IN _______* WE TRUST

It’s a phrase we see all the time – especially on our currency.

It’s not one we always hear in our cubicles, offices, and meeting rooms.

This favorite five-letter word of PR and advertising and communications and branding consultants – trust – has been plumbed and probed through innumerable surveys and opinions.  Most of those polls deal with the outlooks of external constituencies, measuring the barometer of our feelings toward public institutions and officials, toward industries and individuals.

Yet not so much exists about the bond between employees and leaders, and how to establish that trust in the first place. 

Steven Covey talks about the 13 behaviors of a high-trust leader.  Forbes and Fortune columnists opine on the ten (or fewer) signals of executives that showcase trust.  Read them carefully; few words guide new (and old) C-suiters on exactly how to build those relationships.

And yes, relationships drive trust.  We’ve got to know that leaders have our backs, that they’ll do what they say they’re gonna do, and that they be real, or ‘authentic’ (as the current verbiage goes).  That’s a commonly accepted trust platform.

As employees, we’d add more:

  • Ask us what we’d do about the issues if we were in your shoes.  Chances are, we’ve lived them … intimately.
  • Listen.  We don’t always get to dialog with leaders.
  • And talk with our customers.  They, too, can pinpoint challenges and opportunities.

In this world of phone and Internet spying, of data breaches and mining, just make us promises you’ll keep.

*You fill in the blank.


It’s time to get the hook.

Here’s a life truth:  Sitting through interminable awards show thank-yous is part of live television.  Wouldn’t it be great if every actor could simply say, like Sally Fields:  “You like me”?  Comedians, long ago, used to signal an end through the finger across the throat sign or, yes, the brandishing of an actual hook on a long-handled cane.

Today, there’s another recourse to the on-and-on-and-on again droning that serves for gratitude:  Turn off the TV (or computer, if you’re streaming it).

Thanks is a funny thing, though.  When we’re not on stage, it’s a courtesy not necessarily included in everyone’s roles and responsibilities.  Often, when we do receive a gracias, it’s a) through email, b) insincerely, c) quickly emoted in person, and/or d) not at all.  All of these, in most circumstances, deserve a re-think of the thanks.

What’s wrong with an email?  When well crafted and sincere, it’s a thing of beauty.  But why not put those same sentiments into something more tangible, like a note, addressed to business or home, with a 50-cent stamp (which is what US stamps will cost by the time this blog is issued!)? 

We could say the same things about verbal thanks.  Sure, it’s okay.  But not memorable.  And if a staffer or peer or other colleague has gone out of the way to deliver, why not hand write your thanks?

The hook, in our opinion, goes to those who either “forget” common gratefulness, who just can’t be authentic – or are way too busy to send anything more than a perfunctory “it was nice of you.”  That happens way too often. 

Many forgive the sender.  We don’t.  Whatever happened to mutual respect, appreciation, value, a give and take relationship?  Mercy.


The power of visuals is certainly a philosophy we heartily endorse (it’s a common subject of this blog).  After all, statistics demonstrate that illustrations and design are much more likely than text alone to be remembered – and retained.  [So what if the ad industry was behind the research?] It’s clear, in our multi-channel intersected beings, that pictures enhance and expand our worlds, and help us make our messages even more meaningful.

So recent news about the popularity of graphic novels and other pictorial applications delighted – and surprised. 

In education, for instance, pictorial versions of classics and moderns – like Capote’s In True Blood – go hand in hand with the actual text to build comprehension, develop critical thinking skills, and engage unmotivated readers.  And it’s not just used in low-performing institutions; one high-achieving school  here in Illinois actively promotes the use of graphic novels … not only in literature, but also in math, science, biography, and other subjects.  [Of course, such apps follow some pretty rigorous validation before being incorporated in the curriculum.]  No wonder that sales of graphic books over the past decade have increased 40 percent.

On the other hand, comix as serious corporate fare encounter different fates.  Conglomerate Loews (a holding company with a diverse portfolio), for example, recently issued its 2012 annual  report … in the cartoon form of The Adventures of Lotta Value, Investment Hunter!  It’s a good try, in 13 pages, to convince today’s investors of the company’s value.

But, sad to say, it doesn’t work as well as it could.  Why?  Disregard the quality of the illustrations (which are good); instead, focus on the story.  The plot is contrived … and the language, occasionally in corporate speak.  The heroine just doesn’t elicit much empathy.  

Authenticity, in short.   Do we learn from our perusals?  Sorta.  Have we produced similar tactics?  Sure, with visuals and words that work hard for a purpose.  This time, though, the message clearly doesn’t paint a clear and compelling picture.


Clichés aside, fired IRS Commissioner Steven Miller got our goat – or, more precisely, stuck in our craw.

Though he apologized for the mistakes made by others, he never admitted culpability or said “I’m sorry” for the Tea Party targeting.  You could say that Attitude is endemic among Washington’s elite.  Or that accountability simply isn’t a politician’s strong suit.

In our perspective?  Wrong-wrong-wrong.  Today, apologies and regrets have become a matter of fact, issued for actions as trivial as forgetting to put down the toilet seat (heard that one before?) or behaviors as egregious as lying and cheating.  Think:

  • How often do you say “sorry” automatically for missing a meeting, forgetting to RSVP, or delivering a work product later than expected?
  • What’s your tone of voice when you apologize?
  • Why do you give your regrets … because it’s the right thing to do; someone’s expecting it; or, by saying it, you get what you want?

We could blame the Greeks for these wrongful apologies, since the word’s origin means “verbal defense.”  Often, when an “I’m sorry” is offered, it’s done more from a position of power and control.  Psychologists tell us that offenders do maintain their ego positions from an insincere sorry-sorry, even a non-apology. 

Which is the problem.  Apologies do carry an immense forgiveness factor, one that is immediately suspect when inauthenticity lurks.  That lack of genuineness in apologies might be attributed to our general 24/7 states of being, by the reign of non-accountability, or, simply, by no training in Manners 101.

How much easier to live in the 1930s, with a servant who expresses regrets for his mistress … in song.