Trust, The Essential Glue


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.



William Buist is MD of Abelard Management Services, which specialises in developments in the Societal Web.

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