Is Trust Your Competitive Edge?

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Is Trust Your Competitive Edge?

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Organizations of all shapes and sizes strive to improve efficiencies, productivity, and have a competitive advantage over their competition. Do you think trust plays a role in creating your competitive advantage?

Three businesspeople having a meeting in the office with a laptop computer and a digital tablet

Often workplace leaders recognize that trust plays a role with employee teams, but often they can’t see the connection to trust and the bottom line on the income statement. Is there a connection? You bet because trust, or a lack of, is (in-part) responsible for effort, energy, and engagement of all teams. Do trust issues exist within your team?

Warning Signs

Sometimes thoughtless actions, unconscious behaviors, or communication that is misinterpreted can break down organizational trust. You also cannot forget that many people carry trust issues with them. This is sometimes what we call baggage, and this baggage may not even be related to their current workplace or job role. Trust is typically not on or off like a light switch but more in varying degrees or levels. Here are a few (of many) things to watch for as you consider trust levels in your organization:

  1. Chronic finger pointing. Every time there is something wrong, it must be someone else’s fault. A little bit of this is human nature, but in the worst trust scenarios no one wants to be responsible. There may also be a tendency to watch others fail rather than try to help bail someone out when they are heading down the wrong path. You’re all in it together and if you must choose sides, choose your own team. Handing the win to the competition is so disappointing.
  2. Little or no accountability. People who are held accountable also typically recognize their responsibility to work flow, work quality, and contributing to bottom-line efforts. If there is limited or no accountability people may tend to dodge commitments and responsibility adding to re-work, duplicate work, and missed deadlines. Accountability shouldn’t be feared or presented with, “do it or die,” it should be desirable because it is part of the pride of a job well-done.
  3. Wavering decisions. Sometimes a decision to do nothing is still a decision, but a lack of commitment to decisions or choices and chronic, on-again-off-again approaches are a sure sign of minimal trust (or confidence) in the team’s ability to achieve the desired results. Things change fast and a fluid approach is okay. Let’s face it, sometimes you will have to pivot, but when the team makes a decision be thoroughly committed.
  4. Reluctance to attend or speak in meetings. “Shooting the messenger,” will certainly make people more reluctant to share the next time, but so will a lack of respect for feedback related to improving the work. Sometimes the co-pilot notices the obstacle before the pilot, accept feedback and regularly engage in open discussion for organizational improvement. These should not be structured complaint sessions, but more of an opportunity to brainstorm. Meeting participants should bring solutions to the table not just problems. Meeting conversations should be two-way.
  5. Problems tackled through electronic communication. Needless to say electronic communication is wildly popular and it has many advantages. However, in low-trust environments it provides a false sense of security and the opportunity to structure the communication in manner that positions people to win or lose. Later it is often entered into evidence for the judge and jury to decide about who is right or wrong and in many cases this has little or nothing to do with fixing the problem. Tough problems are often best solved face-to-face, and yes, video conversations are better than text only, but still likely not as genuine or effective as an old school get together.

Lower levels of trust hurt your competitive edge by weakening the ability for your organization to perform at its best. In addition to trying to process through internal problems, the external community such as your clients, vendors, and stakeholders are less enchanted by the idea of doing business with you. Your reputation may weaken causing you to have to spend more money to achieve similar results. Piling up on this is the idea that establishing new business relationships is almost always more costly than maintaining existing ones.

Do you think trust is part of your competitive advantage?

I know I do.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and coach that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is the author of the newly released book, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+

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