Reputation vs. Trust

I’ve always thought that the whole notion of reputation was more a Public Relations construct than a management concern. Leaders learn quickly to care about trust from stakeholders and victims.

During my nearly 40 years in reputation, leadership, and organizational recovery, I can’t recall a serious discussion of reputation in a management circumstance by those running the business until just before they were about to lose or see their reputation seriously damaged. In many cases, the reputation issues were raised earlier and forcefully by public affairs, internal communications, and may be later by business operations.

Trust is a powerful management term. I define trust as the absence of fear. I interpret fear to mean the absence of trust. Trust is a management word; trust is a powerful cultural word. Trust is a word that has its counterparts in virtually every culture on the planet, and trust is understood clearly and immediately by just about everybody. Generally, it’s mom who taught us about trust, so we remember.

Trust = Absences of Fear    Fear = Absence of Trust

Chief Executives of troubled organizations don’t lose their jobs because there’s a reputation problem. They lose their jobs because there is a trust problem, a failure to provide the assurance that prevents the fear of serious adverse circumstances. If we’re talking seriously about our relationship with constituents, stakeholders, employees, the public, and anyone who has a stake in our organization for whatever reason, we’re talking about trust.

Trust defines itself. Reputation? We’ll need to call the PR department for the latest definition.

Your mom is watching.