Trust, integrity and your personal brand

This soapbox moment, like all others has its origins in what happens around us and to us and just seems to upset the apple cart for the wrong reasons.

This article is about our innermost desire to trust and be trusted. It’s about integrity and the behaviours taking place that silently destroy one of our most prized desires – to trust and be trusted.

It’s such a simple word, but a very complex element to understand and appreciate. At its core, trust is umbilically linked to your integrity and linked to your personal brand.

 

The power of the brand

Why is it that we are so brand aware when it comes to products and the organisations that bring them to us? Because our perception is that the brand can be trusted to deliver on what our expectations are. This can be quality, value for money, reliability or any number of things that we individually align and resonate with.

brand sealIt’s about trusting that the brand can deliver on what has been promised. As a result this shapes our perception of the brand, drives our decisions to align with it, embrace it and ultimately purchase and remain loyal to the brand.

But what happens when that trust takes a knock because what we once trusted in has failed to deliver, or has done something that makes us feel betrayed or deceived. Take Volkswagen with the recent emissions scandal – they totally betrayed the trust of so many and now it’s almost impossible to believe anything they say. The brand has been seriously damaged.


How would you respond to brand betrayal?


There are so many other examples such as Lance Armstrong or Olympic Paralympian Oscar Pistorius that slam home the reality of destroying the respect, the trust, the admiration of millions of people who they once gave hope and inspiration to, and the damage it now does to place our trust in any other high profile icon in the future.

Then there are the countless examples where we have been personally disrespected by people who represent a brand that once made us feel important, significant and respected, and now let us down through something that they are doing differently and changed the dynamics of the perception of a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship.

What if the brand we aligned with and embraced – because it felt like a mutually respecting relationship – now suddenly does things that make us feel disrespected, unimportant or insults us? How would we respond to this form of brand betrayal?

 

YOU Inc

Your-brandBut how does this relate to you, your brand and every other personal brand you interact with every day? Let’s swing the more corporate examples of brands just discussed, and put them on you as “YOU Inc.” – yes you!

If we feel the way we do about corporate brands, then why do we take a different approach to our own brand? Why do we do things that in the corporate environment would spell disaster and see heads roll? After all, both are based on the same underpinning principles – trust and integrity.

You may not think of yourself as a brand in the commercial sense, but every day you are out there showcasing yourself in one way or another. What you say, how you behave and what you do are all part of your personal brand whether you agree with it or not, and whether you like it or not.

 

So – onto the Soapbox

SoapboxIt has happened in the past, but for some reason the first month of a new year exposed me to something I don’t like, and this time it really scratched me more than usual.

It’s something that I feel is slipping into a downward spiral when it comes to the low value people are placing on trust and integrity, and in the process failing to see the damage they are doing to their own personal brand, let alone the damage to others they interact with.

Now it’s time for my personal offload. To those of you who have failed your personal brand by negatively impacting my perception and image of your professionalism, integrity and trustworthiness and my once held perception that we had a mutual respect – Thank you for the disappointment.

Thank you for the box full of emotions that would be in poor taste to list here. Thank you for disrespecting the opinion I once held of you, and through your lackadaisical disregard to show mutual respect, has either damaged or destroyed that opinion I once held of you.

Perhaps you have no idea what I am referring to, have no clue that you have aggrieved me this way – after all, this is the norm, this is how people flippantly conduct themselves these days.

If you read on there are clues to what has scratched me, and I hope that through this Soapbox platform I can reveal at least a small glimmer of something you have either forgotten exists, are oblivious to it in the first place, or simply could care less about anyway. Either way I hope to give an inside view of something that through awareness can bring about a noble change and help you avoid doing things that damage your personal brand.

 

S0 …. stepping off the Soapbox platform

The delicate interplays that make up trust never go away. When you abuse, violate or betray any form of trust that another holds in you, it always leaves an impact and extracts a toll – on you. You just may never know until it shows up later, bigger , badder and madder.

I have always remembered a bit of gutter wisdom once shared with me; “Remember that the toes you are stepping on today – might just be supporting the backside you have to kiss tomorrow.”

Its essence still rings true. You never know going forward how those you have treated in a flippant manner (regardless of your excuses, reason or circumstances) will probably be those you need to turn to for something.


Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. Oprah Winfrey


For those of you who feel that you are not included in this soapbox moment because you do not know me and therefore could not have been a contributor to my soapbox mood – you’re not off the hook.

Stop and reflect on how you may have said and done things without considering whether it affected trust and integrity because you just casually say and do things as part of your habits, or always find excuses for not getting around to following through with other people.


Nothing builds or devastates the human soul as much as trust


The most cherished, uplifting and destructive expectation we have is trust. There is nothing that devastates the human soul as much as trust that has been treated frivolously, betrayed or violated.

Don’t tell me you will get back to me when you have no intention of doing that. It’s a lie, deceptive, and will alter my perception of your integrity – and brand.

Don’t tell me you will resolve an issue when you know you cannot. You will come up short on delivering, establish a failed expectations, and change my perspective of you.

Don’t give me an undertaking to do something and then fail to do it. If I have to call you back to remind you, the damage has already been done – after all, you gave the undertaking and then did not make good on it.

Do not engage me with a false message to get a meeting when you know that your ultimate agenda is a totally different one than what you have communicated. Again – it’s a lie and deceptive.

Do not text me that you are busy in a meeting and will get back to me, or have your assistant convey the message – and then you just don’t get back to me! Its the same as any other failed undertaking that will send a message about your integrity.

Trust is the most difficult thing for us to give, and almost impossible to repair when broken. It is in play every day. It never leaves the playing field, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s at a family level, intimate relationships, friendships, with co-workers, in business dealings, or what society leaders promise – and it has an uncanny ability to uplift or destroy. It can either work for you, or slowly poison your life and efforts. How it works for you is entirely in your own hands.


When trust is violated – well, its game over


Here is a summary of the impact around trust. When trust is intact, it can align, inspire and focus even the most disparate parties. When there is no trust, then no collaboration, buy-in or alignment is going to happen. When trust is violated – well, its game over!

The blatant disregard for how trust and integrity fits into our personal and work life seems to be increasing every day. The examples I have witnessed and been on the receiving end of simply dumbfound me.

The amount of people who fail to follow through after they have told you they would, or undertake to do something, and then don’t is downright frustrating. It’s disappointing. Why? – because we believe and trust that others will hold true to their word and expressed intention. We trust them and then they let us down.

We build our expectations on what others say or express to us. Our emotions are linked to our expectations and so are the perceptions we form. If ever you wanted to tamper with something volatile, then tamper with this inter-twined trio.

Related article: The Power of Expectations

Cutting through all the different reasons, excuses and opinions, this is nothing less than disrespecting another person – the reason is because they have put something valuable into play – trust – and you treated it like and old rag. Century long feuds and wars can find their origins in disrespecting another.


Just because it isn’t visible, does not mean it doesn’t exist


When you fail to follow through on trust and integrity matters you are probably oblivious to the unseen damage you are causing. Just because it isn’t visible does not mean it doesn’t exist.

If you state that you are going to get back to someone – do it. If you undertake to do something for someone – do it. The price you will definitely pay is one that you don’t see right now – but it will cost you down the line. Rather say nothing if you have no genuine conviction or commitment to actually follow through.

 

So where does part of the problem lie – why does this occur ?

Here’s one point to consider. There is a prevailing trend to casually alter the meaning of words to mean something else other than what they originally, and actually meant. Its a form of self-inflicted confusion, and a bit like modifying a compass so that it still shows North, when in fact it is really pointing West.

Think about this. When you alter the compass (like you alter the associated meaning of words we use to define our universe) and then ignore that its true purpose is to guide you using the foundational reference of North, it alters and flaws your perception of reality and sends you down the wrong road while you wholeheartedly believe you are heading in the right direction.

We are bombarded by examples where honour is offhandedly reduced to expressions of “whatever”, to a point where trust is now treated like a worthless annoyance that gets in the way of self-serving agendas – well, until you are on the receiving end and others violate your trust.

“Whatever” is the new version of sticking your head in the sand and pretending that what you are doing has no cost, no penalty, no consequence. Here is the bad news – there is always a price to pay for everything – even when your head is in the sand.

 

Parting shot

What are you doing and saying that is opposite to what you really mean, and that you are communicating without realising that someone is actually expecting you to follow through on it?

Are you casually giving an undertaking or commitment without knowing that you are simply using it as a figure of speech? “Hey – let’s get together, I’ll call you” is a common parting comment – but it has no substance or intention behind it. It no longer means what it really means, and therefore never gets packed into your bucket of commitments.

Unfortunately those on the other side of your empty intentions,misguided promises or ulterior motives will still interpret what you are saying for what it’s actual meaning represents, and they will build an expectation on it. Once the expectation you have created is in play, it will come packaged with trust, integrity and an impact on you as a brand.

So ask yourself this …..

How is your brand really doing?

 

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About the Author : Steve Vanstraaten


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