The Four Pillars of Trust – and why you need them all
It is a fair premise that Trust is at the core of all we do in business. Being trusted by our clients is vital for good client retention and forging long term mutually beneficial relationships.
When the trust bond is broken, this invariably means the beginning of the end of the relationship with the client.
In addition, and within our organisations, being trusted by our people is vital in creating a sustainable business model.
Where does trust start?
I believe the trust factor gets driven down from the top in all organisations.
People behave like their bosses behave, they mimic their behaviours on the basis that ‘it is the way we do things around here, and if I want to get on, I should do the same’.
Trust itself is an interesting concept, hard to gain and very easy to lose! When you start to consider trust, and why you trust some and not others, you realise that it is made up of a number of components, not least whether or not you are a person who likes to see the best in everyone.
These components of trust have been the subject of some interesting research recently carried out by the CIPD on Cultivating Trustworthy Leaders, which is an exploration of these factors and the cultures that promote trustworthiness.
The work describes 4 Pillars of Trust that make up a trust ecosystem within an organisation as follows:
Pillar 1 Ability
This is all about the Capabilities of the individual or organisation, which is of course a fundamental requirement when we are buying services or products. A good example is an airline pilot. We really need them to be very good at what they do.
The weakness with this pillar is that individuals can rely on this too much and work solely on the basis of achieving their KPIs and ignoring the other components of Trust
Pillar 2 Benevolence
This relates to Caring, and how the provider is able to interact with the consumer of the service or product, whether that is a client or another department in their organisation.
This is particularly relevant in the charity, medical and Not for Profit sectors. Care and compassion are vital components in building trusting relationships in these environments.
The weakness with this Pillar is that highly Benovolent individuals tend towards a lack of accountability and have a lower acceptance of procedures.
Pillar 3 Integrity
The focus here is on Honesty and transparency. The individual has the right intentions, tells the truth and doesn’t back down. Openness and communication are key components of this pillar.
A good example of this is a management consultant, where these traits are essential in building a trusting relationship.
The weakness is that this area may damage other pillars as very often, ‘the truth may hurt’.
Pillar 4 Predictability
This is all about being consistent in your actions, delivering on time and basically doing what you say you are going to do.
An example of this is the component supplier to a car assembly plant. Just in Time methodology demands absolute reliability of the supplier.
The weakness here is that the mechanical nature of this pillar can stifle innovation and empowerment.
A Blend of trust factors
When applying these Pillars of Trust to our own organisations we can immediately see that it is not one of them in isolation, but a blend of the four that make up our own trustworthiness.
The blend is very unlikely to be an equal split between the Pillars and will depend upon the following factors:
- Our Industry
- Our Stakeholders
- The Structure of our Organisation
- The Culture of the Organisation
It’s a complex calculation, but if we can get this blend right, and create an environment where we are truly trusted by our clients, we will be a long way down the road to significantly improved client retention.
If you have any comments on this article or would like to discuss any aspect of it please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0845 689 8750.
John Thompson is Managing Director and founder of Trans Capital Associates
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