Benjamin Franklin once said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” Volkswagen, the world’s largest car maker, found that out this week. Their stock price has plunged by at least 20% on the news that they found a way to fake good results for emissions testing in their diesel cars.
No word yet on why they did it or what they hoped to accomplish. Clearly this wasn’t well thought out. It’s a disaster for the company. The actions of several individuals who approved of this form of cheating have damaged the reputation and value of a firm that has been, until now, held in high regard.
It’s just another reminder – as if we need one in this world – of how easy it is to lose trust. In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey argues that isn’t just about character. Sure, character is important and essential: if our personal honesty and integrity is compromised it can cause a lack of trust. But trust is also a function of competence: your capabilities, skills, results and track record. What you do is important. Your actions matter.
The Psalmist Asaph wrote this about King David:
So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart,
And guided them by the skillfulness of his hands. (Psalm 78:72)
David was far from perfect. His sins and shortcomings are in prominent view throughout Scripture. But he understood that his leadership depended on both his heart condition and his actions. As we share life with others we need to keep watch over our integrity. But we also need to ensure that our actions are helpful and don’t bring harm.
It’s easy to lose the trust of others. I’ve done it many times. You have too. More often than not it has been a result of our actions or lack of action. We need to think about our behaviours and how they affect others. Are we building trust through our conduct or are we harming our reputation? The heart and the hand go together in building a legacy.