Lessons from the Trappist Monks

Perhaps more than anything else in business and in life, trust is the foundation for everything we do.  Our careers and businesses are built on trust and without it, it doesn’t matter how intelligent or clever we are as we will not succeed.  That said, attached are some very interesting thoughts on trust in business from the Trappist Monks.  Take a look at this piece in Forbes and see what you think.

The piece is built on the book by August Turak that looks at the many lessons we can learn from the Trappists that could help in business.  Although the piece was written for entrepreneurs, it has a lot of relevance for those working in the corporate world as well.  It is interesting that the first rule has to do with building trust even before you start a business or begin a career.  I would suggest that this could also mean establishing a relationship with physicians or payers even before you try to sell them something.  Nobody likes to do business with a stranger.  I once had dinner with a general manager of a small European country who said he would never want a physician to use his product unless he knew about his company, their mission and the way they think.  That may be a little extreme but there might be a lesson there.

There are a number of points about delivering on your commitments.  Only promise what you can deliver.  Don’t stretch your background during interviews or take credit for the work of others.  People know.  Build your plans on reality.  Call things a stretch when they are a stretch and let your results exceed expectations.  Everything in business is so interconnected and it is critical that others can count on you delivering your share as promised.

I also love the part about communication.  Having worked with a lot of people in the industry it is very evident that some people communicate and some don’t.  Successful people return phone calls, work on networking and are constantly looking for ideas to improve their business.  Others don’t.  It is very interesting that the higher someone is in an organization, the more likely they will be reaching out beyond their companies for help and innovative ideas.  Those who are at lower levels in the organization, who could benefit even more from the help, are the least likely to go beyond their comfort zone.  Communication is key not only for attaining help but also for showing others you care about them.  The monks are quick to point out that through constant communication others will know exactly where you are on your projects and will develop a trust that you are being open about the good and the tougher issues you are facing.

Perhaps the most interesting lesson is the wisdom that comes from people who spend a significant part of their lives, if not all, in isolation from the outside world.  They take the time necessary to look for big ideas and better ways to approach things.  In the crazy world we work in, it might benefit us all to take just a little time to study and think about the bigger issues, such as the role of trust, rather than just plodding ahead making the same mistakes every day.  Might be worth some contemplation!

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