Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
- Helen Keller

13 Ways to Build Trust-Based Relationships

Quote from Warren Buffett "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that you?ll do things differently"

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently - Warren Buffett.

On 15th April 2014 “Trust Across America-Trust Around the World” (TAA-TWA) are due to publish their fourth annual report "Most Trustworthy Public Companies". American publicly listed companies are evaluated on five drivers of trustworthiness: Financial stability, Accounting conservativeness, Corporate governance, Transparency and Sustainability. In 2011 TAA-TWA published a list of thought leaders in Europe and the Middle East, the most recognisable name on the list from the UK was Sir Richard Branson (#17).

Why Build Trust-Based Relationships?

  • Long-term trust relationships are the key to profitable growth
  • Because we like to work with people we trust.
  • The most accurate indicator of company performance is the answer to the question “Do you trust your boss”.
  • Increased customer loyalty (and therefore revenue)
  • Improved staff retention
  • Because More Trust = More Speed & Less Cost. (e.g. Warren Buffett pictured above acquired a company worth $23 billion from Wal-Mart – another high trust company - based on a 2 hour meeting and a handshake, the deal was completed within 1 month saving several months and several million dollars)

The Cost of Low Trust (a couple of examples)

  • Increased bureaucracy (policy, process, form filling, delays, deferred responsibility) therefore loss of speed and increased cost.
  • Unable or unwilling to embrace the enormous potential for online collaboration and internal knowledge sharing offered by new digital technologies for fear of massive security breaches and data leaks (intentionally or otherwise). Consider the far-reaching implications of > 1 million secret documents shared by Julian Assange (founder of Wikileaks) sourced from anonymous news sources and whistleblowers.

Organisational trust is created through the collective behaviours of its employees and how they interact with each other, their suppliers, their customers and other stakeholders.

We treat our people the way we want them to treat the customers. VP of People at JetBlue

13 Behaviours that Build Trust*

*reproduced and paraphrased from Stephen M.R. Covey “The Speed of Trust”

  1. Talk Straight – tell the truth and leave the right impression
  2. Demonstrate Respect – respect everyone including those who can’t help/hurt you.
  3. Create Transparency – being open, real, genuine & telling truth that can be verified
  4. Right Wrongs – making apology and restitution when errors are made
  5. Show Loyalty – give credit to others, speak about people as though they are present
  6. Deliver Results – get the right things done, within time/budget and give no excuses
  7. Get Better – continuous improvement, learning and change
  8. Confront Reality – take the tough issues head on, tackle the ‘elephant in the room’
  9. Clarify Expectations – agreed up front for clarity, responsibility and accountability.
  10. Practice Accountability – hold yourself accountable, and others
  11. Listen First – seek to understand and respect the other party for mutual benefit
  12. Keep Commitments – do what you say you will (deadlines, promises, confidences)
  13. Extend Trust – use good judgement (situation, risk, credibility) to empower others

Clearly some need to be balanced e.g. Talk Straight and Demonstrate Respect so that ‘telling it as it is’ does not become an excuse for being offensively blunt to people.

Failing at keeping commitments (#12) is the fastest route to loss of trust.

Companies should trust people to work at home more. Commuting kills so much time and energy that could be spent creating. Sir Richard Branson (Virgin group)

The good news is that these are all common sense, if not common practice. The 13 behaviours can be practiced right now, by everyone, at minimum cost, with some effort and have a positive impact. 

Which behaviours do you or your team excel at? Which ones need some work? What would be the business benefit of improving those behaviours?

As ever I'm happy to discuss, send me your thoughts at

best wishes,


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