Jack asked this of Rose in Titanic. Deckard asked this of Rachael in Blade Runner. Aladdin asked this of Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin. Trust is the ultimate litmus test for any relationship. It’s what happens after you’ve moved past the stages of know and like. In these tough economic times, what we really have is a crisis of trust. Employees don’t trust employers. Banks don’t trust creditors. Consumers don’t trust their advisers. Without trust, markets freeze, productivity goes down, and fear quickly takes over the business environment. Bad times quickly become a self fulfilling prophecy when trust is absent.
U.S. currency doesn’t have a lot of text on it but one sentence that is printed on every bill and coin is “IN GOD WE TRUST.” Many in this country don’t even trust in this concept anymore. So what happens as trust erodes all around us? As Thomas L. Friedman states in his book The World Is Flat, “…the very thing that keeps open society open, innovating, and flattening, (and that) is trust.” If we allow fear to take over then trust has little opportunity to grow. Instead of giving into this fear perhaps it is more productive to reflect on who you trust and why?
Stephen M.R. Covey in his book The Speed of Trust goes a step further and spells out the economics of trust.
“A cynic might ask, ‘So what? Is trust really more than a nice-to-have social virtue, a so-called hygiene factor? Can you measurably illustrate that trust is a hard-edged economic driver?’”
Throughout Mr. Covey’s book he demonstrates his “…simple formula that will enable you to take trust from an intangible and unquantifiable variable to an indispensable factor that is both tangible and quantifiable.” Basically, he concludes that when trust is low, speed is slow and costs are high. Conversely, when trust is high, speed is fast and costs are low.
How true is this when we look at life inside a law firm? Our primary goal when working with attorneys and clients should be to establish trust. As Mr. Covey believes “Trust is a function of two things: character and competence. Character includes your integrity, your motive, your intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, your skills, your results, your track record. And both are vital.”
If you have consistently performed both to the satisfaction of your audience then you already know the answer to the “Do you trust me?” question. If you haven’t, then maybe it’s time to regroup and focus on improving your character and competence.