The importance of trust

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In recent weeks I have come to reflect on a number of partnering projects where major tensions and delays have occurred. It was clear in these projects that the key impediment to progress was the lack of trust between some of the partners.

This highlighted again for me the strong need to build what I call a trust bank between partners. By this I mean a solid foundation layer of trust that exists between the partners and is derived from their base relationship with each other. If there is a trust bank in place then there is a far better chance of the partnership surviving the inevitable tensions and conflicts that arise. Without it the partnership can very quickly fall apart.

So how do you build a trust bank?

One way is to work on the personal relationships before jumping into discussing issues. Spending time together and getting to know each others expectations, underlying drivers and language is a great way to build that foundation layer of trust between potential partners. Some years ago I was involved in a major negotiation process which utilised relationship building workshops between the parties before they discussed substantive issues. This approach proved an excellent way to allow people to get to know each other and created a more trusting and safe space for the discussions that followed.

A second way of building this trust bank is by being as transparent as possible in all your communications with other partners. No one likes hidden agendas and it is the surest way to undermine a partnering arrangement. By being open and honest with each other the relationships will develop and trust will be built.

Often I have seen partners wary about sharing too much information for fear that the other partners may use the information they shared in an inappropriate way. Being transparent doesn't mean sharing all information but it does mean being upfront about what you can and cannot share with others.

So if you are having some difficulty making progress with your partnering process you may want to do a check on your trust bank and see how much relationship capital you have on hand to withstand a crisis.

Ian DixonComment