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    The Trust Edge Blog


    8 Tips for Effective Listening | Trust in Leadership


    Growing up on the farm as the youngest of six kids, I learned how to eat fast, talk fast, and interrupt my siblings. Listening has not always come easily to me, and I’m not alone. Listening is a fundamental skill of genuine success, and it’s hard to be great or trusted without it. The benefits of listening include more trust, better understanding, stronger marriages, happier kids, and increased respect at work. Still, being a good listener is hard work! 

    I learned a great lesson while talking with one of my closest friends. He was telling me about something troubling him in a hallway during the lunch hour. Several people passed by us, stopping to say hello along the way. Each time, even as my friend continued talking, I would look up and speak a friendly greeting. Finally, after a few of these interruptions, my friend simply stopped talking and said, “You don’t care. You are not listening to what I am saying.” What he said permanently changed my outlook on listening. He was absolutely right, and I knew it immediately. Rather than focus on his words, I was showing him he wasn’t worthy of my attention. Bad listening habits aren’t just rude; they are expensive. To this day, I’m grateful for his candor, because listening is such an important factor in gaining someone’s trust. 

    I will never forget being in the boardroom for a staff meeting at one of my first jobs. The meeting was supposed to be an opportunity to deal with new business, talk through current issues, and raise any concerns. During the meeting I got a firsthand look at the impact listening has on personal trust and credibility. The board director, brilliant in many parts of running an organization, was wrapping up the session. With everything else on the agenda complete, he asked if there was anything else to discuss. Before anyone could answer, he turned his back to the staff, left the room, and let the door slam shut behind him. All the faces in the room were full of disbelief. I knew there were some who wanted to discuss a specific problem. The director lost his team that day. The director was competent and committed to his job but was not fully trusted. An unwillingness to listen is one of the fastest trust killers.

    8 Tips for Effective Listening: 

    When done genuinely and appropriately, the following will increase communications and trust.

    1. Keep eye contact. Look at the person talking. You’ll have an easier time paying attention, and they’ll be grateful for your focus. 
    2. Listen with your body. Nod and gesture with your hands to show you’re keyed in to what the other person is saying. Make sure your posture and movements don’t suggest you’re bored or restless. 
    3. Practice patience. When someone is speaking to you, resist the urge to have something ready to say in return. Listen carefully to what they’re saying before answering.
    4. Empathize. Listening isn’t just about the message. Intent and context are important, so try to make a habit of seeing things from their point of view. Try to really put your feet in the speaker’s shoes. Avoid comments like, “I totally understand what you are going through.” 
    5. No one completely understands what someone else is going through. When we acknowledge that fact, our credibility as a listener goes way up. 
    6. Be present. Ask, “Am I present in this conversation?” Keep your focus on track.
    7. Avoid answering the electronic interrupter. The phone, PDA, or email can be a useful means of communication. But if you are with someone, taking an interruption is one of the fastest ways to show you don’t really care about him or her.
    8. Hold one conversation at a time. 


    Photo credit to Juhan Sonin, "Deep Conversation"


    How Mackey's 1980's Decision Energized Whole Foods | Trust in Business


    In the late 1980s, Whole Foods Company Chairman and CEO, John Mackey, set the pay ceiling for his executives at no more than eight times the pay of an entry-level employee. This ceiling has been raised a few times since then, but Whole Foods Company is one of the few international companies to have a pay ceiling at all. Mackey has successfully opposed the unionization of his stores, not because of a disrespect for his workers, but because his competitive wages and progressive benefits packages would make unionization counter-productive.

    Amidst the high growth of the health food store chain, it would have been easy for Mackey to demand a larger salary. Instead, he refused his stock option bonus because it would have violated company rules. Later, Mackey reduced his own salary to $1 per year, donated all his stocks to charity, and set up a $100,000 emergency fund to be used by employees who were facing financial problems. While this was an uncommon gesture for a CEO, Whole Foods employees were not shocked by it. Mackey’s character and his priorities were established long before Fortune Magazine discovered him. 

    Mackey set an example for his organization. He’s trusted, top to bottom, and has used that trust to spread a vision for greater impact and a stronger company. As a result, Whole Foods has grown from one store to more than 200, becoming the world’s largest organic retailer. Profits have grown beyond $200 million. By keeping his word as clean as his food, Mackey’s been able to lead his company through an intense period of growth. Though his leadership style is bold and unusual, you cannot argue with his unbelievable level of integrity and resulting success. Mackey has developed The Trust Edge.

    Photo credited to: Portal Abras, "Whole Foods"


    Leaders are Readers | Trust in Leadership


    My grandmother was known for reading a book a day. I’m not exaggerating! As a matter of fact, she is famous in our family for reading all of the books in two libraries! She had the habit of waking at 4:00 in the morning to have quiet time to read. Grandma Esther loved to learn. Imagine what you could learn just by intentionally reserving time each day to read. I hope to instill this love of reading in my children as well.  

    Leadership expert, John C. Maxwell says, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” One of the outstanding leaders I know is Nate Parks. Whether he is taking his kids to an activity or waiting for the gas tank to fill, he always has a book with him. By having the reading material with him at all times, looking for chances to read a few more pages, Nate reads many books a year. Mrs. Klein, my daughter’s kindergarten teacher wisely said, “Reading is critical because in the first three years of school, one learns to read. After that, one reads to learn.”   

    Maybe getting up at 4:00 isn’t an option for you, but here are some tips to help you get some reading done.

    • Keep a book with you whenever you can
    • Read everywhere you can. This means on the bus, while waiting in line, or any time that you get a few minutes.
    • Take a little time to read before bed, it can help you relax.
    • Read different types of books. Mix it up.
    • Learning how to speed read can be helpful but reading too fast can lead to decreased comprehension.

    The Impact of Compassion | Trust in Business


    Who do you trust more, firefighters or mortgage brokers? Librarians or lawyers? Nurses or salespeople? One of the biggest reasons for trust is the perception that someone is concerned beyond themselves for the good of the whole. Firefighters and nurses care for others by nature of their jobs. But we wonder if the salesperson really has our best interest in mind. Don’t worry if you are in a less trusted line of work. Resolve to be among the trusted in your field. Show that you think beyond yourself; you will be unique and successful in your industry. 

    Do not underestimate the bottom-line impact of compassion. The ability to show care, empathy, and compassion is a heavy component of trust. The ability is rooted in two long-standing virtues. The first is being able to “walk in someone else’s shoes” and understand things from his or her experience. The second is continually acting out, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” On a basic level, the link between care and trust is fundamental. The aphorism is true; “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” 

    Though Milton Freidman famously claimed in 1970 that the social responsibility of business is to increase profits, things have changed. Forty years later people want to do business with those who have concern for the whole of humanity. President and CEO of the world’s largest independent PR firm and trust researcher, Richard Edelman noted, “We’ve moved from a shareholder to a stakeholder world in which business must recast its role to act in the public’s interest as well as for private gain.”( Even Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, acknowledged that the ultimate goal of business is not to make a profit. “Profit is the reward one gets for serving the general welfare,” according to Author and Professor Walter Wink in his article Globilization and Empire: We Have Met the Evil Empire and it is US. 

    No matter your profession, challenge yourself to start thinking like the customer, patient, client, congregation member, or student. Think of their needs and their challenges. Care about THEM. Give them a great experience. Make them feel valued. Not only is it fun and self-gratifying, but it will also help you gain The Trust Edge

    Photo, with creative commons permission from:


    The Bottom Line Effect of Caring for Your Customers | Trust in Business


    Top sales people don’t just get to where they are because they make a lot of calls, or because they know the best closing techniques. In most cases, their clients have come to see them less as commission earners and more as trusted partners. In those relationships, when the customer recognizes they’re truly cared for, they show their satisfaction by buying again and again—and referring you to others. 

    A good friend of mine and the top sales person for one of the largest A+ mutual insurance companies in America is a very uncommon man. Not only does Scott provide exceptional service and a listening ear, but he also continually gives to his clients. He gives everything from note pads and pens to Harley Davidson Stereos. Every client who buys an insurance product gets flowers immediately. Not only is it his nature to give, but I bet it is hard for another agent to come in and undercut him when they have to peer over the vase of flowers on the counter. When he hears of any client or family of his client being sick, he sends more flowers. He even trusts them to use his condos on the beach. He doesn’t use them as a write-off, and he doesn’t charge the client. Don’t think Scott just became generous once he was successful. Before he had a beachside getaway, he had a heart for service and generosity. He shared one of his mantras with me, “Small deeds are far better than great intentions.” Scott considers his role to be a professional servant. He says, “When you serve others and care about them, it all comes back to you.” Why does this work? He thinks beyond himself in the most genuine way, treating his clients like friends. As a result, many of them have become friends.

    Of course people can show compassion for selfish reasons such as recognition or greed. People can “look” concerned when they are not, just like in Academy Award-winning Slumdog Millionaire. Two hungry orphan boys, Salim and Jamal, were living in a garbage heap when they were found by Maman, who seemed like a savior at the time. Maman fed the boys and took them to his orphanage with a playground. The boys soon learned that Maman only showed concern in order to own them and teach them how to be beggars on his behalf. But what happened to Maman? He got rich but was angry, stressed, and ultimately murdered by those who he had taken advantage of. The most powerful compassion is sincere. 

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