevor Gay said...

John - I saw plenty of the ‘meetings behind closed doors’ culture in my healthcare career. I once suggested to my boss that employees should sign their travel claim forms at the end of each month and send them direct to the finance team for payment instead of getting the counter signature of their manager. My thinking was that we could trust people. Tom Peters mentions in Liberation Management that a company in the US did that very thing and in fact cut down on the travel expenses! – Counter intuitive maybe but that was what Tom discovered.

By the way - my boss did not agree with my suggestion and the idea never got any further than his desk. He listened to me for less than 2 minutes and he just could not see what my point was. Sadly that management style typifies defensive and cautious approaches and represents very traditional thinking. Stick with the safety net of covering your backside is the polite way to put it :-)

Anonymous said...


Unfortunately those types of stories and examples and the rule rather than the exception. Trust and enabling people to use their own brains to make decisions definitely creates a culture conducive to retaining rather than driving employees out the door. Unbelievable!

Anonymous said...

"Trust no one, suspect everyone."

A Loss Prevention Manager gave me this advice when I was hired on with a huge retail corporation years back. He gave me that advice because, if I adopted this attitude with everybody, employees would be less likely to work one over on me.

While I'm not sure if I necessarily agree with the mantra, I understand its benefits now. However, I have found over the years that, when top level leadership is modeling great behaviors of honesty, trust, and integrity, the front line employees will follow suit. Only when employees on front lines felt that their leadership was screwing them over and couldn't be trusted did I see less ethical behavior at the lower levels of an organization.

When front lines truly trust their leaders, employees will "rat out" someone that's not protecting the best interests of clients, employees, and share holders. When companies and teams reach that level of trust, they are at the top of their game. When upper level leadership begins to dump values and ethical behaviors for expense control, front line employees won't be far behind.

Trust is very important in my decisions as a consumer; I'll pay more to go with someone I can trust that has a reputation of quality and integrity in a marketplace.

J.KANNAN said...

A very interesting writing Trevor.

According to me “TRUST” is a two way matter and not one way- As Mr. Covey Jr has highlighted a good story, a wonderful and trustworthy proposition to leave the change on the counter to reduce the customer’s queue and thereby increase the sales turn over leading to profitability.

From the example cited by Mr. Covey Jr, it is evident that “Trust” matters on both the sides i.e. from the shop owner as well from the customers-A great concept and I only wish people world wide accept and follow this ethical “Trust Concept”.

The great saying by Henry Lewis Stimson “The only way to make a man” trustworthy” is to “Trust” him and the statement itself is trustworthy if only people at the managerial/leadership level have “Trust” on the front line staff and others working with them, will bring out the desired , excellent and effective result, rather than viewing things with a bureaucratic approach and outlook.- after all the Managers/Leaders should bear in mind that all people working for them in the organization are with a subtle mind and heart looking forward to grow with “Trust & Faith”.

I am in total agreement with John O’Leary, Dave and Scott-Great inputs from all of them indeed. And…………..

Let me conclude this way:-

“Society is built upon “TRUST”
Trust is built upon “FAITH”
Faith is built upon “TRUTH”

And always bear in mind:-
Your people are indeed “Trustful”
Your people are indeed “Faithful”
Your people are indeed “Truthful”


Trevor Gay said...

Dave, Scott and JK - great comments as always - thank you.

When leaders give trust they will get it back many fold.

Trust has to be a two way process and in my experience very few people abuse trusted vested in them by others.

Anonymous said...

Almost 500 pounds on your Charity Race...if you keep this up, our American Congress may be asking you for a bailout!

Trevor Gay said...

We might have to bail out the UK Government first Scott :-)

Anonymous said...

You know people are diggin' in couch cushions when you have reached the 500 pound mark with people donating change!!!!

Just a suggestion, for this may help those that contribute more. You may want to do a countdown to the charity race. That way we'll know when to put in our last donation. Great work Trevor and Annie.

Trevor Gay said...

Great idea Scott- I will publish a weekly 'countdown in days' to the Marathon every Friday starting next Friday!