The Trust Edge: A book review by Bob Morris

The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line
David Horsager
Free Press (2012)

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Presumably all C-level executives agree with David Horsager about the importance of trust within a workplace culture (a) between and among those who labor there and (b) between the given organizations and everyone else who is directly involved with it, notably customers. Years ago, Warren Buffett observed, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Although all C-level executives may affirm the importance of trust, many (too many) of them spend less than 20 years earning it and less than five minutes ruining it. Lack of trust and respect for a supervisor is probably the reason most often cited by highly-valued employees who leave. It is certainly among the major factors that explain why positive and productive employee engagement in the U.S. workplace is, on average, less than 30%. Much of the material in Horsager’s book can help to increase that percentage.

Now consider this: Many of the companies that are annually ranked on lists of those that are “Best to Work for” and “Most Highly Admired” are also ranked on the lists of those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their respective industries. That is no coincidence. Horsager focuses on a number of such companies that include Amazon, Apple, Harley-Davidson, IBM, IKEA, Southwest Airlines, and Charles Schwab. Their people trust their supervisors, they trust their colleagues, and they trust those for whom they are responsible. Both trust and distrust are contagious. Much of the material in Horsager’s book can help those who lead an organization to establish or strengthen a culture of trust.

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye:

o The High Cost of Suspicion (Pages 21-23)
o Barriers to Trust to Overcome (34-39)
o The Oracle of Omaha (55)
o [Why] Conflict is Inevitable! (63-64)
o Tips for Effective Listening (80-81)
o Accountability: How? (116-118)
o Being a Mentor (139)
o Commitment, Harley-Davidson Style (151-155)
o Finding Common Ground: Questions Build Connect (172-174)
o Six Ways to Motivate Contributors (189)
o Consistency Builds Habits [Good or Bad] (229-230)
o Extend Trust to Gain Efficiency and Effectiveness (241-242)
o Fifteen Tips for Rebuilding an Organization’s Trust (262-263)
o The Making of a Trusted Online Presence (299-301)
o An Environment if Trust (310-314)

I commend Horsager on his skillful use of reader-friendly devices that include a pair of sections that conclude the first 15 chapters, “The Trust Edge” and “Ask Yourself…,” that review the chapter’s key points and then pose questions that the reader is encouraged to pose…and then answer. At the conclusion of the 16th and final chapter, he suggests “Five Ways to Sharpen Your Trust Edge.” These sections can facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of the material later.

The “pillars of trust” on which Horsager focuses are Clarity, Compassion, Character, Competency, commitment, Connection, Contribution, and Consistency. Obviously, there are countless other words that could also serve as names but perhaps no other set of eight whose names begin with the same letter. The names are far less importance than are developing and then sustaining those strengths. Almost all of the material in this book can help individuals to achieve two separate but interdependent strategic objectives: to establish or strengthen their own pillars of trust (however named) and then help others to do so, also.

David Horsager agrees with Peter Drucker: If you don’t have a customer, you don’t have a business. He would then suggest that, if people don’t trust you or what you offer, you don’t have a customer.

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