How Trust Can Empower Your Business

(Episode 1 of 2 with Shalene Gupta)

How Trust Can Empower Your Business
Shalene Gupta is a former Fortune journalist and her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Harvard Business Review, and ESPN.  She is also the co-author of the book, The Power of Trust.

In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss how trust can empower our business. 

Key Takeaways

We will cover the following key takeaways:

  1. Trust is our willingness to be vulnerable to another organization’s or person’s intentions and actions.
  2. We are more likely to trust organizations that are authentic and fair.
  3. Trust is our license to operate.
  4. Trusting our leaders and teams can help us improve our overall performance and success. 
  5. The four elements of trust are confidence, motive, fairness, and impact.

Shalene’s Book: The Power of Trust

Shalene worked at a number of jobs for different industries and organizations, but she often discovered that the big organizations didn’t treat everyone fairly. She’d quit and move to another job, but find the same sort of problems. 

After quitting another job, she decided she wanted to write a novel. Shalene got a job at Harvard Business School where Sandra Fletcher was working on a book about layoffs. They went on a business trip to Japan to do some research for her book and at the end of the trip, Shalene asked, “Do you really want to write a book about layoffs? Or is there something bigger here?” 

“What I loved about Sandra’s work is she also had a body of research about how leaders could be making better and more ethical decisions, and the crux of research on layoff was about how companies can make better decisions than layoffs,” Shalene said. “[But] I was really thinking about how I wished there was a way to combine all of this.”

Sandra agreed and together they ended up revising the book to become The Power of Trust

“[My book has] given me purpose,” Shalene said. “With this book, I feel really passionate. I want people to read about the practices that these companies are on to and to really think about, how do you do a better job of building trust with customers? How do you manage employees? What does it actually mean to be trusted?”

What is Trust?

What is trust? “Trust is our willingness to be vulnerable to another organization’s or person’s intentions and actions,” Shalene said. 

Shalene’s friend once bought eggs from a grocery store in China and when she went home and cracked the egg, it was filled with chemicals. At the time, there was a scandal with a company selling fake eggs and consumers were vulnerable to this decision. 

“All sorts of individuals are deeply vulnerable to organizations because as an individual, there’s not much you can do about that egg until you get some collective action. As an employee, when you sign up to work with a large company, if they fire you or they’re unfair to you, there’s not really much you can do as a single person,” Shalene said. “You are vulnerable and your willingness to engage either as a customer or an employee or investor depends on how willing you are to be vulnerable to that organization.”

When we trust an organization or a brand, we are putting ourselves in a vulnerable position. We are trusting their products and services and their customer care. If we aren’t willing to be vulnerable to them, we likely don’t trust them. 

In addition to vulnerability, authenticity is another big part of trust. We are more likely to trust organizations that are authentic and fair. Do they share honest information? Do they own up to their mistakes? Do they show us behind the scenes? When we are real and honest, it makes it easier for our customers to trust us. 

“[Trust] is basically your license to operate,” Shalene said. “Picture my friend going and buying that egg. Is she ever going to buy an egg from that seller again? Not likely. . . .  The amount of permission that we’re going to give companies to innovate, to try new products, all comes down to how much we trust them.”

Trust is our willingness to be vulnerable_Blog

The Science of Trust 

Trust may be one of the most important things we can do to drive our global and local economies. Shalene participated in a lot of research in the preparation for her book and found that trust can really improve our bottom line. 

A study of the NCAA basketball team found that the single most important element in a team’s performance was how much the team trusted the coach. The team that won the most number of games, had the most trust in their coach, and the team that lost the most during that season, had the least amount of trust in their coach. 

Shalene conducted a follow-up interview with one of the players and he essentially said, “Once we trusted our coach and bought into whatever he was saying, there was no longer hesitation, pushing back, or questioning. We were able to really maximize practice time and work together.”

If we think about that in a business context, we can see that trusting our leaders and teams helps us improve our overall performance and success. There are other studies that show trust in leaders correlates with improvements in revenue as well. Another study even shows that with a 10% increase in trust in the population, there is an increase of 1% in GDP and the economy. 

How to Build Trust 

There are four elements to trust: confidence, motive, fairness, and impact. Confidence is the company’s ability to deliver a product or service that works. Can our customers have confidence that our products will be high quality and provide value? Motive is the reason why we act a certain way. Whose behalf are you working for? Is it for our customers? Or is it for money? 

The next part of trust is fairness. How fair is our company? Do they treat their employees fairly? Do they treat their customers fairly? Do they have good customer service? The final part of trust is impact. “The company is responsible for the impact it has, even if [it’s] unintended,” Shalene said. “Our ability to trust as an individual . . . is based on how those four different elements are going.”

Uber is a great example of a company that has built trust with their customers. Before Uber, customers had to deal with the difficulty of getting a cab. They’d have to run a cab down, unsure if they could get one in time or if they would be charged a fair price. Uber solved this problem. Customers can book a ride online, see the price before they book, and watch the route. This built confidence. The customers’ lives were better because of Uber. This built trust. 

When Uber ran into problems with sexual assualt, they didn’t try to hide the issue or ignore it. They were willing to acknowledge the problem and make an effort to fix it. They actually posted the hard data and owned up to the problem. They also started to work to build more safety features into their company. They had honorable motives. Instead of being motivated by money and saving their company, they were motivated by the safety of their customers. When we have the right motives, our customers’ trust in us will increase. 

As we begin to build on the four elements of trust, our companies will likely find more success. 

Connect with Shalene

Thank you so much Shalene for sharing your stories and insights with us today. To learn more about or connect with Shalene:

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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