What we need today is a little trust. Ok – we need a lot more trust. The world seems to be upside down… People seem to be fighting and bickering at all levels. Can we learn to trust one another again? Absolutely – but we must decide to purposeful about it. I have been somewhat surprised the #1 topic we teach and discuss over the last 24 + months has been on trust. “The Power of Trust”
We’ve discussed what trust isn’t and, while we still don’t have an absolute definition for trust, we’ve established that trust is critical to our ability to survive and thrive because it allows us to predict how others will behave towards us. We know that we identify trust via specific characteristics – now let’s take a look at some of those characteristics.
An excellent example of someone who embodied characteristics of trust is Ronald Regan. President Regan took office in tumultuous and uncertain times. People felt insecure as to both our nation’s security as well as their own survival. The country had just brought home hostages who had been held for 444 days in Iran. The Cold War wasn’t something in books or movies – it was a political reality. The economy was experiencing a severe recession. Filling your gas tank meant waiting in long lines, sometimes for hours.
Somehow, despite all the turmoil, even those who did not fully support his policies came to call President Regan “The Great Communicator.” However, it wasn’t his solely his skill as a public speaker that rallied the country, it was what he communicated – Regan communicated trust. To this day Regan’s status as a trusted leader remains intact. In the last 12 years, including 2011, a Gallop poll reported Americans toting Regan as the “greatest United States President.” In 2000, the Wall Street Journal surveyed over 100 academicians asking them to rank historical presidencies, Regan took eighth place out of a possible forty-three.
Just how did Regan communicate his trustworthiness so successfully? Simple, he demonstrated a group of characteristics that are indicative of trust. For one, Regan was known for his kindness and as a man who based his actions on a sincere love for humanity. For example, we all know that Regan survived being shot during in an assassination attempt. What many people don’t know is that during his hospitalization, Regan noticed water had spilled onto the floor. When his aides came into the room they found the President on his knees wiping it up, turned out he was concerned a nurse or other employee might get into trouble. Remember, this is a 70 year old man who, just days earlier, had been shot in the chest causing him to lose 40-50% of his blood volume – not to mention he was the President of the United States.
What this story demonstrates is that trust happens when a person’s is oriented to the world in such a way that one’s personal experience is not the sole motivation when taking action. Trust happens when we behave in ways that communicate to others that we recognize their experience, their needs, their problems, their hopes, their dreams, their fears, to be just as real to that person as our own experience and perspective is to us.
Regan also valued optimism and translated that optimism into a clear and positive vision for our nation. This optimistic, positive view of our nation created trust on the part of the American people, as well as the world, that America’s ideals of freedom and liberty were safe now and would continue to be safe in the future.
Regan communicated his great optimism and vision when he reminded us “America is too great for small dreams.” And, while he was the President who coined the term “Evil Empire” when referring to the former Soviet Union, at the same time Regan communicated to Soviet leadership a willingness to be open and flexible. This openness infers intimacy, and intimacy requires being both transparent (as opposed to manipulative) and flexible when communicating with others. Open, transparent, and flexible communications create trust. In his case, Regan’s ability to communicate trust with Soviet leaders resulted in the deconstruction of the Berlin wall as well as the ability to negotiate with the U.S.S.R. for peaceful relations as partners instead of adversaries.
G. Bruce Riggs serves as an executive sales coach and marketing professional located in Tulsa, OK. If your sales force or business is lacking the skills necessary to compete in today’s ever-changing marketplace – Bruce brings nearly 60,000 hours of practical sales experience and is well known for his results. Bruce also is the author of the popular book series, “I Didn’t Sign Up…” and “Coaching The Super 5%”. 918.706.1992
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