Engineer leadership with 8 pillars of trust

Use these eight pillars of trust to engineer more output and higher retention, greater productivity and innovation, higher revenue and lower costs, less skepticism, and better market positioning, according to David Horsager, business strategist for Horsager Leadership Inc., at the 2015 A3 Business Forum. See video with more tips online.
By Mark T. Hoske February 3, 2015

David Horsager, business strategist for Horsager Leadership Inc., at the 2015 A3 Business Forum, offered advice about how to engineer greater trust in your organization and with others, for greater personal and business benefits. Courtesy: Control EngineeLack of trust is the largest business expense, and re-engineering leadership to increase trust can add to more output, higher retention, greater productivity and innovation, higher revenue, lower costs, less skepticism, and better market position, according to David Horsager, business strategist for Horsager Leadership Inc., at the A3 Business Forum, held Jan. 21-23, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with sessions from constituent A3 organizations: Robotic Industries Association (RIA), Motion Control Association (MCA), and AIA (Advancing Vision and Imaging). A3 stands for Association for Advancing Automation. See related video, offering additional information to what’s below.

People used to think trust was a soft skill, Horsager said, but ask the New England Patriots (dogged with football inflation questions) about trust. Or ask Tiger Woods, who lost an estimated $1 billion in a decade (fewer endorsements). Or ask anyone about the time and money related to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Or ask the U.S. government: Twenty-times-fewer pages went through Congress 20 years ago, because each side had more trust. Now things must be spelled out in minute details, he said.

Research shows, Horsager said, that the core of most problems relate to trust, which is defined as a confident belief in a person, product, or organization. 

Make your change

A donut stand on a busy corner in New York City charges $0.75 for a donut, Horsager said. The proprietor leaves the money on a tray on a corner of the stand and lets people make their own change, just like a rural vegetable stand. The stand has twice the customers and revenue than other stands, and customers are served in half the time with less waste because the owner can focus on the order and doesn’t have to remove rubber gloves to make change. Sure, there’s bad math and sticky fingers, but the stand has fiercely loyal customers who abundantly make up for losses, Horsager said.

What if customers trusted automation technologies with the same fierce loyalty? But trust doesn’t just happen. He asked the audience for indicators of a lack of trust. Responses included: past experiences, lack of information, perceptions, hearsay, boasters, know-it-alls, blamers, and key phrases such as, "Let me be honest with you," or "I’m not going to lie." (What have they been doing up to this point?) 

Engineer 8 pillars of trust

Think again if you believe there’s little you can do to build trust. Horsager shared eight pillars of trust, with examples.

1. Clarity. People distrust ambiguity. Salespeople need to think clearly about the benefits of what they’re selling. Leaders need to think clearly about an organization’s objectives. Research shows that only 2% of employees know real objectives. If an organization can fix these, it can see result in 2 weeks; one client tripled sales in 90 days, Horsager said. Strategy and communication must be clear. If a leader or organization is clear about the "why," that can override much of the rest, Horsager said. If an organization has more than three priorities, that’s too many. Why do most New Year’s resolutions fail? There are too many. PICK ONE!

A strong counterforce to clarity is complexity. Get to the core. Keep asking why, he advised. "Do you have 20-somethings in your organization? If you give them some ‘why,’ they will die for you." Then ask "how" until there’s clarity.

2. Compassion. Do not underestimate power of actually caring. Learn about people, appreciate them, noticing details that matter, and thank them specifically. Remember SPA: specific, personalize, and about them.

3. Character. Do what needs to be done, when, whether you feel like it or not. Should you do what’s right or what’s easy? The more pleasure you seek, the less you’ll have. Eat a gallon of ice cream and feel worse. Get a degree and feel better.

4. Competence. Stay fresh, relevant and capable. Best ideas will come from learning from each other. Ask: "How am I staying fresh relevant and capable?" Input leads to output. Reap what you sow. Thoughts lead to desires, which lead to actions. Coach and mentor.

5. Commitment. Don’t be a lying apologizer. "Sorry I’m late." No you’re not. "Sorry I didn’t get it done." No, you’ll be late next time, too. Rebuild trust by making and keeping a commitment, but don’t make too many commitments. 

6. Connection. Certain traits are repelling (arrogance, controlling, ambivalence), and others are magnetic (sincerity, legitimate gratitude, empathy).

7. Contribution. Deliver results that are asked for or expected. Always give 100% at work daily, rather than having the sum of 5 days equaling 100%.

8. Consistency. McDonald’s strives to serve consistent burgers globally. Little things done consistently make the biggest difference. Consistency is trusted and builds a brand, reputations, and leaders.

Horsager is the author of "The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line." To demonstrate his point, he allowed forum attendees to put money on the table and make their own change to get the book, just like that NYC donut stand.

– Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering,

ONLINE extra

This online version of the print/digital Think Again column for February Control Engineering has more details on each of the eight pillars of trust and links to a video with more information. 

See also related leadership links to more advice below.