Why Trust Is THE Key Component of Business

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by Jody Timmons
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“The more trust we can establish, the more we can accomplish.” - Robert Glazer, Founder and Managing Director of Acceleration Partners

“When trust goes down, speed goes down and cost goes up. Conversely, when trust is high, speed goes up and cost goes down.” - Steven M.R. Covey, author of The Speed of Trust

Let's start with a simple premise: a business cannot grow as fast when the CEO is stretched thin between running the company and focusing on the future. To boot, the company is leaving money on the table, as there are inevitably missed opportunities that the CEO does not have time to develop.

The key is trust.

First, let’s properly frame “trust”. What is it, exactly? Stephen Covey, Jr, the eldest son of the author who wrote The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and the author of his own book, The Speed of Trust, :

  1. Trust is an economic driverThe world of business is built on trust in the market, and in solutions providers, vendors, retailers, and customers.
  2. Trust is the most important leadership skill – To accomplish anything, whether it’s a complex sale, or hiring a skilled employee, requires trust.
  3. Trust is something we can get better at Every challenge is a chance to increase trust.

At it’s most basic, trust is having confidence in employees and partners to do what they say they’re going to do.

“Social Luck”

Venkatesh Rao, a leading thinker when it comes to innovation, tech, and organizational strategy, proposes a concept called “social luck”, which has to do with how our peers respond to our mistakes. Rao claims that social luck actually dominates our fortunes under modern conditions.

In environments of high social luck(you might even call it trust), our peers respond positively, helping us fix our mistakes. Now, why would they do that?

I’ll quote Rao here:

“Your success or failure is largely attributable to how others respond to your mistakes, accidents, and transgressions. And their fortunes depend on your responses too. The math is simple: it is often much cheaper for people to fix each other's mistakes than everybody trying to fix only their own, unaided. It's a sort of cooperation surplus: society as a giant open-source project where many eyeballs make all bugs shallow. The free lunch of aligned values and motives.”

Rao goes on to argue that civilization itself and the achievements of humanity are predicated on these collaborative environments.

High-Trust vs. Low-Trust Environments

In a low-trust environment, due diligence is the law of the land, as well as CYA(“cover your ass”). Due diligence takes time, money, and lawyers. Always having to cover your butt inhibits communication and saps energy. It’s the office environment where interpersonal politics dominate, where frustration breeds, where customers are less-than-satisfied and deals go bad.

High-trust environments are the kinds of environments that drive innovation. They are energizing, even, I daresay, fun. Not only are they places that people like to come to work, they are workplaces that get shit done.

Creating a Culture of Trust

Efficient work is happy work. Efficient teams are happy teams” - Lee Caraher, founder and CEO of Double Forte, a national public relations agency

To create a high-trust culture at Natix is to free employees and executives alike to use their best judgement to make decisions to help the company grow and accomplish it’s mission.

Simply put, trust means confidence. The opposite of trust — distrust — is suspicion.

So, how, exactly, do we create a culture of trust?

It Takes Time

Building a workplace culture of trust is a multifaceted thing. It takes time. Warren Buffet is famously quoted as saying that a reputation “takes twenty years to build and five minutes to ruin”. The same can be said about trust.

Strong, Well-Defined Values

The Fortune100 actually evaluates trust as one of six categories when evaluating the 100 best places to work in the U.S.

Leadership sets the example. The first step is to create accurate, straightforward company values. The second step is to embody those values. One important mantra to note is that values drive behavior”.

Caraher lists the following for her company’s “Get Sh*t Done Well” value, we have:

  1. Is accountable for his/her own work, words and actions
  2. Does not leave people hanging – if s/he says it, s/he does it to the best of their ability.
  3. Learns from trial and error; does not repeat mistakes, and a few other things.   It’s very clear when we’re in and out of alignment with our values.

If we talk about Natix embodying the value of “passion”, what does that look like? Possibly, it could mean empowering employees with the training and the tools they need to deliver exceptional experiences to our customers.

Another possible value might be transparency through clear, honest, responsible communication. Creating a culture of trust is about being dedicated to improving communication. In fact, it is a never-ending project. Organizational communication can be reflected thoughout the company with regards to how it treats employees and customers. In fact, some business thinkers might say that your employees are your customers.

Organizational communication needs to be continuously honed. For employees, this can be through one-on-one conversations and perfecting processes to manage projects and resolve disputes. For customers, it can be through being honest in the sales process, and through producing marketing and communications material that provide value to customers.

One of the major assets of a smaller company is the one-on-one time they are able to spend with customers. This makes deals flow, and close. You could say one that Natix does well because the relationship between it’s smaller size, it’s speed, and ability to connect with customers and build trust.

Hiring for Competence and Character

In one way, building a culture of trust in an organization starts with hiring the right people.

Covey writes that there are two traits that create trustworthiness over time:

Competence - The employee has the skills to do the job. They have demonstrated, unequivocally, that they know what they are doing in the role that they’re in. For instance, an accountant who can read a financial statement and knows the tax implications.

Character - The employee keeps their word, and does what it takes to get the job done. One oft-repeated adage is to, “look to see if someone tells the truth when it’s inconvenient to do so.”

Onboarding and Continued Training

Per Covey’s assertion, creating trust is a skill that we can work on, and improve. One way to improve that skill is via leadership embodying the value of trust. The other is to train for it.

Employee training prepares employees to take on greater responsibility – to do more for the company, whether it’s meeting sales goals or innovating on the way the company conducts business. I’d argue that, investing in your team members is an act of trust – it’s believing that they will stick around, and that they are dedicated to the company mission. If the employee possesses character and competence, that investment of training produces exponential returns, returns that compound over time.

Additional reasons employee training is one of the most effective investments an employer can make:

  1. It gives the team member a clear understanding of what Natix is about with regards to values, expectations, and their role in the company.
  2. Proper training gives the team member most, if not all, of the tools they need to be effective in their role. This empowers them and also trains them to be flexible in changing markets. Furthermore, if the training is automated into a video series or instructional course, this saves other team members the time they’d have to spend training these new team members.
  3. Continued training allows the team member to grow into roles to which they feel called. This has the two-headed positive effect of keeping them engaged and excited about coming to work, as well as preparing them for greater responsibility and challenges at Natix.

A well-designed onboarding experience for new hires goes a long way to instill a company’s values and culture, and to create excitement about one’s role in the company, to boot.

Investing resources in training employees builds trust. Employees who know what they’re doing and why they are doing it are employees that perpetuate high-trust environments and power world-class companies.

As Natix, scales, serious thought should be given to training, as a means of streamlining the transmission of key values and skills to Natix team members, as well as communicating company expectations.


The best companies are efficient, high-trust environments. They are staffed full of the best(read: high-character, highly competent) people, where, to paraphrase Caraher, “trust is a dividend reaped by individuals and organizations”.

One last example – tech entrepreneur Andrew Wilkinson has modeled his company’s acquisition process on Buffett’s “handshake deal” method, famous for closing deals that would’ve normally taken 8-10 months in as little as one month. The first question when making a potential acquisition is “Do we trust them?”. If the answer is yes, Wilkinson promises to “make an offer with 7 days, and close within 30”. Trust begets speed.

There’s a French saying that “the fish discovers water last”. Most of the time trust simply exists, and is only noticed when it evaporates. Smart companies work to create trust within and outside their organization, and their balance sheets, employee retention, and customer satisfaction reflect that.

Note: This report owes a debt to Lee Caraher’s blog post, Trust Creates Efficiency

Additional resources:

- How trust impacts business success can be found at Great Place to Work’s website. Great Place to Work is partner with Fortune in determining the 100 best places to work in the U.S.

- "Trust is the foundation of all successful teams” – an executive summary of Patrick Lencioni’s fantastic book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

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