Trust – Part 2: The Middle Way
As usual nothing is as straight forward as it might seem. I was reviewing the three areas that I believe most impact trust (consistency, transparency and mutual support) and realised that they were not the whole story. Each term needed to be balanced by another awareness – finding that balance between them creates a middle way.
- Consistency/Adaptability – An organisation committed to being consistent at all times will rapidly decline into rigidity. There will be no flexibility to respond to the constant change we face. A good example is in my days working in the railway industry. To a large degree, our customer’s trust in us was dependent on the consistency of our scheduling and on time performance. However, there would be times when they had a shipment that required special handling. While these situations often put our consistency at risk, they were hugely important to our customer. We needed to find a middle way between maintaining our consistency (and trust) while being flexible and adaptable to meet customer expectations.
- Mutual support/Individual needs – Encouraging mutual support between organisations cannot be at the risk of negating each party’s responsibility to take care of their own needs. Finding this middle way between supporting each other while supporting yourself will ensure long term trust between all those involved. A good example is a previous fad where companies decided that they were going to be ‘customer driven’. The problem was that they forgot this must be balanced with their own needs – they needed a certain level of profitability, to maintain staff morale, to ensure other partner support, and so on.
- Transparency/Integrity – While a level of transparency is key to trust, I do not think we can be so open that we lose a sense of the basis of the organisation (its integrity). To be ‘overly’ transparent can also lead to highly complicated relationships that lose their effectiveness and health. A good example of finding this balance is in a partnership. There is an ongoing challenge to find the middle way between openness and maintaining a sense of integrity/discretion within and outside the partnership – respecting the benefits that each partner brought to the relationship.