February 2009 :: I Don’t Trust You; Now What Were You Saying?

As part of the updating that needed to occur on my keynote presentation, courtesy of the Great Meltdown of 2008, I interviewed senior executives in our industry to get their views on what is influencing business as we head into 2009.

At the top of everyone’s list, as if they were reading from the same script, was  the issue of trust.

The last 9-12 months have really put a good, old-fashioned hurt on the concept of trust in our business and in the business of trust.

A quick search for the definition of “trust” gives us these assorted meanings:

  • have confidence or faith in; “Rely on your friends”; “I swear by my grandmother’s recipes.”
  • reliance: certainty based on past experience 
  • the trait of believing in the honesty and reliability of others; “the experience destroyed his trust and personal dignity”
  • faith: complete confidence in a person or plan etc.; “the doctor-patient relationship is based on trust”
  • confidence: a trustful relationship; “he took me into his confidence”; “he betrayed their trust” 

Sadly, coming off of the Great Meltdown of 2008, each of these definitions has been called into question when applied to our investors and their trust in us. By extension, the client’s fiduciary (read: financial advisor) understandably questions these definitions as well.

Have you found yourself defending the honor of your firm to those who have had their faith and confidence shaken? 

Have you had to answer the same questions about financial stability and capital adequacy three different ways, to the same questioner? 

Have you had to “prove” your point multiple times, from multiple angles, before your point was made?

Welcome to one of the New Realties.

Circa 2009, one of the New Realities says:  the conversation starts from “I don’t trust you.” 

Oh, they may not say it, but they sure as heck are thinking it.

So the question becomes “what do you do to rebuild the trust?” 

Like so many issues for which there are clouded solutions, the answer here is no less challenging. 

Rebuilding trust will require time-tested techniques that are executed flawlessly. 

The number one trust rebuilding tactic that strikes a chord with everyone I spoke to is Transparency.

Whether it is the new administration during their successful campaign for the Presidency and their overhaul of White House accessibility or the outcry from shaken investors, transparency is THE hot watchword of the day. 

In The SPEED of Trust,  Stephen M.R. Covey says about transparency:

It’s about being real and genuine and telling the truth in a way people can verify. It’s based on principles of honesty, openness, integrity and authenticity

When you are transparent about your actions, your company and your results, you give people a sense of comfort and confidence because they know that nothing is being hidden from them. 

As you work on rebuilding the trust, work on all the appropriate forms of transparency. Yes, our fiduciary responsibility to our firms requires discretion. At the same time, the only way we will reestablish the trust is to find ways to redefine the openness and authenticity that we all demand.

One leader that I spoke to said it best: “It’s no longer a product discussion; it’s about you and who you are.” That, to me, speaks to the need for a relationship connection that only trust can advance.

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