The two most frightening words in a business vocabulary “Trust me!”

What do you mean, trust what?

In business, and therefore the consulting profession, one of the most important concepts is trust.  Every tenet of success in business has trust as a cornerstone premise.

But, when I hear someone say “Trust me!”, my brain always stops whatever it is doing. Kind of like a neural knee-jerk. Regardless of what frame of mind I might be in at the time… positive, upbeat, humorous, work-focused, or perhaps on the negative side — uncomfortable, impatient, peeved… you get it.

My knee-jerk thought is… “Which one?” Meaning, what kind of trust are you demanding from me?

Isn’t there only one kind of trust? Oh, that’s right…

Remembering this blog is dedicated to the management consulting business, we won’t get philosophical. However, trust is of course, all about setting and keeping expectations… and since that is what the consulting business is all about, then this is a key topic.

In the real world of business today, being clear about what we mean to say is very important.  I know, duh! We are consultants, and we live and breathe clarity.

But I would not be wasting your time and mine (well I can’t speak for your time), unless I had seen this all too often. In fact, I refer to situations where a person is using the word “trust” in a conversation, and it soon becomes clear that the talker and the listener came away with two different messages.

In fact, I see this especially when a person is speaking with another individual for whom English is their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th best language.

M.A.K.E. – Trust

In the affirmative position of trust, here are at least four different interpretations of the word TRUST that might have significant bearing on a consulting activity:

  • Motivation — I trust you will weigh in on our relationship at whatever level of drive you declare. If you say you are enthused about my idea, I can trust that your motivation about responding to my idea will be exactly as you said. Or if you say you are seriously concerned about my statement, I can trust that you will be tentative in considering any support I may want from you, connected to my statement.
  • Action —  I trust you will do exactly what you commit to, and do so on a timely basis. If you say you will deliver to me some information by close of business on Tuesday, I can trust you will get me that information on or before 5:00pm on Tuesday. Or if you tell me I can count on you to say something favorable to your boss, I can trust that you will indeed say something positive to your boss, and say it soon.
  • Knowledge —  I trust when you explain something, you fully know what you are talking about. If you are explaining to me something about one of our Customers, I can trust that you have the understanding to support the conclusions you are presenting to me. Or if you are telling me that one of my peers said something positive about me, I can trust that you either heard that peer speak directly, or you otherwise are quite confident that statement was indeed made by my peer.
  • Ethics —  I trust you are governed by decent moral values.  If you are acting on my behalf in a business situation, I can trust you will act with the same ethical standards that I hold. Or if you are describing to me a delicate inter-personal situation, I can trust that you have not bent the truth to better suit your own purposes.

Why we need to be careful

I may hear someone say… “I just don’t trust Bob.” [a fictitious name here used for illustration]

If I don’t know Bob, my mind might automatically surmise, “Bob must be an unethical person. So I probably don’t want to do business with him.”

But the person muttering his distrust of Bob, really meant, “I don’t trust it when Bob says he’ll do something by Tuesday. He is always late with his deliverables”. In fact, it turns out that Bob is one of the most ethical people this guy knows. Yet now, because of the original talker’s careless use of the word trust, I have an entirely wrong idea about Bob, who is in actual fact, a really nice dude.

In the business of making Super Teams [see the articles in this blog tagged accordingly], virtually all 4 types of trust — Motivation, Action, Knowledge, and Ethics — are vitally important. Super Teams are built on strong interpersonal relationships.

Elsewhere in this Blog there is a post on “The 7 key ingredients to a successful Super Team“.  One of those seven successful ingredients is Trust.

“There are at least four kinds of trust that each of the two original teams must continually prove worthy of to the other team. Demonstrating worthiness of trust will inspire confidence in the other team – they will reliably produce whatever they commit to.  With bilateral trust, each team will continually discover that the higher value of full trust is much more rewarding – both for the company and the individuals – than the alternative.”

Actually the argument could be made that the other six success ingredients are all underpinned with trust…. a member of the Super Team trusts that all other Super Team members will make their best effort to deliver against the other ingredients to success. When trust is highest, the performance tends to reflect accordingly with a high performance output.


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