Trust: reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc. of a person or thing. (ref:

What is trust? How do we earn, encourage, and sustain it? And, why is it so important in business today, more than ever?

These are the questions which came to mind recently, when a client I was coaching shared a profound statement, which went something like this:

“My boss knows I have his back, but I am not so sure he has mine”.

It reminded me of just how fundamental trust is in creating a successful organisation.  It is a crucial element in the building and sustainability of relationships, both personal and professional – and is also one of the fundamental reasons why people choose to do business with a particular person or company..

Smart Trust by Dr. Stephen R. Covey

In his incredibly insightful and powerful book, Smart Trust – Creating prosperity, energy and joy in a low trust world, Dr. Stephen R. Covey, renowned author, speaker and consultant, refers to trust as “the new currency of the global economy”, and illuminates the crisis of trust that we are currently experiencing in the business world.

Lack of trust, The Leader's Digest by Suzi McAlpine

We only have to flick through the pages of the daily newspaper for evidence to support this.  The media is rife with news and commentary regarding the absence of trust in governments, politicians, business leaders, organisations,  co-workers…and even in ourselves.

But conversely, Dr. Covey also refers to the ‘renaissance of trust’ that is simultaneously occurring in parallel to the low trust phenomenon.

He says there are companies and individuals who are “spreading the enormous benefits of prosperity, energy and joy” (yes joy) which only trust can bring to people and organisations.

The Trust Renaissance, The Leader's Digest, by Suzi McAlpine

A recent study showed* high trust organisations outperform low trust organisations in total return to shareholders (stock price plus dividends) by a whopping 286 percent.

In fact, study upon study shows startling figures regarding employee turnover, profitability, market share and general success for high trust companies.

So, what can you do to build trust in a low trust world?

As with most things, it starts with our own behaviour – and in particular, integrity and intention.

Here are five things you can do to join ‘The Trust Renaissance’:

1.      Do what you say you are going to do.  This can be challenging to achieve 100 percent of the time, however it is a simple and powerful way to build trust with others – whether it be with customers, our boss or workmates.

2.      Honour your promises, regardless of how small and insignificant they may seem. This is a big challenge for those ‘people pleasers’ among us (myself included), yet it is better to promise less and deliver, than to promise too much and not follow through.

3.      Share your own experiences.  In particular, portraying how you feel about something with others also builds trust. This openness signals your willingness to share and therefore it is OK for them to do as well.

4.       Keep confidences.  Similarly, if you have an issue or problem with another person, talk to them about it directly, rather than to others.  Although direct conversations can be challenging, they far outweigh talking about others when their backs are turned.  If this becomes a habit, people may begin to wonder what you say about them when they are not around.

5.      Illustrate genuine positive regard.  Steven Covey refers to it as “the choice to believe in trust.” For me this means beginning every interaction with another person with positive intent – for the other individual, the relationship and the outcome.  My experience in business is that you can definitely feel when this is present or not.

If there is one business book you read this year, make it Dr. Steven Covey’s Smart Trust.

– Suzi

*Ref: Watson Wyatt’s WorkUSA® 2002 Survey