Trust is a word that keeps on coming up, everywhere.
Increasingly in a complicated world we are looking for those we can trust, to do business with, to have as friends, or just to share a cup of coffee.
I have just completed a project of chain re-engineering that did not deliver all the hoped for outcomes, but during the debrief process, the word “trust” and its foundations that in this case proved to be a bit fragile, loomed large. Similarly, a friend of mine is selling her house, retiring to the south coast, and she appointed an agent from a small number in her local area, and as it happens, one of the unsuccessful bidders was also a friend of mine, someone who I would get to sell my house, when the time is right, because I trust her.
Got me thinking about the components of trust.
It seems there are four headline components, which is good for me as a consultant, as I can conjure up a quadrant and deliver it as a deep intellectual exercise. However, the reality is that it is common sense, just like most consultants quadrants, but common sense that paints a picture, that delivers a perspective, and makes you think.
- Engagement. You do not trust those with whom you have no experience, who have not earned that trust. You may think they are trustworthy, but would you confide your pin number to them?, there is a difference. Engagement of the type that generates trust happens over time, is a two way process shared equally by both parties, and is devoid of ambiguity and hidden agendas.
- Integrity. It becomes clear over time that the positive behaviour that builds trust is not just for the benefit of the chosen few, but is based on a “personal code” of some sort that extends to those not closely engaged. The individual or enterprise concerned consistently puts the interests of those with whom it interacts above its own short term interests, and it acts the same way to everybody, irrespective of their status. They “walk the talk,” always.
- Operational excellence. This sounds business-like, but is just as applicable to individuals. Summed up it simply means that they never over-promise and under-deliver, what you get is what you saw and at least what you expected, but usually is more than you could have reasonably hoped for.
- Fit for purpose. The product or service is the right one for the purpose for which it has been delivered, and there has been an effort to ensure that the purpose has been defined sufficiently by both parties to ensure that the product was the right one for the circumstances.
Back to my chain exercise. When I look at it dispassionately, the parties had insufficient opportunity and incentive to build the trust in each other that was necessary. Individually, they trusted me, as I knew them all, spent considerable time articulating the process, and have a history with several, but they did not know each other well enough to offer the real trust we were looking for.
And to my two friends who did not do business. The house seller went with an alternative that offered an up front incentive, it seemed to reduce the cost of selling. When the process is over, her house of 30 years which is the only substantial asset she owns has been sold, I suspect she will wonder if the agent delivered her a buyer that just made his life easy, a cut price, quick and easy sale that delivered him an easy commission, in return for the added costs he incurred up front, all wrapped up in the clichés of the real estate agent. Had she trusted my agent friend, it is quite possible that she would have delivered them a buyer, just the right buyer who wanted the house because of what it was, not because the price was great, the cash benefit of which would have been to dwarf the up front saving that was made.
During the research for this post I put “trust” into several dictionaries, and the options for a definition are many and varied, according to the context. No wonder we have difficulty.