Trust is the cornerstone of successful marketing. If your potential clients don’t trust you and your business, your marketing will fail. In fact, marketing could be said to be all about building trust.
Fair enough. But what happens when trust breaks down within your own organization; when employees squabble, hide information, develop cliques, refuse to share and perceive that they are not treated fairly by each other and their employer. Wham. There goes the trust — and with that, the effectiveness of any of your external marketing campaigns.
The challenge is that the problem of a lack of trust internally can be buried under the surface, almost invisibly. Paradoxically, loosely managed and free-wheeling rather than hierarchical organizations often have the greatest trust problems. When employees are free to do what they want, when they want, they sometimes default to rather selfish and untrustworthy behaviors.
I’ve made my share of mistakes in managing trust issues over my years in business, but think some simple rules reduce the risk of problems.
Trustworthiness starts at the top. If you are playing games, stealing perks and benefits or treating yourself to “extras” just because you are the boss, your employees will see this soon enough. This doesn’t mean we have to live in ivory towers of perfection. How many associations have conventions where the business and educational sessions are covered in two or three hours and the rest of the day is spent on the golf course (or boat cruise)?
Regular meetings are essential, moderated and managed to avoid power gaming and to allow all employees to participate. I’ve found that external facilitators are important for key planning and operational meetings; and simple and reliable rules of order keep regular weekly meetings running smoothly. I listen for signs of problems in these meetings and then can address them quickly enough.
Can your organization aspire to a higher level than just to make some more money? Obviously, if you own or work for a business, it needs to be profitable — but can you achieve something “better” with higher values. In our business, we of course seek to provide really good journalism and information but, beyond that, to treat our advertisers with respect. If we can provide a complete package of marketing and consulting services to our clients — without charging extra — are we going the extra mile to create genuine value?
Sometimes, I’m afraid, you have to lay down the law to maintain trust. Employees who cannot trust their peers must, after reasonable notice and opportunity to reform, leave the organization. Of course, if they lack integrity intrinsic trustworthiness, they must leave immediately.