“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
Friedrich Nietzche, German philosopher (1844-1900).
In our personal and professional lives, we instinctively know that trust and reputation are inextricably linked. A lack of trust leads to a bad reputation and vice versa. A trusting relationship leads to a strong reputation and, again, vice versa. You can’t have one without the other. This link lies at the foundation of all of our relationships.
This concept is so fundamental to our professional lives that we often don’t even think about it. It is symbolized every time we shake another’s hand and voice any sort of commitment. It is the basis on which we lead and manage others. It is also the basis on which we use a credit card, qualify for a charge account or obtain a home mortgage. It forms the foundation for how we relate to others and it is the basis on which we succeed in business.
Looked at from the broadest perspective, trust is at the root of a free economy, the way we live and the foundation of organizations of all types. An economist by training, Alan Greenspan, retired Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System of the United States, saw the impact of trust very clearly. He put it succinctly when he spoke these words of caution to Harvard University graduates in his commencement address on June 10, 1999:
“Trust is at the root of any economic system based on mutually beneficial exchange. In virtually all transactions, we rely on the word of those with whom we do business. …If a significant number of business people violated the trust upon which our interactions are based, our court system and our economy would be swamped into immobility.”