All our major institutions are being questioned.
The government, the news media, the church, the police, and even our tech providers—institutions that used to enjoy an element of trust with the people they serve are now looked at with a wary eye.
According to the Pew Research Center, many Americans cite declining levels of trust in the country, whether it is their confidence in the federal government and elected officials or their trust of each other. And most believe that these trust issues are making it harder to solve some of the country’s problems. Not surprising, right?
What if I told you that was from a 2019 report? Coronavirus wasn’t even a living, breathing thing then. I can only imagine what the 2020 report will say.
Today, it’s hard to know who or what to believe. It seems partisan politics have crept into every inch of our lives, exacerbating those feelings of distrust. Just before this magazine went to print, the CDC reported a new figure regarding the COVID-19 death toll—that 6% of reported COVID-19 deaths are attributed solely to the virus. The president retweeted it; Twitter took down his tweet citing violation of its misinformation policy. Does this mean the data was misleading or that our major social media companies are politically biased?
With Election Day around the corner, we aren’t even sure how—despite years of efforts—to get people to vote. Research shows nearly half of U.S. voters fear difficulties with voting in the upcoming election. And that was before the debate began about whether people should vote by mail or in person, or whether foreign meddling in our election process is a real thing. It all adds to feelings of confusion and mistrust ahead of November 3.
So much of leading is about building trust with the people you lead and the people you work for. I don’t need to tell you how much time and effort it takes to build up a level of trust with your clients so they feel comfortable turning to you for guidance and help. That goes without saying, whether you’re a broker or an insurer or you’re leading a member-driven organization. Being taken at your word goes hand in hand with integrity, a topic I’ve written passionately about before.
We build trust by digging in, listening, having honest conversations, breaking down the complexities of the challenges of the moment, and trying to provide solutions for the diverse needs of the situation at hand. Sounds simple, but as we have all experienced, trust is hard to build and easy to lose.
Trust is important for recruiting and retaining the next generation as well. In the global war for talent, our industry has a huge opportunity to highlight what we’ve done in recent months—changing business models and workplaces (some of you literally overnight), being nimble in decision-making, communicating plans for growth and sustainability in the face of crisis, providing support, training and tools, being a force for good.
The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020 found that, despite health and economic disruption and personal sources of anxiety, the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the desire of millennials and Gen Zs to help drive positive change in their communities and around the world. “They continue to push for a world in which businesses and governments mirror that same commitment to society, putting people ahead of profits and prioritizing environmental sustainability,” according to Deloitte.
Doing all of these things is what helps build trust. We as business leaders have an opportunity to separate ourselves in this way. The bar may be low out there in the world these days, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim high.