Friday, February 11, 2011

How to Build a "Trust Action Plan"

“Last time we met I agreed to work with you on a Trust Action Plan,” Tyler Gitou said to Verdi. “Sit down and let’s talk.”

Tyler took out a pad of paper and drew on the page three circles that overlapped in the center. He labeled one “RELIABILITY”, the next “CREDIBILITY” and the third “MUTUALITY”. In the area where the three circles intersected he wrote “TRUST”.

“Unlike any other element in a negotiation, trust is something you can’t ‘create’. You have to grow trust, slowly, block by block, to create a firm foundation for your relationship. I like to think of trust as ‘the long pole in the tent’ of a relationship. The long pole must be strong and true to raise everything else up as high as possible. The more elevated your relationship is, the higher all of the other elements of your negotiation will rise.

“So before you can undertake your Trust Action Plan, you have to understand the components that make up trust because those are what you will have to improve. There are three large components to focus on when putting together your action plan: Reliability, Credibility and Mutuality.

“Reliability is a measure of how much the other party trusts you CAN do what you say you can do. It’s a competence measure. You build Reliability by maintaining the quality of what you do in everything you do.

“Credibility measures how much the other party trusts you WILL do what you promise. This is a believability measure. You build Credibility by keeping your commitments. Don’t say, ‘I’ll call you back later.’ Say, ‘I’ll call you with an answer at 2 pm’ and then do it! Start with small commitments and build a discipline into your relationship with the other party and get your team focused on it as well.

“Mutuality measures how much the other party trusts that you care about THEIR interests as well as your own. Mutuality is a complex pillar in the trust foundation because it involves: communication (how and what you talk about), affiliation (building a shared sense of commonality) and emotion (whether the parties will ‘open up’ as to their underlying interests). You build Mutuality by focusing on what outcome is best for the other party that also works well for you. Your engagements cannot have any suggestion of self-interest or else you will destroy the entire trust plan. A party may trust you are reliable and credible; but if your goals are self-serving they will not engage with you.

“Sit down with your team and put these three words on the board and discuss how you behave today with the other party. Tell stories about your interactions with the other party where Reliability, Credibility and Mutuality have played a part. What actions need to be taken to improve the quality of these elements? How does the other party view you and the team with regard to them? Who are the people in the other party’s organization we need to focus on? Who has the most influence and authority such that improving their perception is critical to the plan’s success? Who on our team should work with them? If the situation is really bad, maybe have an open discussion about trust with the other party and what changes we are making to earn the other party’s trust. This is not a plan you will execute in a week. You’re a Deal Whisperer, not a shouter! This is something that is going to take time: months, maybe a year, before you start to see the value it brings to your relationship. But along the journey, you will see and feel the improvements as working together becomes more collaborative.”

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