Life & Style

David Horsager on What’s Trust Got to Do With It? At TEDxUMN (Transcript)

Instead of just going and collecting my grades, instead of just going and collecting, for me, my paycheck everyday for scraping plates at the food service for $3 an hour, instead of going, and collecting that note from that sophomore, I have got to use a thumb combination lock. The cost is time. Every time trust increases, everything changes.

What does this mean to you? It’s worth considering what a lack of trust costs you every single day, because it’s more than you might think. But there’s a way to build trust.

Now, the second part of the research, I said: “If trust really is this important, how do you build it?” Is it just honesty and integrity, like people think, or is there more to it? It turns out there was more to it. There were 8 traits that were common to the most trusted leaders, brands, and organizations of all time, even governments, 8 commonalities, I call them ‘pillars’, because I think they hold up this great advantage of being trusted. I’ll just touch on a few of them today, to just get us thinking.


One of the pillars was clarity. We found people trust the clear, and they mistrust, or distrust the ambiguous, and people think they’re clear. Think about this, a leader that’s clear about the vision, we tend to get unify behind. Elections have been won, on this pillar, by probably a worst candidate, but they were more clear. A salesperson that’s clear about the benefits of that product, to me, I tend to buy from. The professor, that’s not clear about the assignment, I get frustrated with. Clarity is trusted.

Another pillar, competency. You know, I might trust you, you’ve got character, you’ve got compassion. I might trust you to take my kids to the ball game, but I may not trust you to give me a root canal. Because you don’t have the competency for it. So you’ve got to stay fresh, relevant, and capable in the area you want to be trusted.


Another pillar, commitment. We found people trusted those that they believe would stick in the face of adversity, that were committed. In 1981, when the new ownership of Harley Davidson took over — by the way, Harley-Davidson wasn’t always the great trusted brand, in the US, that it is today, and a new ownership took over, and they said: “We’re going to be committed in 2 new ways. We’re going to be committed to quality, and we’re going to be committed to our favored first time buyer”, who they defined as, the yuppie that wants to look like a renegade on the weekend, and they stayed committed, and if you were to put $1 in Harley-David stock, in the 25 years before I did the research, your dollar would have appreciated by nearly 18,000%. Commitment breeds commitment.


I had a vice president of sales come up to me and said: “David, I read the book and I loved the chapter on commitment. Can you just tell my team to be committed to me?” No! You’ve got to be committed to them first, because commitment breeds commitment.


People often ask me: “You talk about trust, but how do you rebuild trust?” First, I’ll tell you what it’s not, it’s not the apology. People think it’s just the apology; what if people say: “I’m sorry I’m late”. No you’re not, you’re late every time. The only way to rebuild trust, and there’s a little more to it, in situations, but it basically boils down to this: The only way to rebuild trust, the only way I’ll trust you again, is to make and keep a commitment, quit making them so lightly. Commitment.


Another pillar is consistency. We’re trusted for whatever we do all the time. Right? For good or bad, if you’re late all the time, I trust you to be late. This is why we trust McDonald’s. We might not like McDonald’s, but we trust them, because I’ve had the same exact burger in Frankfurt, Tokyo, and Cleveland. It’s the same. Sameness is trusted. That’s a challenge. In every single interaction we have with every single person, we increase or decrease trust just little bit, because in every interaction, we increase trust, or decrease trust. The only way to build a brand is consistency, the only way to build a reputation is consistency. Whatever you do consistently, consistency is trusted. So there’s a way to build trust.


What does this mean to you? I believe, not arrogantly, but I believe, in our work globally, I believe you can solve every leadership and organizational problem against the 8 pillars of trust. It’s a trust problem. People think it’s a different problem; it’s actually a trust problem, I believe. So it’s worth making a priority of it.

But trust is also a choice. It doesn’t mean I believe we should trust everyone. I mean the most deceptive person is the one who looks trustworthy, but in fact, is not. Right? I don’t trust my flight to be on time. I’ve had experience, just 48 hours ago. I don’t trust that boy with my daughter, I’ve been a boy. I don’t trust reality TV is that real. If you do, you might have a problem. But, where we find it, where we have it, where we can choose it, we can enjoy a great advantage.


Back to the farm, one more time. We lived down in the twin-cities Minneapolis-Saint Paul, my 4 kids, my wife, and I. Mom and Dad still live up at the farm, they run the farm, Dad’s 85, now. But he kept calling, said: “David when are you going to bring the grandkids up to the rodeo?” Because even though only 500 people live in Verndale, 2,000 people come every night to one of the biggest rodeos in Minnesota. They come to the big Sundby arena, where there’s often a big horse sale, people come from all over, so finally 2 or 3 years ago, I said: “Dad, we’ll be there.” We take the kids out of school, we head up to Verndale, we get the Dad’s got tickets for us, we get to the short line, we get a great spot on the bleachers — Now if you haven’t been to a rodeo for a while, the first half of the rodeo, the cowboys and cowgirls, they rope things. Second half the rodeo, they get bucked off of things. But in the middle, it’s your opportunity for the locals to get involved. They call it “Mutton Bustin”. This is where they let 5 to 8-year-old kids see how long they can last, riding a sheep, a big sheep. So, it’s almost half time, and the big announcer, down by the American flag: “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s almost time for Mutton Bustin. I’m going to read the names, and pull off the hat, those of you families and kids, put your names in the hat, I am just going to go ahead and read out the names. First 8 names that I pull out, come on down here to the bull gate and we’ll get started.” He starts reading off the names: Billy, Susie, Vanessa Horsager, Isaiah Horsager. I look over at my stoic Norwegian father, he just smiled. My 2 kids, they look up at me in terror. I put my arms around Vanessa, and I say: “This is going to be fun.”

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By Pangambam S

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