Trust is the Goal

I’d like to talk about TRUST – why it’s important, where it comes from, how to earn it, and how to lose it!

So, what is Trust? According to the Cambridge Business English Dictionary (funny how the word ‘Cambridge’ makes us trust this definition), Trust is ‘the belief that you can depend on someone or something’.  It follows then that the absence of Trust is likely to undermine any relationship, be it between you and your team, or you and your Clients.  On the other hand, if ‘they’ trust you, you’ve at least got a better than even chance that they’ll listen/follow/buy, and so on.

Why does this matter?  Well, as we all know, in recent years many of our most respected companies and institutions have fallen from grace – from Enron to Lehman Brothers, from RBS to The Co-op, and from our Parliamentary representatives to Tesco.  A recent survey by the Forum of Private Business (FPB) found that over three-quarters of respondents think big firms put profits before ethical standards.  As reported by the BBC (itself beset by various scandals in recent years), tax avoidance, treatment of suppliers, and late payment were all areas of concern, the ComRes poll of 2,000 people found.

‘Criticism of the activities of big companies has risen sharply in the last couple of years. Allegations of tax avoidance, deliberately forcing firms out of business, and squeezing suppliers with demands for money, have formed headline news.

‘Last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, joined the debate over business ethics, arguing that big companies should consider how they could better use their powerful positions to support society.’

As we’ve seen, with loss of Trust comes many evils – financial, reputational – down go profits, in comes increased regulation, out go talented employees.


So what is Trust and how can we ensure it is working for us in our business relationships?

Writing in the Guardian, Graham Dietz states: ‘Trustworthiness consists of three main characteristics: technical competence to perform a task reliably (ability), having benign motives (benevolence), and acting according to acceptable ethical principles such as fairness and honesty (integrity). Display these three attributes consistently and credibly, and you will be trusted by all but the most paranoid. Get any of them wrong, and your reputation will suffer. Trust is remade – strengthened or undermined – in every encounter.’

Or, put another way, Jan Carlzon (then CEO of Scandinavian Airlines Systems) wrote a seminal book called Moments of Truth in which he stated that a company must recognise that its only true assets are satisfied Clients, all of whom expect to be treated as individuals and who won’t select them as their airline unless they did just that.

The ‘moment of truth’ for Carlzon was every opportunity to make a difference when in contact with Clients, by and large on the front lines. So – is your organization actively engaged on the front lines? And if (as I hope) the answer is a resounding ‘YES’, then are your Client-facing Teams (and systems) displaying, in every transaction, that technical ability, benevolence, and integrity, that together demonstrate and earn, TRUST in you and your organisation?

In later posts we will consider how INTEGRITY and AUTHENTICITY are understood, created and harnessed in order to develop a virtuous circle of Trust – through happy Teams serving happy Clients.

As a clue, the last five words above are five of the most important in the English language, as far as business is concerned!

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