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Trust Gone Wild

The prerequisite of investment of time, money, and energy is a belief that what you invest in will be valued and will return a reward.  This holds true whether in financial markets, relationships, charitable giving, or the sacrifice of time to serve.  The return can be tangible or intangible, measured or perhaps a subjective feeling, experience, or simply the satisfaction of knowing that you “did the right thing.”

Any such transaction is based upon the presence of trust.  Trust provides the investor with confidence that the investment once made will be valued and a reward will be received.

For thousands of years, our financial systems have been built upon this foundation of trust.

That trust is disappearing beneath our feet almost daily.  It is time to do something about it.

Trust with any person or institution is based upon the Four Stages of Trust – shared values, shared vision, assumed responsibility and always delivering on your promise.

The bedrock of trust is shared values.  These values are common heart-motivations and beliefs – values like honesty, fairness, generosity, hard work, and integrity.

Over the past 15 years, we have seen the erosion of these values by Boards, Directors, CEOs and COOs of organizations, institutions and companies we have trusted.  We have trusted many of these organizations for decades, some even for centuries.

The values of hard work, honesty, fairness, generosity and service have been replaced by an unquenchable desire for power, accompanied by arrogance and greed.   The fruit of this can be read in headlines over the last decade as district attorneys have exposed leaders of both public institutions and private corporations taking advantage of our collective trust to manipulate systems, regulations, traditions and inferred promises.  It has become painfully evident they have done this to accumulate personal wealth.  They have “gamed” the system and we have been left holding the bag.

Of course, erosion of trust has always been present.  Historical records provide ample testimony of people in commerce, government and church who have manipulated systems for personal gain.

But not of the scale and breadth we have seen over the last 10 years.  Trillions of dollars have been siphoned off, diverted into back pockets, sketchy bank accounts, and hidden by intricate systems and complexities.

The result is a people who are jaded and skeptical, if not cynical.  The implication is that they have become victims and fools, manipulated by those in charge of a system of trusts, weights and balances.  Most of these leaders and those who have yet to be caught couldn’t care less.  It is precisely their avarice, arrogance and self-serving tendencies that perpetuate this destructive cycle.  Is there no end?

With capitalism, the power resides with the consumer.  Once bitten, the consumer can run away, tell friends and family, and perhaps call into question the trust, reputation and integrity of the organization and its leader.  The result is a loss of customers and revenues.  This has been the foundational basis for capitalism – the buyer’s trust that the seller will keep his promise.

Our system of capitalism and trust in each other is under assault.

It is time for CEOs and leaders of government organizations and nonprofits to step up and make a promise.  It is time to once again state intentionally the values that are shared among the organization’s leaders, its representatives, its partners and its stakeholders to reweave together the fabric of trust.  It is time to demonstrate that the values they hold consistently drive the choices they make, and to prove, indeed, that some of us are different. Some of us are trustworthy.

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