Distrust on a National Scale

On November 30th, the Associated Press published an article entitled, “In God we trust, maybe, but not each other.” Based on a poll completed the month before, it concluded, “Americans don’t trust each other anymore.” Today, “only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted.”

Think about it: A nation of distrusters does not bode well for the nation. Trust is a key to our social fabric and our nation’s proud heritage. As we lose trust, consider the cost: Collaboration suffers. Innovation takes longer and it is weaker. The cost of distrust compounds over time with the cost of lost opportunities, wasted time, and impeded progress. In any endeavor where trust is in shortly supply, momentum is far more difficult and more costly to achieve. The probability of failure is higher.

What has caused our loss of trust? Is it cynicism – reflected in our 24/7 coverage of news, with a focus on the negative content and the negative headlines we put on and in our news stories? Is it our loss of a collective moral compass and a shared moral backbone? Is it a breakdown in our social fabric – family, community, and business? Is it a result of the widespread loss of jobs, of a livelihood and a shift from stability in employment to a widespread, cutthroat business mentality? Is it because of technology destroying face-time and the building of meaningful relationships? Is it because of our accelerated, frantic pace of life? Is it because of a lack of focus on the core values that have made our country great? Is it because we have lost our sense of history, and an awareness of the integrity-based conduct on which our forefathers built this nation? Is it because we have lost a deep commitment to seeking, speaking and living truth?

Probably, it is a combination of all of these factors …

So, what are you and I going to do about it?

A Simple Formula for Trust

We can focus on living our lives as role models of trust-builders. I interviewed Wendell D. Herman, Vice President & Senior Trust Administrator of Wells Fargo Wealth Management. Wendell has been in wealth management for 39 years and has not only in-depth experience in trust management … but he also has in-depth experience in building trust.

His formula for earning trust is simple:

  • Consistent performance over time.
  • Responsiveness.
  • Build relationships.
  • Be intentional.
  • Set direction.
  • Communicate.
  • Listen.

Although it is a simple formula, it takes personal discipline and a deep personal commitment to execute it well.

He tells a story of one client who came to him with a considerable portfolio to manage. She told him there were three reasons she chose him: “You don’t attend the same church I do, you are not a relative, and you are not a friend … So I can fire you whenever I want to.” After five years, she said, “I can’t fire you. You are now my friend.”

Think about it. If Wendell’s formula were replicated on a wide scale, would we be a nation of distrust? Or of trust?

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