The Top Question Everyone Is Asking Right Now

And eight strategies to navigate the answer

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What do weight loss and workplace transformation have in common?  

The answer is rooted in a seemingly simple yet profound question.  The top question everyone is asking right now.  

Can I trust you?

“We all have a trust issue. We all have a gap,” David Horsager says. “There is no communication issue.  No collaboration issue.  No sales issue.  No marketing issue.  There is only a trust issue.”

His trademark staccato is ringing out from inside his Minnesota studio, where he stands in front of a large Rhode microphone, suspended from a nearby retractable stand. Horsager is the CEO of Trust Edge Leadership Institute and a global authority on building high-trust teams and organizations where people can perform at their best and get measurable results.  

I reached out to David to gain his insights into the fundamentals of building and leveraging greater trust. 

Trust Is An Inside Out Job

“Trust starts with you,” he explains.  “Most importantly, you have to be able to trust yourself.  And we only trust ourselves when we make and keep our own commitments,” Horsager points out, debunking the idea that you just have to “believe in yourself” in order to work miracles. 

Most people don’t trust themselves because they don’t make and keep their own commitments, and it creates a spiral. A lack of commitment in one area can spill over into two, three, or even thirteen more. Horsager knows the value of a singular personal commitment  – because that commitment helped him to lose 52 pounds. 

When David Horsager was a kid, he grew up in the poorest county in Minnesota. So having soda – what we still call “pop” where I live – was considered a real treat. “We never got to have the whole can [of soda],” he recalls. His comment brings me back to memories of my own childhood “luxuries.” I can relate. When he became an adult, he treated himself to sugary beverages on the regular. On airplanes. At dinners. In boardrooms. In hotel conference rooms. One soda became three, and so on. 

One day, overweight Dave was sitting in his doctor’s office. “You know,” the doc told him, “most men in America, if they didn’t drink their calories, would lose 30 to 50 pounds a year.” A commitment took shape, right then and there. David Horsager lost 52 pounds, one soda can at a time. He made a commitment to stop drinking his calories. And the commitment paid off. “I’m still not going to drink a calorie,” he says, his thin frame showing the results of his simple choice.

Trust Bubbles Up At Work, Too 

Horsager’s hypothesis about trust proves true for restoring individual health, but what about restoring organizational health?  

“Even good leaders and organizations can face a crisis of trust,” Horsager says, adjusting his glasses for emphasis as he quotes the Trust Outlook, his annual study.  “And it might surprise you to discover that communication does not build trust.”

If communication isn’t what builds trust, then what does?  

Horsager’s research reveals that Eight Pillars of Trust form the foundation for success:

  • Clarity: People trust the clear and mistrust or distrust the ambiguous. Be clear about your mission, purpose, expectations, and daily activities. When we are clear about priorities on a daily basis, we become productive and effective.
  • Compassion: People put faith in those who care beyond themselves.  People are often skeptical about whether someone really has their best interests in mind. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not just an old saying. It is a bottom-line truth. Follow it, and you will build trust.
  • Character: People notice those who do what is right ahead of what is easy. Leaders who have built this pillar consistently do what needs to be done when it needs to be done, whether they feel like doing it or not. It is the work of life to do what is right rather than what is easy.
  • Competency: People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant, and capable. The humble and teachable person keeps learning new ways of doing things and stays current on ideas and trends. Make a habit of reading, learning, and listening to fresh information.
  • Commitment: People believe in those who stand through adversity. People trusted General Patton, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Gandhi, Jesus, and George Washington because they saw commitment and sacrifice for the greater good. Commitment builds trust.
  • Connection: People want to follow, buy from, and be around friendsand having friends is all about building connections. Trust is all about relationships, and relationships are best built by establishing genuine connection. Develop the trait of gratitude, and you will be a magnet.
  • Contribution: Few things build trust quicker than actual results. At the end of the day, people need to see outcomes. You can have compassion and character, but without the results you promised, people won’t trust you. Be a contributor who delivers real results.
  • Consistency: It’s the little things—done consistently—that make the biggest difference. If I am overweight, it is because I have eaten too many calories over time, not because I ate too much yesterday. It is the same in business. The little things done consistently make for a higher level of trust and better results.

Trust Requires Action

Ideas are not action.  Intentions are not actions. Identification of specific actions paves the path to progress.

“Ask how,” Horsager concludes.  “How, how, how.  Ask how until you identify something you can do today or tomorrow.  Then go do it.”   

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