In light of events at Enron, WorldCom and other companies, polls show that distrust in corporate America is on the rise, and that restoring trust depends on how business addresses a variety of issues, according to The Ammerman Experience.
The main issues of trust certainly include how earnings are reported, how executives are compensated, and how corporate boards are chosen. And actions speak louder than words: someone who lies, cheats or steals is a liar, cheater or thief. But even honest people with poor communications skills can undermine their own credibility, too.
Avoiding trust pitfalls
In a recent article, The Language of Trust, Ammerman examines the link between communication and trust, and identifies ten communication pitfalls that undermine trust, suggesting ways to avoid them:
- Failure to listen: Take notes. Repeat or paraphrase what the speaker has said.
- Jargon, and lack of clarity: Define all technical terms and acronyms. Use language that can be understood by anyone.
- Personal attacks: Address the issue but don't attack the person or organisation.
- Humour and sarcasm: Use humour in difficult situations only if it is self-directed. Never use humour or sarcasm when dealing with sensitive issues (such as health or safety).
- Technical details and debates: Avoid too much detail. Don't be drawn into protracted, technical debates.
- Shifting blame: Take responsibility for your share of the problem. Acknowledge mistakes.
- Temper: Keep your composure - no matter what happens, and no matter what is said, no matter how personal or accusing.
- Broken promises: Do what you promise to do. Don't make promises or commitments without strict deadlines.
- Organisational identity: Put a human face on your organisation. Avoid words and phrases like "the corporation" and "the company". Instead, use your company's name along with "our company" and "we".
- Non-verbal messages: Make sustained eye contact with whoever you are talking to. Encourage and take questions. Never leave a public meeting early.
The article also suggests a number of critical success factors for communicating trust, and can be downloaded from the company's web site.