Everyone knows that a culture of trust is invaluable to any organization, but corporate and professional trust goes much, much deeper. A climate of trust is the cornerstone to all business relationships both internal and external.
Brand Strategy in the Public Trust
Most organizations think of corporate trust in light of product sales and integrate themes of trust as a part of their brand and marketing strategies. They have logos, slogans, etc. that help instills a sense of trust. Just do it (Nike), Think Different (Apple), Because You’re Worth It (Loreal Cosmetics. Consumers form split second opinions about a brand based on marketing profiles that evoke emotion, within this second they decide if the company is trust worthy or if it makes the consumer feel better about themselves and if so they will consider an investment or purchase.
Corporate America is great at large scale brand awareness and marketing. Ultimately, it’s the employees who elevate and support the external public trust. Yes, your employees, they are the first line receivers of your clients and have the ability to positively or negatively impact the brand. There are two well-known brands that we can contrast:
Comcast or shall we call them Xfinity?
As the Nation’s dominant cable and TV provider everyone knows their name, and unfortunately for them, we all know their attention to customer service? I have to assume that the rebranding of Comcast to Xfinity that began in 2010; was at attempt to rebrand and rebuild trust. For years they ranked last in multiple consumer measures. As a result, how much do customers trust this company and brand? I know my friends complain, they like the service but if something goes wrong will billing or the channel lineup, they are the first to jump ship to Verizon or DirectTV; never mind the sigh that you often hear when someone is locked into a contract.
What makes Southwest Airlines’ such an amazing brand? It’s not the peanuts, and you could say that the low fares and free bags help; but ultimately, it’s the employees; and I would also argue the leadership. It’s the flight attendant that stops her day to sing Happy Birthday to the passenger in row 26, or the pilot that makes sure to send all his passengers off the plane with a smile and “thanks for flying with us”. The people are amazing brand ambassadors. You can just see they love their jobs and truly provide industry-leading service. This is even evident in the mission statement:
The mission of Southwest Airlines is a dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual price, and Company Spirit. We are committed to providing our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.
In two sentences, they have told me what I can expect as a consumer, and what they promise to their employees. But why go the distance? Southwest has values and people at the front of their business, and we can see colorations because they have strong labor relations; which cycle back to employees trusting the company. When an employee sees themselves in the mission and the delivery, they have a certain amount of personal accountability in carrying it out, which all boils down to trust! All of this leads to an aligned organization, where employees help build an amazing brand by acting as ambassadors. Within Southwest the mission statement is carried into each corner, with one word “love” Love Field is where they are headquartered, on Love Field Drive, a heart shape is atop the stirring sticks handed out daily on every flight, I’ve even seen where the belly of the plane has a heart emblem. Heck “LUV” is their ticker symbol on the NYSE.
The Elusive Employee Trust
So how do we get it? Now that we know the employees are the front line of our business helping shape our brand and implement our vision by executing the mission statement, how can we get it and how can we maintain it. First, we have to better define the process, in a research study provided by Interaction Associates titled Building Trust 2013: Workforce Trends Defining High Performance found that these outputs when a business employs leaders who trust, lead, and collaborate (our commentary in italics):
- Dramatic Rebound in Trust and Leadership.
When something goes wrong, leadership steps in and people are able to react, adapt, and are resilient.
- Employee Involvement and Engagement Skyrocket.
When employees are involved, they help you problem solve and get better results on the front line, thus feeling more valued and perhaps proud of the work accomplished.
- Leaders Walk the Talk.
A genuine leader can be trusted, but someone who fakes it can be spotted from a mile away.
- Trust is a Decision Leaders Make, Not an Inherent Trait.
In any organization there are trust gaps, some employees perform more towards the mission than others. In these decisive moments, leaders must LEAN IN, and bring the others along in the process.
This often goes against our personal feelings, so a leader must often think beyond themselves. They go further and say here are the top 5 Leadership Actions that Build Trust:
- Set employees up for success by providing tools, resources, and learning opportunities (41%).Provide adequate information around decisions (41%).
- Provide adequate information around decisions (41%).
- Seek input prior to making decisions (40%).
- Consistently act in alignment with the company’s values (35%).
- Give employees an inspiring, shared purpose to work toward (28%).
It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. ~ Warren Buffett
At Agape Consulting Group, we absolutely believe in this research. Ensuring our employees align with our core values and mission builds trust within our organization. Our community benefits. Our clients benefit. By building a corporate culture of trust, you develop higher preforming teams, greater client experience, and better organizational results.
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