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… I maintain that trust is irrelevant to commercial exchange and that reference to trust in this connection promotes confusion.

— Oliver Williamson

 Trust. Small Word. Massive Impact.

But which ‘Trust’ do we actually mean when chiseling the word for the umpteenth time onto the Values Plinth? There are a few versions out there – and none more corrosive that faux TRUST or the TRUST that comes from the dressing up box of corporate affairs – fancy TRUST – a word draped in Savile Row charcoal cashmere, or beautifully typeset and set high on the wall – yet inert – made moribund at the moment of its stitching and forging.

Then there’s buttoned up TRUST. Ironed repressed imprisoned – bear baited into a contracted commitment between one actor and another.

In these contractual prisons, the real power of TRUST; as a proof that liberates people to act decently and respectfully and with singular purpose at all times, gets twisted and shoved; and roughly cut away to fit into the self interested margins of the contract it supposedly underwrites.

Then there’s the TRUST of the podium, the BIG TRUST of soundbites and ‘our journey’ and the soaring oratory of perseverance and endeavor – an ephemeral fleeting TRUST that fills both the chest of the corporate speaker impugning it and the hall into which they decant it, only to wash out of the back doors into faint memory and insignificance – sullied and cheapened by having ever been bought there in the first place.

And then there’s the TRUST that protests too much from the statements and the releases of those who have traded, stained and manipulated it most. (Yes, banks and financial institutions, that will be you, and your FMCG and retail friends there on the bench next to you; with their palm oil and indentured labour hidden in some foreign field that is forever England: or the provider of its pants at least.)

If you wish to speak of real TRUST, speak in hushed respectful tones; speak rarely; in fact, come to think about it, we’d rather you didn’t speak of it at all.

Much like the exquisite blue guitar in Nigel Tufnel’s Guitar room in Spinal Tap, there is a sense that to even point to TRUST would be to destroy it.

“its special, look, see, still got the old tagger on it, never even played it”

“you just bought it”

“dont touch it”

“…was just looking at it…wasn’t going to touch it”

“…well, dont point …even”

TRUST is a dream that so many institutions crave but in that craving lies the source of self deceit. In their idolising of it lies the greatest measure of how fragile it is in their world: and how often and easily it can be compromised, corrupted and set aside.

In one of the opening scenes of the film Gladiator, Marcus Aurelius explains to Maximus that Rome is not a place but a very very fragile dream:

“There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish…”

TRUST is that fragile. So it is best kept safe and sound and away from prying eyes under purposeful lock and key. It is made all the greater by remaining invisible and unreferenced.

But invisibility and absence are two very different things. The absence of TRUST renders every other corporate buzzword insignificant. Rigour, openness, expertise, integrity, promise, commitment and guarantee – all are simply conjuring tricks if not underwritten by real TRUST.

Real TRUST, the silent knowing kind, is the one that walks through relationships and partnerships without braggadocio or pomp.

Real TRUST never speaks its own name, claims its own accolade or states its own credential.

Much like its culturally-rooted cousin – ICONIC – it is an accolade for others to apply.

To state it is to turn up in the I’m Funny T Shirt. Don’t tell me that you’re funny, tell me a joke. I am wholly capable of deciding whether to laugh or not all by myself.

Real TRUST is not an academic concept or an intellectual exercise; much to the irritation of pretty much every business school, who seem to see TRUST as a compound fraction as opposed to the complex chaotic collision of context, circumstance, tangible and intangibles that it really is.

Real TRUST is felt, sought, fought for, prized, pursued, missed, believed, encountered, received, gifted, hard won, quickly lost, broken.

Real TRUST is to some professions a supply chain issue – the most critical systemic element that needs sustaining above all else – the securing of its source, its protection of its integrity, the sage management and application of its use, the zero waste and optimal energy processes that support it – all mandatory for its continued and unadulterated presence and role as the primary tool in the mitigation of risk for those professions

Real TRUST draws its potency from its paradox – from its staggering strength and precious fragility – while whole, real TRUST moves the hearts minds and mountains that find themselves in its thrall – but it can be shattered irreparably by a look, a word, the flick of a pen, the click of a mouse, an act sometimes so small as to be barely noticeable.

Real TRUST is the UNICORN of professional endeavor. While it exists in the world, all is well – but if it is forgotten, mortally wounded or set aside, the dark side will prevail.


Real TRUST The assured reliance that someone else will do everything in your best interests and to the best of their ability.

Real TRUST The faith that they will, even in your absence, act faithfully and respectfully in regards to you and the things you hold most precious

Real TRUST  The sure knowledge that no exceptional, proprietary or empiric expertise knowing insight or skill will be held back or remain obscured in their undertakings for you.

Real TRUST  The singular base fabric of any profound relationship: woven from myriad strands and threads of multiple and relentlessly reoccurring and improving emotional and functional transactions of every shape size and hue

Real TRUST The invisible certainty that allows rigour to act unfettered in the room and in the moment

Real TRUST The slingshot of integrity: the champion of authenticity: the springboard of exception:

Real TRUST the most dynamic currency in the assurance economy: selectively invested but never traded or brokered.

Real TRUST the only critical investment worth making in any and every relationship no matter how big or small.

Real TRUST the unquestionable and immutable truth of any profession

Real TRUST is a market shaker, a world turner, an opinion shifter and a deal breaker – the one precious thing that cannot be bought or begged.

Real TRUST cannot be faked, cannot be belittled, cannot be impugned and will not be sold.

Real TRUST is more than a flat inert word on a values plaque or a commitment in a corporate mission. Real Trust is a living extant dynamic and irrepressible thing.

You cannot put real TRUST down, diminish it, demean it or set it aside.

It is the silent ROAR – the mighty Yawp – in every meaningful conversation: and cannot be talked over or shouted out

In the space between TRUST and WORTHY

TRUSTworthy is a simple word to describe a process person or material thing that can be relied upon to fulfil particular tasks time and time again with little decay or degradation in performance or effect –and in doing so make themselves worthy of trust.

It usually involves an incremental journey undertaken by two parties towards belief in each others ability to ‘do what they say they’ll do’ – a journey that is mostly undertaken via proof – measurable evidences great and small – of each’s ability to engender trust in the other.

The levers and pulleys of TRUST?

TRUST seems to be most often engendered by people with an unshakeable sense of Purpose to effect good things in the world – for both themselves and others: People with an irrepressible belief in the simple authenticity of what they do, doing the right thing and keeping their promises. These people regularly demonstrate an inappropriate degree of naked courage – effortless and comfortable in their transparency. They relentlessly apply this belief, commitment trait and nature in everything they do. They are meticulous in their approach – rigour never far from their mind. And they value integrity above all else.

UNSHAKEABLE                 Purpose

IRREPRESSIBLE               Belief

NAKED                           Transparency

RELENTLESS                   Application
METICULOUS                  Rigour
TRUE                              Integrity

I TRUST you to have an opinion

I TRUST you to have the right intention in proffering it

I TRUST you to design your particiaption  in commercial ethical and value terms acceptable to all parties

I TRUST you to price what you do fairly

I TRUST you to do what you say you’ll do

I TRUST you to not compromise the relationship or other interests while doing it.

I TRUST you to reconcile fairly and in good time

I TRUST you with my interests