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Column: Minnesotans lose trust in government

MINNEAPOLIS -- There is a deeper issue behind the current government shutdown, and it is not what the general public thinks. As Minnesotans fear for their jobs and families, we see tensions rising and trust plummeting. People are steadily losing confidence in our government.

We are in a crisis. And our biggest crisis is not the financial one. We are in a trust crisis, and people are slow to realize the bottom line implications.

On Aug. 1, 2007, the 35W Bridge collapsed causing chaos and 13 fatalities. We began to wonder if we could trust the Minnesota Department of Transportation. We learned that there had been cracks in the gussets for years and no one had been doing anything about it. When tragedy struck, a commitment had to be made.

Whether it's the 35W Bridge or the Minnesota legislature, trust is the issue. Trust has always been foundational to genuine success of any kind.

However, it has not been labeled as such. People seldom talk about trust as a competency to learn and practice. That is changing. Almost overnight, trust found its way into the public limelight specifically because it has been so hard to find. From massive fraud in business to scandals in politics and athletics, the headlines point to a persistent problem of modern life and business -- we're lacking in trust.

Why do Americans struggle with trusting anyone including the government, corporate America, and even religious entities? It is because we continue to be let down, lied to and misled by leaders around us. There is low accountability and barriers in the process which cause stress, frustration, and in turn, a lack of trust.

Meanwhile, the world is "flattening" in many respects. Cultures are meeting and expanding in ways that weren't possible even a decade ago.

But globalization isn't a free ride. Joining the mega-mergers and open markets are new suspicions and misunderstandings. We can reach across borders, but we don't know how to be trusted by the people we find on the other side. In the 21st century, trust has become the world's most precious resource.

Trust has the ability to accelerate or destroy any relationship, business or industry. The lower the trust, the more time everything takes, the more everything costs, and the lower the loyalty of everyone involved. However, greater trust brings superior innovation, creativity, freedom, morale and productivity.

Little by little, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has regained our trust because of efficiency, speed, and extensive and consistent communication with the public. Though we remember the tragedy, our trust has been restored because of their promise and their delivery on that promise.

If the Minnesota legislature plans to regain trust with their constituents, they must have a goal that is clearly defined and communicated. There needs to be a commitment to doing something different.

Only when promises are kept can trust be built. Rebuilding trust must be the Minnesota government's main priority.

David Horsager is a St. Paul-based business strategist, professor, keynote speaker and author of the upcoming book, "The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line" (Summerside Press, Sept. 2011). Go to