"Trust flows from individuals, not organizations."
That's the best summary I can provide of David Horsager's hot new book, "The Trust Edge - How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line."
Why is this book so valuable? The topic couldn't be more timely. In my opinion, the most important five-letter word in the English language is spelled T-R-U-S-T. It's so critical that publisher Simon and Schuster has made it its leading business book this fall, with a release date of Oct. 9.
Want another reason why I think it's so important? I know Horsager, and I trust him. He is the perfect author for a book on this topic. He has been studying the topic for 10 years, and we can all benefit from his research.
Let me give you a sample of his wisdom: "Trust defined - Trust is the confident belief in an entity:
• To do what is right
• To deliver what is promised,
• To be the same every time, regardless of circumstances."
I can't imagine a person staying in business very long without trust from every angle. Your customers have to be able to trust you. Your employees must trust you. Your vendors must trust you. Even your competitors must trust you. It's that simple. If any of those relationships break down, close your doors and find another way to make a living.
Horsager wrote, "Without trust, the transactions cannot occur. Without trust, influence is destroyed. Without trust, leaders lose teams. Without trust, organizations lose productivity, relationships, reputation, talent retention, customer loyalty, creativity, morale, revenue, and results."
As he was studying top organizations and leaders, Dave discovered that some had a clear advantage over others.
"Those leaders or organizations that could weather storms, charge higher prices, maintain respect with customers and clients, and foster long-term growth were special," Horsager wrote. "The greatest leaders and organizations of all time have had the same competitive edge. They were trusted."
He confirms what I have learned over my decades in business: Trust doesn't happen overnight.
"While it may appear to be static, trust is more like a forest - a long time growing, but easily burned down with a touch of carelessness," he wrote.
How many times have we seen once-powerful, successful companies felled by business decisions that caused any of their constituencies to lose trust? Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers come to mind. Investors and employees trusted them - and we know what happened next.
Several years back, I wrote about a study by Forum Corp., which Horsager also cites as evidence of the importance of trust. Using hundreds of salespeople from 11 companies in five different industries, the investigators found that the unique trait of top producers was honesty - not charisma, ability or knowledge.
For as long as I have been in business, I have believed that the most charming, most educated, most technically astute sales- and businesspeople will be abject failures unless all those traits are wrapped in honesty. When we trust people, we are optimistic not only that they are competent to do what we trust them to do but also that they are committed to doing it. They will be totally honest with a customer even when it is difficult or potentially costly. Their reputations are more important than any deal.
In that spirit, Horsager identified the eight pillars of trust that are key attributes of successful leaders: clarity, compassion, character, competence, commitment, connection, contribution and consistency. He includes terrific advice and even study questions to drive home every point. In other words, as Horsager wrote, "The Trust Edge is the competitive advantage gained when others confidently believe in you!"
"The Trust Edge" is extremely well-organized, with terrific and easily relatable examples, providing convincing support for his points. Useful graphics such as tabbed pages lead you to specific chapters and sections and also remind you on every page of the eight pillars of trust.
This book has arrived not a moment too soon for the trust crisis we are facing in the world. Developing and cultivating trust is fundamental to a successful business, personal relationship or even a functional government. Trust me, if you follow Horsager's advice, you'll have an unbeatable edge.
Mackay's Moral: Doing the right thing is never the wrong thing to do. Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman and author. He also spends about six weeks a year in Aspen.