Just about everyone works in some process or some team in which they come in contact with other people or organizations. Regardless if that person or team is "internal" or external to your business, you have to build a sense of trust with them in order to work effectively. Even in a tightly knit organization, people need to understand the benefits a relationship can bring to them. Trust is important in any situation in which two people, two teams or two corporations rely on each other.
I was thinking about this recently because of some discussion from one of our customers. We have a client who is interested in building trust between ourselves and his firm - or at least as he defines trust. This client defines trust as "if something goes wrong it must be your fault and I expect everything you do to be perfect, therefore I can't have any trust in you if something goes wrong". I am fully on board with building trust, which must be earned, between myself and my clients. I'd just like to think that trust is a two way street.
Rather than immediately seek to pin blame on a partner, I often look first at what my team has done. What have we promised? What have we delivered? What expectations were set? In other words, I want to know if I've set commitments we've failed to keep or made promises that were missed. Only once I've established my expectations, commitments and successes or failures do I turn my attention to my business partner, vendor or client to determine what might have gone wrong on their end. You see, trust requires two partners who understand that either partner may be in error, and in fact at some point in the relationship at least one will be in error, and probably both will err during the relationship. Expecting perfection across the life of a relationship is not reasonable. Expecting people to constantly stribve to provide great solutions and to fix any mistake as quickly and efficiently as possible is reasonable and should build trust.
Trust has to be earned. I want to know if we are in error, and I want to fix any mistake we made, any expectation we failed to meet, as quickly and effectively as possible. Trust should not be predicated on the expectation that your partner will never fail, only that they will do their absolute best to avoid failure, and will admit any mistake and fix the problem as quickly as possible. Over time, a partner that consistently demonstrates their willingness to work in this manner will gain anyone's trust. It is hard to gain trust when there are unrealistic expectations or when there is a blame first mentality.
As it turns out, we've found several times that this client put the onus on us to fix a "problem" but has not educated his team on the use of technology, or set different expectations for a product or service than what were originally intended. So while the problem appears to be our "fault", it is actually not a mistake on our behalf, and a thorough investigation before the incident was reported would have cleared that up. So now it is becoming harder and harder for me to "trust" a client since it is clear they'll take a blame first mentality.
I understand that as a supplier to an organization I have an unequal share of the trust burden. My question becomes - when does the customer accept his or her share of the trust equation, and what's the best way to establish a trust relationship with a firm that expects perfection and never recognizes when it may be in the wrong instead of its suppliers?