Leveraging Trust in Your Organization

How individual and group leadership will give you a strategic advantage and greater profits

By Deana Scott


As a country, we are suspicious of everybody. All you have to do is listen to conversations in the office or on social media or around the dinner table, and you will hear about the failure of some individual or organization or group to live up to expectations. Whether it is politicians, the media, our spouse, churches, employers or even ourselves, there is a lack-of-trust epidemic.

How many of these sayings have you heard? “What’s their agenda?”
“I should never have trusted her.”
“Can he be trusted to carry out an impartial investigation?”

Now think about lack of trust as it relates to Native American organizations. If any one group in the United States has a legitimate reason for having a “lack of trust,” it is Tribes. Tribes have been historically victimized based on trust!

For example, take the following promises: “Cede us your land, and The U.S. Government will take care of you”; “Sign this treaty and we will leave you alone forever”; “Don’t worry, let us hold your assets and we will take care of the rest.” It’s easy to understand why having trust may be difficult for Tribes.

Leadership in our gaming business

Gambling is built on a relationship of trust. Our players must trust us to deal a fair game and pay out according to the pay table. What happens in organizations with low trust? Unhappy employees, bureaucracy, high turnover, dysfunction, sabotage, lawsuits, grievances, poor customer service? This epidemic costs organizations mil- lions of dollars annually.

Trust is the belief in the reliability, truth and strength of someone or something. This definition combines both character (integrity) and competence. You probably know people who have high character and you trust, but they may not be competent, so as a leader, you don’t trust that they can accomplish the task.

People hear what you say and watch what you do. If these don’t match, there will be a trust issue. Throughout my years in business, and even personally, I have heard snippets of what my “perceived” motivation was behind a decision or action, as retold by well-intentioned individuals, which was opposite of my intent. Call it gossip or rumors, but the fact is there was a perception that created a lack of trust. We have all heard the saying that perception is reality, so whether the information is true or not does not matter.

Our employees look to us to lead them and inspire them to greatness. When we begin our role as a leader or supervisor, we are optimistic about the positive impact we can make, and trust in ourselves that we have all the answers for a smooth journey. But let’s imagine that we have a trust jar on our desk filled with bright and delicious Skittles. Every time we do or say something that erodes trust, a Skittle or two is taken out until our bright and shiny jar is empty. Now we may own this jar, but it is others who determine if the jar is empty or full.

Now I am not recommending that we run around worrying about every snide comment overheard in the break-room. As managers and leaders of organizations, you will make decisions that are unpopular or misunderstood by the masses. However, it is important that you are mindful of the impact these decisions have on the organization.

Most people want to do a good job, do the right thing, make the right decision, but the reality is that we are human. Trust can be built within an organization.

If trust can be effectively taught and learned, it can become a huge strategic advantage. Improving trust is within our control as individuals.

Here are a few tips on how you can begin to build trust in your organization:
It must be a conscious effort from the very top of the organization. Does gaming trust management? If not, find out why and fix it.

Be sure to include the motivation or “why” behind decisions. This will improve communication and over- all commitment to the organization.

Don’t make assumptions. We spend a great deal of time inventing the intentions of an individual’s action. Stop assuming and go ask. If you are upset about a decision, go to the source and get more information. Many times this leads to improved understanding and trust between the individuals.

Trust your team to do the job. If they start to sink, hand them a life-ring rather than a lead weight. The team must trust that failure is okay; otherwise nobody will take a risk. This will ensure that nothing truly great will ever happen within the organization.

Use policies to create fairness across the organization, and when at all possible, give people the benefit of the doubt.

Do your best. This does not mean perfection. This means to have good intentions and try to do the right thing daily.

Keep your commitments. This means being on time for calls and meetings, and delivering on deadlines. (Remember. No judging!).

Have the difficult conversation. Nothing will improve unless you tackle the tough issues. A cup of coffee and a conversation can go a long way to building trust. This goes for players, too. Respond to their questions and truly listen to their concerns.

Acknowledge and learn from your fumbles, and vow to do better tomorrow. Let’s try to do this for others and ourselves. Stop using others’ mistakes for personal gain or lunchtime conversation.

Create time for strategic planning and goal set- ting within the organization. This can even be done between departments. How many times have you heard someone say that this is a “marketing pro- motion”?

What if Marketing reached out to other departments for input and started creating “property promotions”? As trust builds, morale and productivity will begin to flourish. This is when trust becomes a strategic advantage and can be leveraged for greater profits. When that hap- pens, there will be plenty of Skittles to go around.