Sharing is the secret to building trust

Published in The Nashville Business Journal

What’s the secret to building trust in business? Sharing.

As my mentor Tom Hennesy taught me, collaboration is key. Being protective and defensive about information can actually erode trust over time, but sharing leverages everyone’s strengths, creating an environment of respect, commitment, support and, most importantly, trust.

This idea crystallized for me as I recalled a time as a young boy when my parents shared with me their budget for new dining room furniture. I really felt important and included — and I immediately wanted to track down a fine set for just the right price. Sharing made me part of the family team.

Unfortunately, many leaders maintain a mindset of sharing “only what they need to know.” In this culture of secrecy, team members wonder: Is something bad going to happen? Are we in trouble? These are the questions that take focus off work, often leading to declining productivity and morale.

Fortunately, the simple act of sharing can build back trust. Here are some examples of how sharing has led to better business at Tractor Supply Co.:

 Sharing for action. Years ago, when I delivered my first comprehensive vision speech to our corporate leaders, I shared information about all the key operating units and how we could work as a team for mutual success. Starting that day, eyes were opened, people started asking questions and action ensued.

• Sharing for camaraderie. At our company, monthly team bonuses are based on sales, so to encourage healthy competition and camaraderie, we post daily sales results in break rooms. It’s obvious how each team is doing and who’s not pulling a fair share. Collaboration and team dynamics are at the heart of every company’s success.

• Sharing with customers. Each year, 200 of our largest merchandise suppliers attend a vendor conference, where we share information about growth, marketing and just about anything we think will help our customers best fit into a winning partnership. I’m convinced that we all win when we work closely together.

You can start today: Pledge to begin sharing important information with your people. As you empower your team members, more decisions will come off your back, while you build a new culture of trust.

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