#218 – Integrity Idea 047: Be Trustworthy

Integrity Ideas are specific actions a leader can consider during the Re-Align step of Integriosity®–actions that will begin to Re-Align the organization with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.  You can find more Integrity Ideas at Integrous | Integrity Ideas (integriosity.com)

Integrity Ideas are practical actions toward implementing a bigger WHY for the organization.  We believe some are critical (and necessary) steps in the RENEW/RE-ALIGN/RE-IMAGINE/RESTORE process.  Others are just ideas to be considered if they feel like a good fit based on what leaders prayerfully discern is best for stewarding the organization toward its WHY.

“Be Trustworthy” falls into the “necessary” category–not only because trust is essential for efficient commerce, customer loyalty, healthy relationships, and a cohesive community, but because keeping promises and telling the truth are not optional for an organization pursuing faithful integrity through business a better way in alignment with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.

INTEGRITY IDEA: Be Trustworthy

Americans’ trust in institutions, including businesses, has declined.  “Be Trustworthy” is about putting in place policies and practices to ensure that the organization’s stakeholders feel they can trust the organization and its people.

It recognizes that pursuing a bigger WHY of Humanizing People, Beautifying the World and Glorifying God requires cultivating an organizational culture of integrity that prioritizes dependability, honesty and transparency.

It also recognizes the importance to business a better way of doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons, and emphasizing a “Should We” rather than a “Can We” organizational culture.

For a faithful leader seeking to lead with faithful integrity, “Be Trustworthy” reflects Imago Dei, recognizes that people deserve to be treated with dignity, prioritizes relationships, and embodies the Golden Rule and the command to love your neighbor as God loves you.

A faithful leader committed to implementing “Be Trustworthy” will face challenges that require the utmost trust in God’s trustworthiness.

Trust is Declining

The American Institutional Confidence (AIC) Poll measures confidence in institutions and support for democracy in the United States.  As this chart shows, between 2028 and 2021, Americans’ confidence in institutions declined across the board, including confidence in businesses and nonprofits.

Similarly, Gallup reports that the percentage of people expressing “Great deal/Quite a lot” of confidence has dropped between 2021 and 2023 from 70% to 65% for small businesses, from 29% to 26% for large technology companies, from 18% to 14% for big business, and from 33% to 26% for banks.

Importance of Trust to Business

We believe efficient commerce, customer loyalty, healthy relationships, and a cohesive community require trust. A 2019 Forbes article titled “The Trust Crisis in Business” noted:

A lack of trust is a significant threat to an organization’s ability to grow, according to more than half of the CEOs surveyed by PwC in 2016.

In 2023, the Edelman Trust Barometer issued a special report that included the following observations, among others:

Seventy-one percent of people say that it is more important to trust the brands they buy/use today than in the past. 

When consumers trust a brand, they are more likely to purchase its products (59 percent) and stay loyal to and advocate for the brand (67 percent).

Seventy-nine percent of Gen Z say it is more important to trust the brands they buy or use today than it was in the past – the highest of any generation.

According to consumers who directly engage with brands, these interactions show them whether they can trust a brand to be competent (70 percent), ethical (60 percent), and relevant (59 percent).

Consumers say that brands’ attempts to engage with them often go wrong when they lack relevance (76 percent) or authenticity (51 percent).

While it may be obvious that trust is important to customers, it is also important to employees.  In a Harvard Business Review article titled “The Neuroscience of Trust“, author Paul Zak reports astonishing results from his research on the impact of trust on employees:

Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.

Importance of Trustworthiness to Leading Faithfully

Stephen Covey wrote:

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.

To understand what it means to be “trustworthy”, we can look to a source that has been around for many years and places “trustworthiness” as its highest principle–the Scout Law (formerly the Boy Scout Law).  A Scout is called to be “Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent“.  “Trustworthy” is defined as “Tell the truth and keep promises. People can depend on you.

We believe leading faithfully through business a better way toward Biblical flourishing requires cultivating an organizational culture of integrity that prioritizes dependability, honesty and transparency.  Such a culture:

• Reflects Imago Dei and Humanizes People because God is trustworthy, which means people are more fully human when they are encouraged to be, and rewarded for being, trustworthy by keeping promises and telling the truth.  Consider the following verses about God’s trustworthiness:

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19)

The law of the Lord is perfect . . . the testimony of the Lord is sure. (Psalm 19:7)

In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. (Psalm 22:4-5)

• Reflects Imago Dei because telling the truth and keeping promises treats people with dignity and prioritizes relationships.

• Beautifies the World and embodies the Golden Rule and the commandment to love your neighbor because customers value and employees thrive in high-trust organizations.

• Glorifies God by aligning with Biblical calls for honesty and dependability.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor. (Ephesians 4:25)

You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. (Leviticus 19:11)

You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin. (Leviticus 19:35)

But whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. (1 John 2:5)

You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth. (Deuteronomy 23:23)

• Reinforces to employees the organization’s commitment to doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons, and its commitment to a “Should We” rather than a “Can We” organizational culture.

Trust is fragile.  It is easily lost and, once lost, difficult to restore.  Even worse, when someone professes a Biblical faith and fails to “Be Trustworthy”, their hypocrisy reflects to the world an inaccurate and unglorifying image of God.

CONTINUUM: Practices

The Integriosity model organizes “heart change” along six Covert-Overt Continuums.  There is nothing magic about these categories, but we believe they are helpful in thinking about practical execution of a Re-Imagined Purpose, Re-Imagined Values and a Re-Imagined Culture.  The Continuums are Prayer, Proclamation, Policies, Practices, Products, People.

Each Continuum represents an area in which leaders can begin to think about, plan and institute Re-Alignment changes to the heart of the organization.

“Be Trustworthy” is on the Practices Continuum. It involves establishing practices that build and maintain trust in the organization by its various stakeholders.

COVERT-OVERT RATING: Highly Covert

The Integriosity model breaks the Covert-Overt Continuums into six gradations–from Highly Covert to Highly Overt–that we believe are helpful in beginning to pray and think about what is most appropriate for an organization at a particular moment in time.

Most Integrity Ideas will have one place on the scale.  Some can vary depending on how they are implemented.  “Be Trustworthy” is Highly Covert (an action that would be taken by a secular company) because even a secular organization benefits from being trusted by its employees, customers, suppliers, owners and community, and will suffer if that trust is eroded.

“Be Trustworthy” can also be Overt (An overtly faith-based action known generally within the organization) if the faithful leader chooses to explain the practices in terms of the organization’s WHY and Biblical beliefs, principles or priorities, such as Imago Dei, the commandment to love your neighbor and the call to work for God’s glory.

STAKEHOLDERS SERVED: Employees, Customers/Clients, Owners, Suppliers/Vendors, Community, Kingdom

When we categorize faith-based actions, we also consider the stakeholders principally impacted by the action: Employees, Customers/Clients, Owners, Suppliers/Vendors, Community and Kingdom.

“Be Trustworthy” serves all stakeholders because trust is essential for efficient commerce and healthy relationships.

Trust is the glue of life. (Stephen Covey)

IMPLEMENTATION

“Be Trustworthy” seems like an obvious way to behave.  The Scout Law seems simple enough: “Tell the truth and keep promises. People can depend on you.” But Zhao Xiao observes:

Integrity is the cornerstone of the market economy, but establishing a good cornerstone is no simple matter.

The Challenges of Implementing “Be Trustworthy”

“Be Trustworthy” can get complicated in a broken world.

One challenge to implementing “Be Trustworthy” is the pressure of the world to conform to business as usualBusiness as usual is built on assumptions of Scarcity and Self-Interest, both of which exert pressure to shift “Be Trustworthy” from “because it’s the right thing to do” to “if it is in our interest.”

For example, an organization engaged in business as usual might read about how trust increases employee engagement (which leads to higher productivity) and try to build a high-trust culture to increase productivity.  They might be doing the right thing and might even go about doing it in the right way, but they are not doing it for the right reasons.  The “heart” is still Profit as Purpose, which means “Be Trustworthy” is likely to go only as far as is necessary to achieve the desired result and only as long as the desired result (increased productivity) is being achieved.  Business a better way demands more.

As we have described in prior posts, a “Can We” organizational culture is one in which ends justify means and ethics or the law are seen as the only boundaries (or even obstacles) in the pursuit of the organization’s purpose.  When faced with a choice, people are explicitly or implicitly rewarded for asking Can We choose the alternative that most aligns with a WHY of Profit as Purpose.

Ken Eldred has observed:

Amorality is becoming more and more the predominant moral foundation in the Western world today. The question is not whether something is right or wrong but whether it’s legal or illegal.

Business as usual and a “Can We” culture does not do “Be Trustworthy” well because promises are viewed as purely economic arrangements that can be dishonored if “the price is right”, and marketing is about persuasion where “tell the truth” morphs into “just don’t say anything false”.

Business a better way in alignment with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities requires cultivating a “Should We” culture in which people are explicitly or implicitly encouraged to ask things like:

• Are we honoring the spirit of our promises?

• Are we honoring what our stakeholder reasonably believed was our promise?

• Are we misleading stakeholders in our communications, either by overstating or omitting the truth?

• Is the way we are honoring our promises and communicating with stakeholders doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons?

• Is the way we are honoring our promises and communicating with stakeholders consistent with what we say we stand for and who we say we are?

Implementing “Be Trustworthy” is also challenging because it requires telling the truth and keeping promises whether or not legally required to do so and even if it is costly or inconvenient while competing in a business as usual world.

The difficulties and practicalities of implementing “Be Trustworthy” are captured by a quote from François VI de la Rochefoucault:

We promise according to our hopes and perform according to our fears.

In order for an organization to implement “Be Trustworthy” and earn the trust of its stakeholders, its leaders must overcome fears and the pressure of the world to confirm by trusting in God. Earning trust requires trusting.

The Bible is pretty clear about the importance of trust in God:

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. (Isaiah 26:4)

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. (Jeremiah 17:7)

He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. (2 Kings 18:5)

A faithful leader of an organization committed to implementing “Be Trustworthy” will face challenges that require the utmost trust in God’s sovereignty and trust in God’s commands. In a quote we have used many times, James Hunter warns:

To enact a vision of human flourishing based in the qualities of life that Jesus modeled will invariably challenge the given structures of the social order. In this light, there is no true leadership without putting at risk one’s time, wealth, reputation, and position.

Although these challenges may come in the form of human resistance and resistance from worldly systems, the Bible tells us that these challenges are spiritual:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  (Ephesians 6:12)

Back in post #091 (Trust in God), we identified these challenges as resistance, dilemmas and risks.  Implementing “Be Trustworthy” in the face of resistance, dilemmas and risks requires faith, and faith requires trust in God.  Turning to the writing of Dr. Skip Moen:

Faith is my active attitude of total reliance on God’s absolute trustworthiness.  That means that my “faith” is demonstrated in the action of putting myself in His care, no matter what the circumstances!  Until and unless I act on His reliability, I just don’t have faith.  I might have a set of written beliefs that I can recite, but I won’t have any active relationship.  Faith is only found in the action, not the declaration. . . . If faith is the action of trusting Him, then I either act or I don’t act.  I either trust Him, or I try my own way.  There is no half-full measure here.

Some Practical Tips for Implementing “Be Trustworthy”

As with most Integrity Ideas, implementation must start with faithful leaders undertaking an honest assessment of the organization’s current culture and then prayerfully discerning areas of improvement.

• What are the explicit promises (e.g., pledges, commitments and agreements) and implicit promises (e.g., our product or service will be excellent) the organization makes to its stakeholders and is it keeping them?

• Is it a culture that encourages and rewards keeping promises and telling the truth because they are the right thing to do and not merely when they seem beneficial?

• Are the organization’s employees empowered to keep its promises to stakeholders and supported when they do?

• Does the organization have in place policies and practices to encourage and ensure honesty and transparency in its internal and external communications?  Does it have policies and practices that discourage such honesty and transparency?

In two prior Integrity Idea posts, we explored specific ideas at the core of “Be Trustworthy” that would be a good starting point:

#177–Integrity Idea 026: Keep Your Word: cultivating an organizational culture that prioritizes keeping its promises, fulfilling its contracts and honoring its commitments, whether or not legally required to do so and even if it is costly or inconvenient.

#194–Integrity Idea 033: Provide Plain Pricing: providing customers with transparent and honest information about the price of the organization’s products and services.

In implementing “Be Trustworthy”, it is important to remember that small things matter, and your stakeholders are watching.  Luke 16:10 counsels:

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): Choosing a personal reflection for “Be Trustworthy” was actually challenging.

I wanted to rant (again) about the untrustworthiness of large organizations that have casually delayed the start dates for employment, and even rescinded offers of employment, for recent college graduates.  Young people had made plans based on commitments from large organizations.  They had interviewed, assessed opportunities, selected an employer based on a promise, and then declined other opportunities based on that promise. “Be Trustworthy” would negatively impact the bottom line, and the leaders of these organizations asked “Can We?”  “Can We” shift the burden of our commitment to the students?  You can read more about that rant in post #177–Integrity Idea 026: Keep Your Word.

I also considered sharing about all times I have heard people say that some of their worst business experiences have been dealing with people who openly profess a committed Biblical faith.

Instead, I will just mention how the Scout Law has been ingrained on my brain.  I am an Eagle Scout, but I left scouting almost 50 years ago.  I can still recite the Scout Law as easily and quickly as I can recite the ingredients of a Big Mac. (Remember the jingle?  If not, click the video link below).  I can only hope I am more reflective of the Scout Law than all the Big Macs I have eaten.

ESSENCE:  Integrity Ideas are specific practical actions a faithful leader can consider in leading faithfully through business a better way.

INTEGRITY IDEA: Be Trustworthy

COVERT-OVERT CONTINUUM (six Continuums for action):  Practices

COVERT-OVERT RATING (several levels from Highly Covert to Highly Overt): Highly Covert

STAKEHOLDERS SERVED: Employees, Customers/Clients, Owners, Suppliers/Vendors, Community, Kingdom

Americans’ trust in institutions, including businesses, has declined.  “Be Trustworthy” is about putting in place policies and practices to ensure that the organization’s stakeholders feel they can trust the organization and its people.  It recognizes that trust is essential for efficient commerce, customer loyalty, healthy relationships, and a cohesive community and that pursuing a bigger WHY of Humanizing People, Beautifying the World and Glorifying God requires cultivating an organizational culture of integrity that prioritizes dependability, honesty and transparency. It also recognizes the importance to business a better way of doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons, and emphasizing a “Should We” rather than a “Can We” organizational culture. Keeping promises and telling the truth are not optional for an organization aligned with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities. For a faithful leader seeking to lead with faithful integrity, “Be Trustworthy” reflects Imago Dei, recognizes that people deserve to be treated with dignity, prioritizes relationships, and embodies the Golden Rule and the command to love your neighbor as God loves you. A faithful leader committed to implementing “Be Trustworthy” will face challenges that require the utmost trust in God’s trustworthiness.

Big Mac Jingle

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