High performance fuel: Trust and honesty

Jon Shuman

By Jon Shuman
Jon Shuman is leader of the workplace insurance sales team for MassMutual.
Posted on Oct 25, 2017

It’s been said that the only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him. Without trust, it’s very difficult to accomplish much of anything, especially in business.

Trust involves taking a chance, placing our fate in the hands of another or others. When it’s repaid, there is nothing more valuable. But when it’s squandered, it can sometimes be lost forever.

In business, trust is like lubricant for a machine: it helps things run smoother and faster with less friction. Fundamentally, trust is a byproduct of honesty, another fundamental principal of doing business.

Trust and honesty are two of the most important components of high-performing teams. It’s a lack of trust that often holds back good teams from becoming great.

For a team to be successful, every member must be capable and willing to meet his or her individual commitments. These commitments can be both verbal and nonverbal.

Verbally, you want to make it clear to others what you intend to do or deliver. Nonverbally, following through and delivering as promised fulfills your commitment. Together, over time, you build credibility and therefore trust.

Conversely, not following through erodes confidence and, sooner rather than later, creates distrust. If you know you cannot meet a commitment or deadline, for instance, then it’s incumbent upon you to let your teammates know. It’s similarly important not to commit to a task or deadline when you know that you’re unlikely to do so.

Most members of high-performing teams trust each other to do their jobs, complete their assignments and fulfill their roles. It is essential for each team member to understand his or her role, what the expectations are and how to adjust when the plan or circumstances change.

It’s especially important in the voluntary benefits and retirement plans marketplace where multiple professionals come together to assist clients in solving problems. Financial advisors, insurance agents, benefits consultants, third-party administrators, wholesalers, lawyers, accountants, actuaries and others come together in one form or another to help an employer meet workers’ protection and retirement savings needs.

With so many different professionals representing so many different disciplines, the ability to trust one another and work as a team is paramount. No one professional has all of the answers or knowledge needed to get the job done. The only way to accomplish the end goal is for every member of the team to trust that others on the team know what they’re doing and are fulfilling their responsibilities.

Invariably, something will go wrong. It’s teamwork that will ultimately make things right. Teams that trust each other are generally able to make adjustments on the fly, knowing that their teammates will fulfill their assignments and responsibilities.

It does not matter what your role is in an organization. If you are not passionate, engaged and believe in the mission, then your success and your team’s success will be circumstantial rather than causational.

Teams that lack trust tend to blame others as opposed to looking inward at their own shortcomings and opportunities for improvement. It takes an honest appraisal of how things are working, both at the team and the individual levels. The most successful teams have the power to course correct as needed and, ultimately, control their own destiny.

So trust your teammates to fulfill their obligations. Repay their trust in you by fulfilling your responsibilities. On time, every time.


Jon Shuman is leader of Workplace Distribution for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (MassMutual).