Do you know that ‘Don’t Be Evil’ was Google’s unofficial motto from 2004 to 2009?
Google, the company whose objective is to improve the lives of many.
“…a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains.” (An owner’s manual for Google’s shareholders).
“It’s called capitalism… We are proudly capitalistic. I’m not confused about this.”
There seems to be a dissonance between what Google says and what Google does.
The result… broken trust.
Not everyone cares. Not everyone will switch their search engine and remove google products from their computer.
But some will. Some have.
Why Bother With Trustworthiness?
As an individual, trust and being trusted are the basis of strong relationships and friendships.
In business, trustworthiness matters too… now more than ever.
Because people are more careful about who they buy from and how much they spend. Because ethical issues have risen to the forefront. Because a detrimental online campaign can easily be launched by just anyone these days.
You don’t want to give your customers any excuse to go somewhere else. They will be loyal if they can trust you.
Building trustworthiness is not just important for customer retention. Trust and trustworthiness are important within an organization too. Leaders and employees who trust each other and the company they work for will give their all to get the best results they can for the organization.
After the tax affairs of 2012, Eric Schmidt (Google Chairman) seems at last to have realised the value of trustworthiness. Here’s what he recently said after explaining Google would not fight tougher tax reforms:
“It will be harder and harder for corporations simply to be focused on shareholders.The reason why they won’t be able to is their employees. In Google, we’re there because we all talk about a shared vision of making the world a better place. Employees work in a company not for shareholder value but because they feel a need to be there. That model is how corporations everywhere are going to have to work.”
The 4 Pillars Of Trustworthiness
Here’s the recipe to become worthy of trust.
Integrity is when we’re consistent between what we think, what we say, what we do and (importantly and often forgotten) what we should be doing according to moral standards and ethics.
If you do as you say and think according to your values but these values are simply wrong, it’s not integrity.
Of course, it’s a difficult line to tread. We live in a capitalistic world. Capitalism is based on greed. Can we ever be successful and still show integrity? I guess the answer lies in the measure of what we do. We can please the boss without being dishonest and manipulative. We can choose to be fair, courageous and stand by the values we profess. We can choose to avoid double standards. We can choose to not shift the blame, admit our responsibility and learn from our mistakes. And, to return to our Google example, we can be tax efficient (which is good practice) without using “loopholes that allow cynical exploitation” (a quote from Consumer Watchdog’s director John Simpson about Google).
A few practical tips:
- Don’t be hasty in your judgements. Wait until you know the hard facts and be fair.
- Do not openly proclaim your values unless you’re completely sure you can live by them (especially if your motto is… ‘Don’t be evil’).
- If you’re in a predicament where you acts do not match your values, read our Cognitive Dissonance article for help to solve the issue.
Be Consistently Reliable
Do what you say you’re going to do. People trust people they can depend on.
If you can’t do it. Say so.
Think before you commit or make promises. Can you deliver on it? If not, do not promise. Only agree to what you know you can deliver. Then, make sure you deliver… and again… and again.
Being honest is not just not telling lies. It’s not omitting important details, not masking truths.
If you always provide reliable information, people will trust you. You should try to avoid being brutally honest though. Conveying hard facts without compassion or understanding will make you cold and distant.
Integrity, reliability and honesty will make you trustworthy as an individual. In business, they’re a necessary basis but they’re not enough. Customers, colleagues, managers will not trust you if you’re not good at what you do.
Professional skills and competencies help you achieve results and results are what people want and buy. If you’re good at what you do, people will repeatedly come to you for your services, trusting you to deliver.
Building trustworthiness has 2 sides to it: the character side and the competency side.
Being competent on its own doesn’t make you trustworthy. Without the character side of trust (integrity, reliability, honesty), professional skills and competencies just aren’t enough. To me, that’s where Google got it wrong.