Trust, The Essential Glue.

By: William Buist on : 3rd January 2016: Business Design, Business articles, podcast: 6 Comments

Trust is a fickle thing, hard to gain and easy to lose. At it’s got 24 definitions! That highlights something about the whole topic of ‘trust’ – it can mean (many) different things to different people, and that means some may take action that they think is showing trust whilst actually diminishing it.

When we build a business we need deep trust with the people we work with every day. Trust comes from believing in the reliability of each other. It’s built, not just from words, but by how the words, actions, values, and behaviour align, and how consistent that is over time. That last point is vital, trust develops, deepens and matures, and there’s always more.

As Hemingway says the way to build trust with others is to trust them.

We have to make assumptions in Business and it’s wise to recognise them and then test whether they turn out as expected. One such assumption is the trust we show to a new customer or a new supplier. We should all start by assuming that they are trustworthy and test that assumption by the way that they behave in the early interactions.

As an example, if you agree a fee and a payment schedule you should expect that the client intends to meet that schedule, so focus on what you have committed to do, and do it, brilliantly. If, later, they let you down and a payment is late, your trust in their integrity will take a dip, unless they’ve been transparent and made a changed agreement with you in advance. Trust is about transparency. Be as, or more, transparent than you want your client to be.

Another example, You’ve agree a project and a fee. After specification the client seeks changes and expects the fee to remain the same? How is your trust with them now? If you think they deliberately minimised the work at the specification stage in order to expand it later your trust will be washed away, if it’s because they don’t (yet) perceive the impact on you, then it may not. Trust is about good communications. Communicate clearly always.

Great businesses don’t let past experiences colour the trust they show, so a customer who let’s you down won’t adversely affect the next prospect. Great businesses are transparent, and communicate clearly, and they do more. They teach their clients, by word, by deed, by example, how they value trustworthy actions, and what those actions are. Great companies aren’t just great because of what they do, but also because of what they influence others to do.

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6 thoughts on Trust, The Essential Glue.

  • I agree. When we set up NRG Business Networks some 12 years ago we sponsored some academic research at Bath University to understand the key drivers to building relationships in business networking. No surprisingly top of the list was trust!

  • William, Some thoughts on the social economy “Trust is the social glue which binds us in collective action to address social problems. If someone says that they’ve created a stock exchange for social business and in the next sentence declare that this is a broader interpretation of social we understand immediately that deception is intended. Trust is a necessary part of any transaction including the buying and selling of shares. We must ensure therefore that a social stock exchange presents itself honestly. If it positions as trustworthy and is later discovered to benefit a privileged minority, it will destroy trust not only in itself but in all interpretations of a social market. .”

  • The example in your penultimate para.

    In my experience, the majority of situations where the supplier discovers the client has changed their mind after the specification was agreed are down to the supplier failing to adequately (or at all) facilitate their client discovering what the specification actually should be.

    The boot is therefore on the other foot. It’s actually about whether the client can trust the supplier to do their job properly, and usually they would be naive to. Worse, the supplier doesn’t even understand that they can’t do the job properly, hence the inevitable cries of “why does this always happen to me?” when yet another client “proves” “untrustworthy”.

    You say, “Trust is about good communications”. I think this needs out be crisper. Trust is often made more easeful by good communication (but, in the example above, no amount of communication, good or otherwise, would have made a difference because that is not where the problem lies).

    One of the key differentiators of trust from other ways of relating to people is that trust requires one unilaterally and without evidence to think, feel and act in certain ways towards another person which we believe may be risky.

    An attitude of “I’m willing to consider trusting you once I have enough evidence (as determined by my rules) that I will come to no harm if I do” isn’t trust, or even the precursor of it. It is fear of scarcity.

    So I think you really shouldn’t say “We should all start by assuming that they are trustworthy” [or even “We should start by assuming that they are all trustworthy”, which is what I think you mean].

    Shouldn’t it be, “We should start by trusting them”?

    • Thanks Jeremy – we agree, Any failure to properly understand each other’s needs in a supplier/client relationship will lead to a sub-optimal result.

      I like your recognition of the underlying fear at work here, thank you.

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