Many years ago, I attended a horticulture certification course. The instructor was about as exciting as the shingles on my roof, or so I thought. The class was at night, twice a week. After 2 weeks, I realized why her pace was so purposefully slow. She shared that 75% of the students were small business owners, most having worked a 12 hour day or more before hurrying to class. Katie knew that a slowed down pace would be a much-needed break from our hectic schedules. Not surprisingly, she did not allow cell phone usage during class time. “Trust me,” she would say, “your clients will be fine until you call back in the morning.”
A Lesson in Trust
Over the weeks, she did gain my trust, when that 6 month long class became the most relaxing part of my work week. And because Katie earned my trust, I will never forget the story she shared of how a tree, a plant, or even your lawn, must trust its roots. She went to explain that all plants start with a basic root system. Its root base, below the soil line, stores moisture for the plant to survive. Proportionately, as the plant or tree grows, the root system below shortens or expands. The two MUST TRUST each other to survive. If a lawn is cut too short, it may burn up and dry out; If a tree is pruned too much, the root system kicks in to replenish its strength. If not for the moisture down below to replenish and give them life, they wither away. The two must trust each other.
The effect that analogy had on me remains still today. Even in the “instant” world in which we live, with oatmeal, grits, coffee, and fast food, I remember the lesson. We have become an instant gratification society. We desire to have instant meals. And before, during and after that 11 minute dinner, we want instant entertainment so we have 450 cable channels with 3 remotes to operate them. And we struggle to put our phones down for just 30 minutes and not respond to texts, emails, and social media. Everything is right now!
Building Trust in Business
Trust, however, in business and in life is the enemy of instant. Trust is earned, not purchased. It’s a process; it’s something that our closest friends, family members, and loyal clients observe in us over a period of time. And as we become a much more immediate society, our habits can become the exact opposite of what is required to earn and gain a client’s trust. Interestingly, the culture in a company is no different. Lack of trust between employers and their employees has proven to slow productivity. In contrast, a high level of trust between management and workers always produces higher productivity. As a business owner, being mindful of respect, empathy, transparency, and humility will build trust among your team of employees, multiplying their loyalty to the owner and the company’s mission. But, you have to remember that there is nothing instant about earning and building trust – it happens over time with effort.