I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Mishra who provided some insightful commentary on trust in business.
Barbara: Tell us a bit about your background, qualifications and expertise. If you have written a book, please provide the title.
Karen: I am a professor at Michigan State University where I teach marketing and entrepreneurship and I provide marketing leadership for the School of Human Resources and Labor Relations. I have been doing research on trust for 20 years with my co-author, fellow professor, and husband, Aneil Mishra. We recently wrote Trust is Everything: Become the Leader Others will Follow and we are now writing our second book, “Trustworthy Leadership: Psychology and Practice” due next year to be published by Routledge Press.
Barbara: Trust Across America’s mission is to rebuild trustworthy behavior in America, starting with public companies. How would you generally define trustworthy behavior?
Karen: People trust others who are reliable, open, competent, and compassionate. In our research of companies and individuals, we define this as the ROCC of Trust. This is behavior that is both ethical and transparent. Leaders who are authentic, courageous, and humble are more likely to behave in a trustworthy fashion.
Barbara: What are some of the specific components of trustworthy behavior in your opinion?
Karen: In our ROCC of trust behaviors, reliability and competence are the most visible behaviors for others to evaluate and can be the first steps towards building trust. However, you need openness and compassion to build deeper relationships and to create lasting change.
Barbara: We all know that the erosion of trust is a big problem in corporate America. What are companies doing to combat this, and is it enough?
Karen: There are some companies that are working hard to be trustworthy who wind up on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to work for. These companies dedicate themselves to being good citizens to their employees, customers, and communities. Unfortunately, most individual citizens recognize that there is a problem with trust in corporate America which often companies themselves don’t recognize. There are many reasons for this, including when companies downsize in an unfair manner, treating their customers poorly, or when they fail to conduct themselves in a safe and responsible fashion. I don’t think enough companies are actively working to ensure that they are behaving in a trustworthy manner.
Barbara: Is the “trust” climate in corporate America improving or worsening? What actions will turn things around?
Karen: The trust climate is not getting better. As just one example, I think many Americans can see how trust does not work in their favor. The banks which received generous bailouts have yet to use that money in ways that help their customers. I think this is a huge failure on their part to repair lost trust and has diminished trust in the banking system overall. The only thing that will turn this around is when banks realize that they rely on customers to stay in business and be profitable.
Barbara: Can you provide a few examples of companies that are doing the “right” thing in your opinion? What steps are being taken by these companies?
Karen: As a great example, Ted Castle, Owner of Rhino Foods has a history of opening the books of his privately held firm in order to encourage his employees to work smarter and share in the profits. Most recently, he has decided to hire refugees from Bosnia and Africa into his company where he is helping them to learn English and is providing them with job skills in order to help them assimilate. He feels like this is what he is meant to do to be a good citizen. It builds trust with these new employees and current employees to know that he cares enough about others to share his opportunities with others.
Barbara: Anything else you would like to add?
Karen: Trust is such an important concept for corporate America to understand, embrace, and promote starting with building trust with their employees. If they do not first build trusting relationships with their employees, they will not be able to build trusting relationships with customers or other stakeholders. Employees share important information with other stakeholders and can be great advocates for their business if they are treated well and if they are trusted by their managers. Trust has to be built through open communication between a manager and his/her employees and work out from there.
Barbara: Karen, thank you so much for taking the time to complete this interview with me. Please provide your contact information.
Do you have any comments or questions for Karen?