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Communication is the Foundation of Trust

(Authenticity + Vulnerability) x Credibility = Trust


Chad Counselman Communication trust Viewpoint
Chad Counselman

I read a book recently that defined Trust by the formula above. I agree with this formula and have seen many relationships falter as a result of lack of trust. I would like to dig into this definition of trust in an effort to uncover a deeper truth: Communication is the Foundation of Trust.

The dictionary defines Authentic as: Not false or copied; genuine; real; representing one’s true nature or beliefs. In each of these definitions of Authentic, we see that some type of communication is assumed – whether that communication is verbal or non-verbal.

Vulnerable: Capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt; open to criticism. Again, we see communication at the foundation of this definition: criticism is verbal communication.

Credible: Capable of being believed; believable; worthy of belief or confidence. This word points more towards history or experience with the other party. It is an opinion that is based on previous experiences. I agree: this word does not link back directly to communication, but in a basic sense we gain credibility with others by following through with what we TOLD them. Did you see it? Communication with others followed by completed promises makes us credible in their eyes.

We all desire to be trustworthy, which is a function of being authentic, vulnerable, and credible. But, at the base of each of these is communication. Open communication MUST exist if you expect trust to be established. You trust your spouse because of open communication. You trust your best friend because he or she is open and honest with you – through communication.

Let’s bring these ideas into the business world – especially your business. We all know that the actions, intentions, efforts, fears, and goals of the owner of an operation are conveyed to its employees. If the owner is honest and trustworthy, most of the employees will be honest and trustworthy. You get the bad apple every now and then. Conversely, if the owner is dishonest and cheats, his employees will probably have traits that mimic the owner’s unscrupulous ways. In this example I just explained, we all assumed that the employees KNEW the manners of the owner. However, were those ideas conveyed properly or did the owner assume that his employees picked up on his cues? If you are anything like me, you have probably been assuming that others read your mind. We must stop this idea and start openly communicating with others.

Do you have clearly-defined job descriptions? Do your employees KNOW what is expected of them? Are you clearly communicating what your expectations are? If not, then why do you get upset when someone does not do what you expect them to do? If you didn’t tell them what to do and teach them how to do it, how can you expect them to do it correctly? I know I just chased a rabbit, but we must clearly communicate with others.

Let’s get back to how communication leads to trust.  Suspicion is a Cancer. Without proper communication being shared, others will make their own assumptions as to what you are doing and what your intentions are. Let’s walk through an example:

It’s December and you know that sales will dip and expenses will spike due to paid holidays and annual bonuses. You do the math and realize that you will need an extra $25k to cover these upcoming expenses. You decide to cut back on buying cars (you should have planned ahead so this would not happen, but it did) in order to divert those resources to cover the bonuses and other expenses.

However, you don’t share the reason that you decreased your buying. Before you know what happened, it’s the third week of December and your dismantlers and inventory personnel are in a back warehouse talking to one another about how few cars are coming through. Each of them is paid on commission and they are upset over not having enough to do. The inventory guy shares the idea that he noticed that two contract delivery drivers have not been called in for the past two weeks. The four men talk for about 10 minutes and conclude that business is going down and they must start looking for another job. On December 31, one of your dismantlers turns in his resignation and lets you know that he is going to work for a competitor.

In this example, a lack of communication resulted in suspicion among the employees. The employees concluded a completely wrong reason for the decline and one decided to leave your operation instead of asking you why things had slowed down. Communication in either direction (owner to employee OR employee to owner) would have prevented this event from occurring.

Communication is vital. Information needs to flow from the leadership to the team. The information needs to be throttled – some things should not be shared. But, some basics should always flow downhill. Also, you should work to create an environment where you are approachable and available to your team.

Open and frequent communication creates trust. This should exist within the operation as explained above, but it should also exist between your staff and your customers. Your customers should never receive a part that is not of the quality that they were expecting. Deliveries should not be delayed without information being shared with the customer. Don’t tolerate a careless employee – work to mold them into what is needed through clear communication. Do your part to be a better communicator. Build trust through frequent communication. Be approachable by your team.

Chad Counselman