Sunday, January 8, 2017

Building Trust in Business - The Aussie Way

building trust in business

Trust is the lifeblood for any healthy working relationship

As a business owner, trust is one of the most essential ingredients for building and maintaining healthy productive relationships. Whether we are talking about your relationships with customers, colleagues or suppliers, trust can take a long time to build ..... And yet it can be lost with one thoughtless remark or one ill-considered promise that you fail to keep.

Most Australian businesses are characterised by an egalitarian workplace culture

So how exactly do you build and maintain trust - particularly in the context of the Australian approach to doing business.

In the egalitarian workplace of Australia, Bob Jones is always Bob - and hardly ever Mr. Jones. Whether Bob is the CEO or the janitor. This doesn't mean that Bob or his position is not respected. However the Australian workplace is generally one that is not overly hierarchical or formal (particularly if compared to Asian or U.K workplaces). Never-the-less, casual does not replace any continued requirement for professional standards in our working relationships.

building trustA fairly common feature of our workplace is that management tends to be reasonably consultative - whilst still having a pragmatic and results-oriented focus. Generally, good management in an Australian business context is not one where the "boss" remains aloof from their staff - but instead is one where there are opportunities for employees to build bonds with each other and with management.

A sense of humour is another quality that quite often characterises the Australian workplace, with a bit of playful banter being fairly common (particularly in relation to sport - and the success or lack of success of football or cricket teams that people avidly follow). Obviously, healthy humour would never be at anyone's expense - however, it often accompanies an easy, friendly and casual relationship in the Australian business workplace.

How to build trust - 8 tips

So given the culture of the typical Australian workplace, what are some of the building blocks for establishing trust in our business relationships? ....
  1. Eye contact when greeting people. It is generally considered etiquette in the Australian culture for people to look each other in the eyes when speaking. A lack of eye contact can be interpreted as a lack of care or interest - or be perceived as evasiveness. Of course, looking at people when you meet them is only the beginning - it needs to be accompanied by genuinely listening and taking an interest in what they have to say, in order to build a relationship with them.
  2. Keep your promises. This is fundamental to winning respect and becoming trusted over time for your reliability. Others come to believe that you will do what you say you will do.
  3. Knowledge of your subject matter.  Being well-prepared for meetings, having all required information readily available, having anticipated and being able to answer questions of the other party with confidence. Demonstrating competence and efficiency in addressing the needs and concerns of the other party will help lay a strong foundation for building trust.
  4. Be consistently punctual and courteous. Lateness to meetings with people can be interpreted that you are not attaching a high priority to the relationship - that there are other things more important. Courtesy is displayed through the use of simple manners - please, thank you, excuse me. Courtesy and respect is also displayed be being reasonably prompt in responding to phone calls and emails.
  5. Integrity, honesty and sincerity. Walking the talk - ensuring your actions align with what you say you believe in...... Being accurate with any information that you provide....... Sharing relevant information freely and readily within the relationship..... Expressing your views in a truthful but tactful manner.
  6. Build the relationship based upon shared goals. Both parties feel they share at least some common goals and are gaining a benefit from working together. There is a sense of fairness in resolving any issues that might arise in the relationship. - and there is a reasonable balance of give and take in the relationship. Without a sense of reciprocity, one party may come to feel "taken advantage" of over time.
  7. Openness. Disclosing when you have made a mistake or admitting when you are uncertain - these are acts of trust on your part. Through such disclosures you accept that you are making yourself vulnerable to a risk that the other party may take advantage of your admissions........ However, you build trust by showing trust. And by being open, you increase the likelihood that the other party will reciprocate with their trust. (A cautionary note here - we are not talking blind trust, but measured trust..... You still need to monitor that the other person is respecting your trust and openness in the relationship. If the other party were abusing your openness, then you need to adjust accordingly).
  8. Gain endorsements, recommendations and testimonials from other trusted figures. Social proof is very powerful. When you are looking for a plumber, a painter or a car mechanic - how often have you asked a friend if they know of anyone? ...... How often have you checked out TripAdvisor before booking accommodation at a hotel you haven't been to? If other respected people are seen to believe in you, then their endorsement encourages others to take the risk and trust you. 
".... you build a relationship by investing time in learning about the other person"
So in closing, if you are seeking to build trust in your business relationships, invest some time to learn as much as you can about the other person. Listen to them Show them that you genuinely care about their needs, ideas and their interests. And just make sure that when you win their trust - that you do not take it for granted, nor become complacent and assume that you will always necessarily retain it. 

To win the trust of another is a huge compliment. And in business, it's a compliment that you can eventually take to the bank.

About the author
Brian Carroll is a qualified psychologist and the founder of a Melbourne based corporate training business, Performance Development.