Employee Trust: Strategic planning can kill it.


Trust is the foundation of effective and authentic leadership. Without trust, leaders lose teams through attrition, or dangerously low engagement. Among the many qualities of trusted leaders, clarity is key: People trust the clear and mistrust the ambiguous. So, leaders who earn employee trust provide transparency around goals, plans, and expectations.

Sadly, one widely-used leadership tool puts leaders at risk for destroying clarity and trust – the annual strategic planning session. If you ever want to put your team to sleep, just say these two words: strategic planning. While I agree that “without a plan, you plan to fail,” many employees have developed knee-jerk skepticism toward annual planning sessions. Why? Most have taken days at off-site retreats and hours of analysis without doing much differently afterward. Few strategic planning sessions provide clarity around the specific actions and changes required to achieve the intended goals. Without a clear plan, employees are confused and become ineffective – leading to fear, frustration, and a lack of focus. And with every ambiguous strategic plan, trust in leadership erodes. We can’t have faith in a leader who has fuzzy plans or unclear expectations.

How can leaders create a strategic planning framework that builds clarity? One way is to practice quicker planning more often – one hour every 90 days – with a bias for action. While long-term strategic planning can assist certain functions, the world is moving too fast for long-range plans to stay relevant.

Quick Planning: Four Questions

Instead of an annual planning session, try 90-Day Quick Planning (90DQP). It gives leaders and their teams an actionable framework that provides clarity for participants, and leads to tangible results. Simply pick one to three areas of your business you’d like to address, then ask and answer four questions. It should take less than one hour to complete the process, performed every 90 days. I’ve used this same process for my company, for my family, and for losing 50 pounds of weight.

Questions 1: Where are we? If you do not know where you are today, you can’t know where you would like to be in the future. Many leaders like to use SWOT analysis, which is fine – but only give yourself 20 minutes to complete it. Most teams can identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats quickly. For my weight loss, I could easily see that I was 50 pounds overweight.

Question 2: Where are we going? Ask, in 90 days, where would you like to be? Would you like to be back to your high school weight, like I did, or double sales, or reach 100 more customers? Write a clear, quantifiable (numerical) goal of where you want to be.

Question 3: Why are we going? If the why is strong enough, the plan does not need to be perfect. If a building is burning and my kids are in it, I don’t need to know every detail – I’m going in because my why is so strong. When your team has a motivating and unifying why, they’ll do the little things differently. They’ll stay passionate and focused, and they’ll finish. Recently, I was with journalist Larry King, when a friend of mine asked him, “What is your favorite question to ask?” He said that his favorite question is why because “the why” motivates people. He said he can conduct an entire interview by simply asking “Why did you do that?” Why did I want to lose the weight? I wanted to look and feel better. But I realized that I also wanted to have integrity. In my work, I talk about doing the little things that make a big difference. But when I looked in the mirror, I felt like I was not living out that principle in this area of my own life. With a more compelling why, I increased my commitment to my goal.

Question 4: How are we going to get there? Why may be Larry King’s favorite questions, but mine is how?How are we going to get there?

I recently worked with a group of health care executives. After a day of training and consulting, they decided the issue they needed to address most urgently was clarity. Their brilliant minds discussed what they would do to be clearer. Their first answer was: “We will communicate more.” I wondered what exactly that meant. So I asked, how?  They huddled and then responded, “We will hold each accountable.” I’ve heard that before and seen few results, so I asked them again, how? They huddled once again. Finally, they came up with something specific they would do every meeting to build clarity. Keep asking how until your team commits to taking specific actions. If people do not start doing something differently right now, the plan does not matter.

Asking myself how? – over and over – was the key to losing 50 pounds of weight. When it comes to slimming down, everyone knows what to do. Eat less and exercise more. But that wasn’t working for me. I had to ask how? until I could pinpoint something specific that I would do differently. I came up with 15 specific “how’s” that led to me losing 33 pounds in 90 days, and 50 pounds in six months. For example, a doctor told me that most men in America would lose 30 to 50 pounds in a year if they simply would stop drinking their calories (8 oz. of orange juice has 110 calories). So I achieved clarity on how to drink fewer calories by asking myself how until I devised a list of things not to drink – and what to drink instead. I knew that if I picked up a glass of water or Fresca, I could drink it. If the glass contained soda or orange juice, I wouldn’t. I was clear on the how, and so were the results of my efforts.

Instead of laborious strategic planning once a year, try this 90-day challenge. Every 90 days go through the Quick Planning process for three areas of your business. Instead of approaching it skeptically or wanting to fall asleep, your team will find focus, energy, and motivation. With greater clarity around your 90-day plan and vision, you will gain the trust of your team – and bottom-line results will follow.

US Government Default = Global Trust Catastrophe | Trust Tip Tuesday

The world is 10 days from what could be the most catastrophic trust breach of the century. Just like the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, a US financial meltdown would harm the entire global economy, devastating the US lower class and developing world economies. One difference is that the current US debt dwarfs what Lehman Brothers had by 23x.

Trust Tip: Trusted leaders ought to take Warren Buffet’s advice about using the debt ceiling as a weapon for political debates.

‘“It should be like nuclear bombs, basically too horrible to use,” Buffett, 83, said in an interview published by Fortune magazine last week.’

For more, read this.

Apple, Google, Coca-Cola | Most Trusted Global Brands


Apple & Google surpassed Coca-Cola on Monday as the best global brands. Interbrand’s annual findings showed 28% and 34% brand changes for the two tech giants. Coca-Cola’s minor 2% growth was  just enough to keep them in the top 3, after holding the #1 position for 13 straight years.

As the world’s most valuable global brands, consumer votes prove them to be the most trusted as well. How do they do it?

Here are a few tips they’ve used that you can apply right now:

1.) Develop a genuine and attractive mission statement, vision, and values.

2.) Integrate this strategy into what you deliver.

3.) Assure consistency.

4.) Listen to and allow your followers to become part of your brand, while maintaining your core.


Great Places to Work: Trust Index Assessment | The Trust Edge

Recently, Great Places to Work came out with the Global Top 25 places to work list. Companies like SAS Institute, Google, NetApp, Kimberly-Clark, and Microsoft are at the top of the list of the greatest places to work. Although these companies are corporate empires that bring in millions, if not billions, of dollars a year, they have shown that their foundation of success is built on trust, not money, which is the currency of business and life. Trust is what placed them on the Global Top 25 list.  

You don’t have to be a multi-million or billion dollar company to be a trusted organization.

How can you begin to be more trusted? Do you have a clear vision and mission? Google’s mission is simple: Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.  

If you do have a clear vision, are you sharing it every 30 days? If you’re not, your organization doesn’t know it. 

How can you begin to show clarity, compassion, character, competency, commitment, contribution and consistency in your organization and your relationships? It is the little things done consistenly that build trust. Begin by following through on the eight pillars and you will begin to build a stronger bottom line and be on the track to becoming a trusted organization and individual.

Measure the level of trust in your company or organization through the Trust Index Assessment





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The One and Only Way to Rebuild Trust | The Trust Edge

Have you ever been in a situation where you have broken trust? What happens when you need to rebuild trust? How do you get it back? There is only one way to build and regain trust: make and keep your promises.

Several years ago I was talking to a CEO from the Netherlands and I asked him what he thought the biggest difference was between American and Dutch businessmen. His response was direct, but telling. He said, “In America, there is a bunch of lying apologizers.”

It might seem harsh, but he has a point. Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant and Bernard Maydoff — these men have experienced personal or moral failures and offered public apologies. But do we trust them? That depends little on their apology, and much on their willingness to create tangible solutions to fix the problem.

The next step in a sincere apology is to make it right or solve the problem. Stand by the commitments that you have made to rebuild trust. Make promises that you can keep.

Trust is gained by consistent, truthful action over time. 

If you say you’re going to do things and don’t follow through, it may be the first reason why your trust was broken. It doesn’t matter if you’re Lance Armstrong, or BP, or the president of a small company. The one and only way to build and regain trust for yourself, or your organization, is to make and keep your promises. 

Here are a few ways to re-build trust and make sure your actions are lining up with your words:


Take responsibility for your actions. Acknowledge what really happened and that feelings are truly hurt.


Be patient and forgive. Recognize you have been forgiven by others and by God. Forgive yourself and understand that you are not perfect.

Evaluation and Accountability

Look closely at your actions and ask yourself if they line up with your words. If not, make the changes necessary to do so.

Ask a few people you respect — Am I the kind of person you can count on? Without being defensive, take their feedback to heart. Set up accountability for growth.

Don’t just apologize. Deliver results.

Next time you make a mistake (we all do), don’t just apologize. Offer tangible solutions to the problem, and follow through on those solutions, no matter what. Make small promises and keep them.



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5 Presidents, 1 Commonality: Trust | The Trust Edge

Today, April 25, 2013, was a significant day in American history as five presidents came together to honor the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Although these presidents served with different political agendas and ideologies, they all had one thing in common: Trust. Whether it was building or re-building trust with U.S. Citizens each of these men can acknowledge that a lack of trust is your biggest expense.

Whether a president was attempting to build trust with its people after a dip in the economy or rebuilding trust after a public scandal, each president knew that they needed to have their people trust them to be effective in the leadership of the United States.

President Clinton had a breach of trust when he was charged with lying under oath and obstruction of justice in his attempts to cover up his affair with White House Intern, Monica Lewinsky. He also failed to obtain a healthcare reform, and was investigated for his financial dealings. President Carter’s breach of trust came in his inability to handle the 1980 Iran hostage crisis. The mysterious payment of $250,000 from the Libyan government to his brother cost him his re-election. 

Going into office President Bush had success upon success. Because of the events that occurred during his presidency, including the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the Afghanistan and Iraq War, he left office in 2008 with an approval rating of 23%.

President Obama went into office with an economic burden on his shoulders, Republicans at his throat and controversial bills pouring through Congress. At the time of his re-election run his approval rating was at 38%.

So what made the public believe that Clinton’s endorsement of President Obama in the 2012 presidential elections was credible?

Why is it that Carter is now seen as the President who restored balance to the constitutional system after the Water Gate Scandal of Johnson and Nixon?

How is it that President George W. Bush has a 47% approval rating today?

Why is it that at the height of economic discussion President Obama has a 49% approval rating and according to a recent Gallup Poll is the most trusted, with a 57% approval rating, when it comes to handling economic issues?


Clinton proved that over time trust can be restored; it takes patience and consistency and a very sincere apology.

Carter stepped out of the lime-light, and began to contribute to the country and the world through his position as advisor to presidents on the Middle East and human rights issues.  

President Bush refused to respond when verbal assaults were hurled at him. He took responsibility for the events that occurred while in office. He began making huge contributions to American Veteran’s coming home from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars to show them his full appreciation for the heroic deeds and actions taken by the U.S. Military.

President Obama’s approval rating skyrocketed because he has been consistent in his message to the people. Whether or not you agree or disagree with him, among the fighting and bickering of the U.S. Congress, President Obama has connected with the American people and shown that he is competent and capable of making things happen.  

Today is a significant day, because these presidents have proven that:

  1. Trust over time, once deeply rooted and strong, can often withstand many storms and challenges.
  2. Even after trust has been broken, there is still hope, over time trust can be restored and lives enriched, it just takes patience and consistency. 


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DocuSign: Trusted In an Online age | Company of the Month

The online revolution has brought thousands of new helps and efficiencies to the way we work. It has drastically changed the way we do business.  In this online age, reputation moves at the speed of light. Do something wrong, and the public will know about it within minutes. Get it right, and your reputation can skyrocket within a short amount of time.

One of the most innovative technologies that have skyrocketed with in the past decade is DocuSign. This company shows that they are serious about earning the trust of their customers. As the leader in electronic signatures, DocuSign makes certain that their clients have the highest level security, while being able to easily upload and sign a document in a fast and efficient way. In an online age that is full of anonymity, DocuSign gives their clients a reason to feel at ease signing their signature. Why? Because DocuSign has proven in every area of their business that they hold onto the eight pillars of trust: clarity, compassion, character, competency, commitment, connection, contribution, and consistency.

In an online age, having the eight pillars of trust is essential. Here are some applicable ways to make sure that your online presence is trusted:

1. Be Simple and Clear.

2. Be Informative.

3. Make it easy to connect with you.

4. Show real people.

5. Be a member of credible groups and show their logo.

6. Show your history.

7. Use true client testimonials. 

8. Include a FAQ Section.

9. Respond quickly.

10. Confirm it.

11. Keep in touch.

12. Avoid too much advertising.

13. Update often.

14. Have and display a strong privacy policy.

15. Offer a generous return policy. 



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