Exploring the Many Aspects of Trust


Our executive team has been talking about trust and being a “trusted partner” a lot lately. Trust is ethereal. It’s intangible but being able to trust someone—a spouse, a friend, or a business partner—seems substantive, almost spiritual. Trust carries weight and significance, and consequence.

Trust between organizations is complex. It begins with a one-to-one relationship between key individuals. The trust they create then works like a flywheel, creating momentum and building broader trust between the two organizations. From there, every interaction between the client and Austin either accelerates that flywheel or slows it. In other words, the trust between a client and Austin grows or diminishes.

It has been said that the sales process starts the flywheel in motion. It is the character of the salesperson representing Austin that creates alignment with our client’s needs, opens communication, and builds a sense of reliability. This foundation gets the flywheel moving. It is what creates trust.

The larger the organization, the more flywheels there are to maintain. Each flywheel represents a different trust relationship – trust between client and suppliers, for instance. Each one must be maintained and serviced, or it slows down. These flywheels are connected, so they will slow if trust at any level of our relationship with our client is violated. Logically it follows that these flywheels will speed up and create more momentum when the keepers of the flywheels are engaging and collaborating well. Trust is high, and the relationship is strong.

In the complex relationships between companies doing business together, there will always be developments that slow the flywheel. People are not perfect. Competing influences can sometimes require compromises with a client. It’s at these times that the trust you’ve built —the momentum in the flywheel—can overcome an application of friction. It is up to the keepers of the flywheel to maintain the momentum.

One of the most common events that slows a flywheel of trust is bad news. Situations beyond our control like labor shortages and supply chain challenges can cause delays and cost escalation. How does one deal with bad news and maintain the trust of the client? To begin, both parties must understand that bad news is a part of every meaningful relationship. However, how the parties deal with the bad news can be a strong catalyst for building trust. The ability and commitment to overcome challenges by working together is what forges a strong, trusting relationship. Bad news is an opportunity to grow trust. Embrace it!

At a recent event in the bakery industry, Tim Cook, Chairman of Linxis, shared his communication policy when it comes to sharing bad news with a customer. He said, “Be transparent. Be expedient. Be consistent.” This is a powerful reminder of what is at the very heart of building trust.

When bad news surfaces, own it. Don’t slow the flywheel. Feed the trust built with the client by communicating early. It’s helpful, but not always necessary, to have a solution ready when presenting a problem, especially if the problem is significant. It’s better not to wait until a problem is vetted and solved. Sometimes the solution will take time and money, and you may not even be sure the solution will work. Be expedient about the news to ensure that you stay ahead of it. Reliable communication – even if you’re communicating bad news – builds trust and keeps the flywheel moving. Get ahead and stay ahead of the problem through communication.

Being transparent with bad news is difficult. You want to be perfect for a client; you want to be the hero. But that is not feasible in today’s complex environment. Disclosing a problem is confessing that our quest for the perfect client relationship has failed. Even when everyone performs their function at the highest level, OBE (overcome by events) occurs. Being transparent makes us feel vulnerable.

Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, suggests that without trust, you cannot have an open and honest debate. Trust forms the basis for open dialog. Where there is a collaborative environment searching for a solution, trust is built, and progress is achieved. In other words, transparency— facing a problem alongside an informed client—can keep the flywheel moving to preserve or even increase trust.

Trust is not something to create blindly because it comes with an element of responsibility. We must always remember that people are fallible. We hold people accountable for their commitments and trust their intent and competence to do what’s right. But we must always be aware of the flywheel and be prepared to nurture trust in whatever form necessary for our clients to be successful. We must do what’s necessary to be our clients’ most trusted partner. Life, and work, are better when you work in an environment of trust. When there is a bond of trust, everyone gains the benefits of collaboration and the joy of community that comes from sharing success.

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

Ernest Hemingway

“You must trust and believe in people, or life becomes impossible.”

Anton Chekhov

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

Stephen Covey


President and CEO

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