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It’s all about trust

Tom Wall Published on 07 June 2011

For anyone who grew up in a small town, I’m sure you will probably agree that “everyone knowing you” is both a blessing and a curse. Unfortunately, our parents somehow already knew about the shenanigans we pulled before we even got home.

But on the flip side, there was usually someone nearby who’d help us get out of a jam before anyone else found out. And for many of us who moved “back home” after school, we’re still hoping nobody remembers who we were during our rebellious high school days!



All kidding aside ... along the way, most of us learned firsthand how the concept of trust worked. You see, in small towns, your last name carries with it your reputation. And although I’m not so sure that’s completely fair, I guess your opinion probably depends on who all your family members are!

Over the years, your grandparents and parents created a reputation for what your family stands for and represents. Through their decisions, words and actions, the people in your town formulated and shared opinions regarding your family’s character and trustworthiness.

Every dealing they had with someone in your town served as an opportunity to build trust or destroy it. Soon, everybody knew who could be entrusted with “handshake credit” and who needed to pay “cash up front.” And once your family earned people’s trust, you also learned from your parents and grandparents that your family’s good reputation was something worth preserving and protecting.

When it comes to having a reputation of trustworthiness, how do you think you rank? Does your “trust score” differ with people at work, within your family and your circle of friends? How about when someone is in a bind – are you one of the first people they call, or one of the last?

Of course, nobody’s perfect. Sometimes we forget to follow through on something we said we would do. Or maybe you’re really busy and you’ve fallen behind, unintentionally dropping the ball.


Regardless of the reason, we all step in it once in awhile. And when that happens, most people are willing to give us a pass. After all, we’ve all been there.

But when your lack of follow-through is repeated over and over, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that your reason (or excuse) is no longer valid or trusted.

We’ve all heard the old cliché that it “takes a lifetime to earn trust and only a moment to lose it.” And I think most of us would agree that it’s easy to lose a person’s trust if we say or do “big things” that are meant to intentionally deceive or harm someone. Those transgressions are hard to ignore.

But I’d contend that it’s the “little things” we say and do that earn people’s trust. It’s in these seemingly unimportant moments that you’re actually presented an opportunity to demonstrate that you can and should be trusted.

So what are you doing to earn the trust of the people you work with? If you’re told that something doesn’t work, do you fix it as soon as possible? And when someone asks you a question that you’re not prepared to answer at the time, how long does it take to get back to them with a reply?

If there’s a mistake that involves someone’s paycheck, how sincere are you at trying to quickly solve the problem? Whether you realize it or not, these “problems” are truly some of the best opportunities for building trust with your team.


Regardless of whether you’re from a small town or a big city, trust is universal and is always moving your reputation forward or backward. Either way, you own it ... and it’s all you’ve got. PD

Tom Wall