Trust is a fundamental element of human nature.

Without trust we live in fear, anxiety and hopelessness.

Plus, distrust is terrible for the economy.

You and I tend to make purchases when we feel safe, hopeful, and confident about the future.

When we feel like we can’t trust governments as a whole, politicians, social media executives, and other authoritative figures, we pull back, hunker down and tighten the purse strings.

It is a self-preservation instinct.

When I was about 7 years old, I climbed on top of the high wooden fence in my backyard. But, having made it to the top, I realized I was too afraid to climb down. The fence was about 8 feet high… more than twice my height. It felt like I was on top of a 10,000 foot cliff and about to plunge to my death.

Sitting there with splinters of wood poking me in the behind, I began to cry and screamed for my daddy, Richard, to come help me.

He came out and stood about five feet from the fence.

“Now, settle down, Joshua. You’re going to be OK. You can either climb down or just jump to me.”

Both of those sounded like terrible ideas. I was frozen with terror.

Holding out his hands, my daddy said, “It’s ok. I’ll catch you. Just jump to me.”

After about 10 minutes of coaxing, I finally decided it was better for me to jump then try and climb down, slip and fall.

Looking my daddy in the eyes, I said, “Promise you’ll catch me?”

“I promise. I won’t let you fall. Now jump!”

Taking a deep breath, I launched my little body into space, fairly sure I was going to die.

An instant later, I was in my daddy’s arms, safe and secure.

When I was afraid and without trust in myself and my environment, I didn’t take action.

When I finally decided to trust my daddy, Richard, I made the leap.

Imagine if my daddy had dropped me?

And then we repeated the process over and over and over again?

Trust is destroyed.

Pretty soon, I’m going to stop jumping, right?

But, if he keeps catching me, I’d be happy to jump over and over again… in fact, I just might think it is a fun game and start begging him to catch me as I jump from higher and higher places.

And that is EXACTLY how buyers and employees work – the two groups we’re most interested in as leaders.

The question is how do you build trust in your teams and your buyers?

Trust is built in three specific ways:

First: Similarities 

The foundation of trust is similarities.

At the core of all humans is a primal need to stay alive. To do this, we build a “safe” database. We learn what we can survive and what we can’t.

Anything that resonates with that “safe” database, is trusted.

The concept of similarity = trust is the psychological basis for almost all social media algorithms. You connect with people similar to you… you see ads similar to things you’ve already purchased… you get news feed items that resonate with your worldview… etc…

Social media is an echo chamber of your own “safe” beliefs.

Second, Wanna Be’s 

The second category of things in life we trust are things that we really want and the people that already have those things.

For example, I love swimming. I swam competitively in high school. I was a lifeguard for many years. I’m an avid SCUBA diver.

I just love the water.

Now, suppose Michael Phelps showed up at my house and said, “Joshua, I’m going to teach you to swim.”

Would I trust him? Would I believe he could deliver on that promise?

Yes!

Why? Because he has the butterfly stroke I really want… and he has endless gold medals to prove that he knows a thing or two about the butterfly stroke.

This is the basis behind stunning successes such as Master Class (the teachers have what the learners want)… celebrity endorsements… sports revenues… etc…

Third, Integrity

Integrity is a history of doing what you say you’ll do.

In 2013, I created a training course for freelance copywriters, showing them how to get clients.

It came with an outrageous guarantee: “Get a Client or It’s Free”.

Unlike most programs, it promised specific results and backed that promise with a full refund policy. And, they had a full year to request the refund!

The course had been selling for about 3 years before we got our first refund request.

To be honest, I was delighted to provide the refund. I wrote several emails to my list telling them about the refund and how we had honored it. It was the best $2,000 I ever spent because it create higher levels of trust with my buyers.

A good friend of mine, Bryan Johnson, was a WalMart Manager for a few years before he launched his consulting business.

He tells the story of a man who tried to return a set of pens that cost around $15… that the man didn’t even buy at Walmart!

The Customer Service gal refused to give him a refund and take back the pens. The man insisted on seeing the manager, so Bryan was called up.

Without a single question, Bryan listened to the man, smiled and handed him $15.

As the man walked away, Bryan said to his employees,

“WalMart has a generous refund policy that people trust. I know he didn’t buy pens from here, but if we didn’t give him the refund, he would talk about it and tell people we don’t honor our refund policy.

That is very bad business.

Our average customer walks in here 63 times a year and spends an average of $52 each visit. That’s over $3,276 average per person that walks through that door.

That guy will be back and he’ll tell his friends about what just happened… and they will come as well. Even if only 5 people come to WalMart because of this, we just invested $15 to get over $15,000 in sales.”

And that is a great example of the power of integrity and trust.

Do what you say you’ll do and enjoy the rewards of having a reputation people can trust.

The Currency of Trust

Trust is one of the most scare emotional elements on the planet today.

A Pew Research study shows that trust in the government is at an all time low. Likewise, less than half of Americans trust the media. (Picture credit: Pew Research)

That leaves us – the business leaders of the world.

People not only want to trust us… for their own sanity and safety, they need to trust us.

We can honor that trust by creating bonds of similarity with them, discovering what they want and need and delivering it with excellence, and doing what we say we’ll do with total integrity.

That’s the currency of trust… and that’s good business.