Trust and Return to Office | Part I Reframing the Debate

Businessman return to work concept. Reopen economy after Coronavirus lockdown. Woman runs to work in office after removal of restrictions on Covid 19

As we navigate the uncertain waters of returning to the office in a post-pandemic world, one crucial element stands out as the cornerstone of a successful transition: trust. Trust is not only the foundation of healthy workplace relationships but also the linchpin that holds together the entire ecosystem of the modern office. In this blog series, we explore the pivotal role of trust in facilitating a smooth return to the office.

The return to office marks a pivotal moment for both employers and employees. After a prolonged period of remote work during the pandemic, employers have begun asking – or demanding – that employees return to the office. Employers have valid reasons for wanting workers back in the office and, while many employees are eager to return to the sense of normalcy they had pre-pandemic, others prefer the autonomy and flexibility to which they have become accustomed while working from home. As a result, the return-to-office conversation has become polarized, highlighting concerns about productivity and the balance between in-person and remote work arrangements.

In the first of this three-part blog series, I attempt reframe the current return to office debate, looking at employee perspectives on remote and in-office work, the employer motivation behind calling employees back to the office, and the societal impacts of returning to the workplace. The next two blogs in the series will address what employers and employees, respectively, can do to smooth the transition.

The Employee Perspective

The reluctance of some employees to return to the office can be attributed to various factors, ranging from control over work hours and location to a desire for greater autonomy. Here are some common reasons why employees may not want to return to the office:

  1. Productivity: Working from home helps workers efficiently drive personal performance and stay focused on completing individual tasks.
  2. Commute and work-life balance: Commuting to the office can be time-consuming and stressful. Remote work has allowed employees to reclaim some of the time they previously spent commuting, and they may be reluctant to give that up.
  3. Flexibility: Many employees have come to appreciate the flexibility that remote work provides. They have had the opportunity to tailor their work environment to their preferences, which can be challenging to replicate in an office setting.
  4. Childcare and family responsibilities: Remote work offers flexibility in managing childcare and family responsibilities, and a return to the office can pose significant economic and logistical challenges for family care.
  5. Psychological well-being: Remote work has provided many employees with a sense of control and reduced workplace stress. A return to the office may reintroduce stressors associated with the physical office environment, such as a noisy or distracting workspace.

At the same time, many workers look forward to the return to office to regain a sense of normalcy. A recent Gallup poll, identifies ongoing challenges related to remote work:

  1. Networking, relationship building, and professional development: In-person work settings facilitate organic networking and relationship building and present opportunities for professional growth and mentorship. Being in proximity to colleagues and superiors fosters learning and contributes to career advancement.
  2. Feeling less connected to the organization’s culture: Employees may miss the sense of belonging and connection to the company’s culture that the office environment fosters. The office often embodies the company’s values and mission, making it an important place for cultural immersion.
  3. Access to resources: while many workers have invested heavily in home offices, the workplace can provide resources that employees may not have at home, such as specialized tools, software, and a more reliable and faster internet connection.
  4. Disrupted work processes: For many, going to the office can provide a structured and professional work environment, which improves time management and can lead to increased motivation and a sense of purpose.

The Employer Perspective

While the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote and flexible work arrangements, there are still several compelling reasons why employers are keen to have their employees back in the physical workplace:

  1. Customer service: The American Customer Satisfaction Index dropped 4 points between 2019 and 2022, falling to its lowest level in almost 20 years. While it is rebounding, lower customer satisfaction is related to how quickly and easily customers can reach providers for problem resolution, and the quality of customer service varies with remote work.
  2. Collaboration and innovation: Physical proximity can enhance spontaneous interactions and facilitate more effective collaboration among employees. Being in the same location allows for in-person meetings, brainstorming sessions, and face-to-face communication, which can lead to increased creativity and innovation.
  3. Supervision and management: In-office work allows for more direct supervision and management of employees. Employers can observe and provide guidance to ensure that work is being carried out efficiently and in accordance with company standards.
  4. Organizational culture and values: The physical office environment can help reinforce company culture and values. It provides a space for employees to immerse themselves in the company’s ethos and connect with its mission and values.
  5. Networking and relationship building: In-person interactions can facilitate networking and relationship-building opportunities, both within the organization and with external partners or clients. These connections can lead to new business opportunities and partnerships.
  6. Branding and image: A well-designed office space can enhance a company’s brand and image. It can leave a positive impression on clients, partners, and potential employees.

The Societal Perspective

The return to the office also has several societal benefits that extend beyond the individual organization. These advantages can positively impact communities, economies, and society as a whole. Here are some potential societal benefits of employees returning to the office:

  1. Economic stimulus and urban revitalization: When employees return to the office, they may contribute to increased economic activity in the surrounding communities. Office workers patronizing local businesses and public transportation services boost both private and public revenue. Commercial real estate benefits from the return to the office, as organizations invest in office space, renovations, and expansions.
  2. Volunteering and community engagement: The return to the office can encourage employees to participate in local volunteer and community engagement activities, furthering social responsibility and giving back to society.
  3. Public safety: Greater office presence in urban areas can enhance public safety, as more people are present to observe and report any safety concerns. This can contribute to the well-being of the community.

It’s important to note that the societal benefits of returning to the office may depend on the size and density of urban areas, the local economy, and various other factors.

Finding Common Ground

The pros and cons for returning to the office may at first may at first blush appear to be divisive. Looking more closely, however, there is a lot of common ground between what employers and employees want. Topping the list are increased productivity and collaboration, which fuel innovation and customer satisfaction. Employee engagement and connection to corporate culture are high on both audiences’ lists. Availability and utilization of corporate resources also shows up in both perspectives.

With so much common ground, how is it that the debate continues to be so polarized?

Reframing the Debate

The challenge with the return to office debate today isn’t a lack of common ground. Instead, it’s a lack of common understanding. Each side appears to be fully vested in their own perspective, to the extent that they appear to have missed how much they have in common with the other side. The debate has devolved from a conversation on how to achieve common goals to a series of demands for each side to get it’s own way, with employers threatening to fire workers who refuse to return to the office, and employees threatening to quit if they are forced to return.

Rather than debating which side is right, we should be asking what’s important in each perspective, and how can we leverage the common ground to find solutions that work for both employers and employees. Both sides need to exercise empathy, reflecting on what’s driving their desire to return to the office (or not) and understanding what’s important to the other side, and why.

As we embark on the journey back to the office, trust emerges as the linchpin that can make or break this transition. A culture built on trust fosters collaboration, innovation, and overall well-being. By prioritizing trust, organizations can not only successfully navigate the return to the office but also thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of work. Trust is not just a means to an end but an essential part of the destination itself—a more resilient, adaptable, and connected workplace.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll look at how employers can boost trust to smooth the transition during return to office.

I used AI to support researching and writing this blog series.

Trust-Based Resources to Maximize Your Team’s Potential:

Want to Retain Top Talent? Look to Your Corporate Culture

Magnet attracting chess pieces symbolizing attracting and retaining talentOne of the myriad things we learned from “The Great Resignation,” where employees across the nation voluntarily resigned from their jobs, is that people are no longer willing to stay in unfulfilling roles or work for employers that do not respect their values. A powerful component of the mass exodus from organizations of all sizes and industries is the effect corporate culture has on the workplace environment, productivity, and relationships.

Employers quickly realized what they already knew – the same thing we all know yet tend to forget until it is too late – that a positive workplace culture supports the well-being and success of employees and makes them feel valued and connected to their colleagues, making them more likely to stay and contribute their best work.

Corporate culture stems from the shared values, beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral norms that influence everything from a company’s mission and vision to employee satisfaction, work-life balance, and a positive work environment.

When we forget this, the result is clear: a negative workplace culture leaves employees feeling demotivated and disengaged, ultimately leading to high turnover, which has a resonating impact on the company’s reputation, brand, and long-term growth.

Here, we discuss why trust is a foundational element that profoundly impacts corporate culture and how it plays a pivotal role in shaping an organization’s dynamics, behaviors, competitiveness, and overall strength and success.

Strong and Effective Leadership Sets the Tone for Corporate Culture

Influential leaders who lead by example and prioritize the well-being of their teams create an environment that employees want to be a part of. This fosters job satisfaction among employees and loyalty to the leaders by whom they are inspired and motivated.

When people feel valued, appreciated, and supported in their workplace, they are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and less inclined to seek opportunities elsewhere, contributing to higher retention rates.

Trust Matters: Trust is critical in leadership that influences, inspires and promotes a culture where employees are more likely to follow the company’s vision and values. Leaders who build a culture of trust are those who consistently role-model trustworthy behavior and uncompromisingly promote principles that enable employees to be both trustworthy and trusting. This enhances reputation and brand image, which in turn helps retain employees and attract top talent who take pride in being associated with a respected and ethical organization.

Open Communication Leads to Employee Engagement and a Sense of Belonging

Effective communication is a cornerstone of a healthy corporate culture. Employees are more likely to stay in an organization where their opinions matter and they feel informed, that their voices are heard, and that their concerns are addressed.

A strong corporate culture creates a sense of belonging and community among employees who feel part of something bigger, developing connections with their colleagues and the organization crucial for retention. Open communication helps workers feel engaged and emotionally committed to their work and the organization, taking the initiative to go the extra mile, take ownership of their roles, and remain loyal to the company.

Trust Matters: Open and honest communication within an organization fosters trust. When employees trust their leaders and colleagues, they are more likely to share ideas, concerns, and feedback without fear of negative repercussions.

Open communication goes both ways: leaders need to be transparent about what’s happening in the company and what they expect from employees, and actively solicit and listen to employee feedback. In return, employees need to share their input candidly and proactively.

A Positive Corporate Culture Promotes Work-Life Balance

Many organizations recognize that flexibility and work-life balance initiatives show respect for employees’ well-being and contribute to a positive corporate culture, but the reverse is also true: corporate culture contributes to work-life balance.  Employees who consistently feel forced to choose between work responsibilities and taking care of their families and personal needs usually end up feeling unsatisfied with both.

Trust Matters: Employees who feel they can focus fully on their professional responsibilities while at work, and fully on their private lives in their private time, are likelier to stay with their employer. Knowing that their organization cares about their well-being can lower stress when they’re away from work, whether they’re enjoying regular time off or dealing with family emergencies.

Effective Teamwork and Collaboration Encourage Innovation

Corporate cultures that intentionally build trust and promote collaboration provide opportunities for continuous improvement, creativity, and calculated risk-taking, creating a competitive advantage.

Trust Matters: Without trust, innovation initiatives will struggle as teams do not feel comfortable taking the necessary risks to drive change. This is especially crucial in situations with high uncertainty and vulnerability.

Intentionally-built trust makes it possible for teams to take action to achieve success while ideas are blossoming and in times of crisis where they can falter without embarrassment in front of their leader or colleagues. When employees believe their team will provide a safe environment for individual and combined risk-taking, they deliver results.

In a culture of trust, team members are motivated, collaborate more smoothly, leverage their strengths more effectively, and constructively resolve conflicts and disputes to reach mutually beneficial solutions, radically expanding confidence in each other, leadership, and the organization.

Investing in People Facilitates Adaptability and Growth

Companies that prioritize a healthy corporate culture invest in employee development. Employees who see opportunities for advancement and skill-building within the organization are more likely to stay and grow with the company than to seek external opportunities. They are also more likely to pivot, grow and embrace organizational change.

Trust Matters: Employees are more likely to embrace new strategies and directions when they trust that leadership is invested in their personal success.

Businesses Thrive When They Put People First

A culture that encourages long-term thinking and values employee retention as a strategic goal is more likely to build a sustainable and prosperous organization. Businesses who put their people first:

  • Retain experienced employees who contribute to institutional knowledge and continuous improvement;
  • Attract top, value-aligned talent who are engaged, innovative, productive, collaborative, and curious employees;
  • Are less likely to be seen as a “stepping stone” for employees toward their long-term goals;
  • Develop employees who are passionate about the organization, its purpose, and their role in its success;
  • Have lower turnover costs, including recruitment, training, and lost productivity during the transition;
  • See internal trust reflected in healthier client, vendor and partner relationships, increasing trust and loyalty from key external stakeholders.

Trust is a fundamental element underpinning a corporate culture’s character and dynamics. Organizations that prioritize building and maintaining trust among employees tend to have healthier, more positive, and more productive cultures, contributing to long-term success and sustainability and increasing trust with clients and partners.

Trust-Based Resources to Maximize Your Team’s Potential:




The (R)evolution of Trust-based Leadership

It’s been (gulp) more than 20 years since I got my MBA.

At the time, just before the turn of this century, Gordon Gekko’s fictional speech in the movie Wall Street that “Greed is Good” resonated. Icons like Jack Welch, Michael Eisner, Albert (“Chainsaw Al”) Dunlap, and Lou Gerstner were heralded for their ruthless commitment to corporate profitability. “Cash is king” was the watchword of the time, and “corporate value” usually meant the value of a company’s stock. Trust rarely came up as a topic.

Today, business schools commonly have courses, if not whole curricula, dedicated to the topic of leadership, with trust being a core element. An internet search for “trust in business” returned almost two billion results, and a search on the same phrase in Amazon Books returned over 8,000 results. To say trust-based leadership is a current topic is a gross understatement.

So what changed?

Trust Didn’t Change

The dynamics of trust are the same. Trust is personal: it occurs when one person takes the risk of trusting someone, and that person proves themselves trustworthy.

Our core models for trustworthiness and building trust – the Trust Equation, the ELFEC process, and the Trust Principles – have evolved, but the fundamentals, and the dynamics between trustor and trustee, are unchanged.

That’s hardly surprising. Trust is a fundamental human relationship that’s been around since well before the written word.

The World Changed

Back then, cellular phones were still a rarity, and the internet was only just catching on. Google was a brand-new company, Bluetooth and HDTV were just barely commercially available, and Mark Zuckerberg was in middle school. We got our information primarily from print newspapers and on-air newscasts.

Technology, and the easy access to information it provided, catapulted us into the 21st century. The internet changed the way we do almost everything. Smart phones are ubiquitous, and news of events is practically instantaneous. Climate change went from a political debate to a grim reality, and social issues are in the spotlight.

In particular, the business world is now:

  • Flatter – more horizontally linked, less vertically integrated
  • More inter-connected – global teams and globally-available resources
  • More technological – IOT, AI, machine learning, smart devices
  • More collaborative ­– ecosystems, innovation networks, supply chain integration
  • More transparent – social media, business intelligence, digital everything
  • More networked – a competitor in one deal is a partner in another
  • More values-based – social responsibility, sustainability, corporate culture

Leadership Changed

Old-school “leadership” was a one-size-fits-all approach to getting things done. Founded in command-and-control corporate models, it dictated that the role of the leader was to set corporate direction, which relegated everyone else to carrying out orders. This approach emphasized the mentality that leadership is done the same way, all the time, and by only a very few people.

Today, just as everyone is a salesperson and everyone is in customer service – so too everyone is a leader.

That’s not corporate double-speak; it has meaning. Dictating execution of strategy from the top down worked in an industrialized economy, but the flatter organizations of today distribute the responsibility of executing strategy throughout the organization.

In this new environment, leadership also is about more than just strategy execution. Gallup’s latest State of the American Workplace Report finds that “employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged than those supervised by actively disengaged managers.”

The role of leading is no longer reserved exclusively for those at the top of the organization chart.

The leadership skills of today are persuasion, influence, collaboration, the ability to create alliances, to join forces, to create environments that encourage collaboration, the ability to play nicely together in the sandbox, to forge agreements, and to play long-term win-win rather than screw-your-customer to jack up the quarterly numbers.

Leadership Skills are Trust Skills

Those skills are trust skills. We don’t need fierce competitors; we need fierce collaborators. We don’t need to ‘win one for the Gipper;’ we need to win one for all of us. We don’t need vertical skills; we need horizontal skills.

Certain leadership skills are constant: the ability to inspire, to create and articulate visions and stories, for example. But others have been replaced. Being good at vicious infighting to gain the top job is – on balance, in most companies – a lot more dysfunctional these days than valuable. Making “tough decisions” isn’t the virtue it used to be; sometimes it just reflects a failure of imagination.

Today organizations are less about being led and more about cultures that foster leadership throughout. Such cultures are driven by what we call Virtues and Values.

New leadership requires versatility and depends more on influence and collaboration than hierarchical authority and procedures. And that requires trust.

Are you ready to be a trust-based leader?

Feeling Caught in the Middle? Lead with Trust

Countless studies and articles show that trust and high performing teams are interlinked. One such study by The Great Place to Work Institute shows that high-trust organizations beat the average annualized returns of the S&P 500 by a factor of three.

Even though it’s clear that fostering a high-trust team environment is the right strategy for improved morale, collaboration, innovation, AND financials, why do so many leaders struggle?

Leaders have many dynamics to navigate: direct reports, leadership teams, organizational metrics as well as their own personal goals. Matrix organizations can make things even more complicated. Add the stress of managing through the current pandemic, global events and world economic challenges, and it’s easy to see how leaders might feel caught in the middle.

Most leaders want to do right by their teams by creating a positive, flourishing environment. But when the stress is high, how we behave doesn’t always align with how we want to be seen as leaders.

The Trust Equation shows us how our actions and behaviours can increase (or decrease) the level of trust in our relationships. It also provides a simple framework to help leaders walk their talk and build trust with their teams.

  • Credibility is much more than the number of degrees hanging on a wall or awards sitting on a desk. As a leader, credibility becomes less about your technical capabilities and more about how you communicate. What message are you sending and to whom? Are you clear about your purpose and expectations?  Do you communicate intentionally and with full transparency so no one on the team feels “out of the loop”? Credibility is about communicating with honesty and integrity, even when the messages are hard, or you don’t have all the answers.
  • Reliability means being dependable and predictable; it’s how you show up to people day in and day out. If you’re friendly and at ease one day and a tyrant the next, your team will end up walking on eggshells, not really sure which version of you they might encounter. As a leader, your actions (and equally your lack of action) have impact.  Do your actions support and empower your team? How consistent is what you say with what you do? Your team members will take their cue from you—what messages do your actions send?
  • Intimacy is all about safety. It is created through empathy, discretion, and personal risk-taking. It must be built individually with team members and encourages among the team as a whole. How vulnerable and open are you with your team? Do you encourage others to share their thoughts and emotions, and are you open to hearing what they might say? How do you encourage discussion and healthy conflict? What happens when someone on the team makes a mistake? Your reactions as a leader will set the tone for the entire team.
  • Self-Orientation shows your team where your focus is and what motivates you. How are you showing your commitment and attention to your team and your joint goals, versus your own personal agenda?  Spotting a leader who only manages up is easy.  Less obvious is a leader who is doubtful, stressed or unsure – all triggers of high self-orientation.  When our “S” is high, we know we need to focus on the long term and think strategically, but we may find ourselves diving deep, nit-picking and second guessing team members.  Creating a high-trust environment requires trusting the team to do their work, even if they do the work differently than you. Build collaboration and trust by focusing on the big picture, seeking to understand others and elevating the contributions of the team.

Building a team with trust takes mindful practice, especially when you feel caught in the middle of competing pressures and priorities. The best leaders dedicate themselves to creating a culture where their people feel heard, respected, safe and appreciated. Frame your leadership around the Trust Equation and watch your culture flourish, even in the most stressful times.

For more on this topic, check out our eBook How To Create a Culture of Trust and watch my free webinar Caught in the Middle – Leading with Trust in Times of Stress.

Selling Trust into the Sales Process (Episode 40) Trust Matters,The Podcast

Welcome to the newest episode of Trust Matters, The Podcast. Listeners submit their personal questions about professional relationships, trust, and business situations to our in-house expert Charles H. Green, CEO, Trusted Advisor Associates, and co-author of The Trusted Advisor.

Jennifer from a Telecommunications company writes in and asks, “I know you’ve written about Trust-based Selling. My question is not to ask you to explain Trust-based Selling, but instead how to SELL the Trust-based Selling approach into my sales training team?  What’s the hook? The business case? How can I get them to consider it seriously?”

Do you want to send your questions to Charlie & Trust Matters, The Podcast?

We’ll answer almost ANY question about confusing, complicated or awkward business situations with clients, management, and colleagues. Email us: [email protected]

Building Trust In A Crisis

Pandemic. Covid-19. Unprecedented. New normal…

… You can write the rest of this paragraph yourself – things have changed. Is there anything left to be written about it all?

Yes there is. It’s about trust. In particular – how do you manage interpersonal trust in professional relationships?  How have trust dynamics changed in working with and selling to clients? What about trust in management and leadership?

For over 20 years, Trusted Advisor Associates has helped professionals deepen trust with clients and colleagues. We built this page to share our most-relevant thinking on navigating trust in professional relationships during the current crisis.

Click on Areas of focus:

Emotional Components of Trust

In normal times, the emotional aspects of trustworthiness (Intimacy and Self orientation) are slightly more powerful than the non-emotional traits (Credibility & Reliability) See The Trust Equation to learn more.

Now, the importance of those emotional components is multiples more – since the overwhelming response to a crisis like this is an emotional one. Broadly speaking, we need to manage our Self-orientation and increase our Intimacy.

Self orientation

Your self-orientation is likely to be high right now, whether you realize it or not. On the other hand – so is everyone else’s.

We recognize – and will remember – those who are able to genuinely reach out beyond their own psyches and connect with others in such times.

Grant yourself the grace to realize that things are different . Recognize and acknowledge what you are experiencing, and manage your Self-orientation moving forward.


Intimacy & Empathy

Everyone deals with stress in their own way. You are unique – and so is everyone else.

Remember the acronym, N.A.P.A.L.M.: Not All People Are Like Me. Others’ experiences are likely to be different from yours, even if their circumstances appear to be similar.

In times of stress, empathy is rare: at the same time, it’s vastly more valuable.  The ability to truly understand (while not necessarily agreeing with) the other person’s situation creates emotional safety, or Intimacy, for the other person. And Intimacy was already the most important factor in the Trust Equation.


Virtual Communication & Leadership

The hallmark of the COVID-19 crisis is that it requires physical distancing. It raises to the forefront the question: How do you create trust at a distance? Those who figure that out now will be appreciated, effective, and successful going forward.


Above All Else…

Trust is personal. Organizations don’t build trust, people do.

Let us know what you’re experiencing, and how we can help the people in your organization build trust in these times of change. Please reach out. We look forward to the conversation.

Podcast Interview: The Importance of Trust in Remote Leadership

Richard Hsu, Director of the Partner Practice Group, interviews Charles H. Green, on the HSU Untied Podcast, for a deep dive discussion into how leaders can refine their trust and communication skills in this new, virtual business world.

Learn how to connect with and read your team better, virtually. Understand how Intimacy and Self orientation are more important than ever.

Trust in a Coffee Cup – The Intimate Actuary

I’ve often wondered: is our real workplace office the coffee shop?

Many years ago, when I started work as a management consultant, the smoking area was the place where information was exchanged, relationships forged, and informal deals brokered. There’s an informality when people congregate without agendas; barriers are dropped, titles mean less, and deeper social connections get forged.

Is this ‘informality’ the key to the Trust Equation’s key component of Intimacy?

Coffee Shop Intimacy

Being a Brit, we often think they’re the same thing. The beers after work and the ‘Cheeky Nandos’ (see here for our befuddled American friends) is our default to creating intimacy; but perhaps we should think a bit more deeply.

Intimacy as a component of trustworthiness is actually more about security and a sense of empathy, a less boisterous and socially connected emotion. It’s individual and personal, and is expressed differently from person to person. One size definitely doesn’t fit all.

I learnt this the hard way over a series of weeks working in a large financial services client. My personal default style is always openness and candid sharing of the personal (full disclosure: I’m Irish). I’m always looking for that connection. So – what happens when that openness meets The Actuary?

Actuarial Intimacy

I’m not suggesting by any means that actuaries are not able to display intimacy, but by the very nature of their work they are not emotional risk takers. Instead, they must be able to be analytical and reflective. The profession tends to attract those who feel simpatico with those requirements.  Social settings are rarely the default home of The Actuary. And yet – for them, as for all of us, Intimacy is still key to trust.

Throughout the weeks we worked together my daily routine began with a visit to the inhouse Starbucks; and every day (maybe 2-3 times a day) I’d offer to buy a coffee for my actuarial friend and client. And (of course) every day he would decline, much to my frustration. I wanted nothing more than to sit down with him and understand what his passions were, his family situation – who he was as a person.

We worked together closely, and made great progress, but for me it was like wading through cement – no conversation, no social interaction. It was killing me. Worse still, I had no idea if I was even making an impact with the work. His only foray into ‘real’ communication was to starkly tell me one afternoon, after my third coffee of the day, “You spend on average £7 a day on coffee; that’s close to £2,000 a year.” (I suspect he even worked out my life expectancy on the back of that).

Yet I couldn’t have been more wrong. In hindsight, this was his conversation starter, though it took me until the project was finished to recognize it as such. We delivered on time and with (to my mind) a great result. His expressed view was that we had delivered what was expected.

On our final day working together, before I left for a new client, I was sitting with colleagues both client and peers. We were engaging in what we knew best, that snappy ‘cheeky Nandos’ social interaction, and of course I was comfortable again – back to normal.

Just before lunch my actuarial friend paid me a visit. And, he came with a gift – a very risky gift for him, a branded insulated coffee-mug. Initially I thought, “Yes! I’ve converted him, he’s a social coffee drinker now.” But again, I had misread him.

He looked me in the eye and said to me, “Johnny, I’ve really enjoyed working with you. I’ve brought you something to say thank-you for making this a success for me, and for my team.”

Suddenly I was the one without words. I defaulted to my informal social style, we exchanged some trivial social niceties, and we said our farewells.

You Can’t Buy Intimacy

It took me months to realize that for him intimacy wasn’t about being social. It wasn’t bonhomie or office banter. In fact, it was much deeper than that. For him it was about me understanding him, including what was important to him and how he felt about it. That then translated to what needed to be done, by when and with what outcome.

Success wasn’t beers and back slaps: it was me realizing how important it was to him that the job be done well, and him being comfortable that I had understood that about him.

We had created intimacy and we had built trust – slowly and painfully for me, measured and appropriately for him. Ultimately, he felt safe knowing that we would get where we were headed, together, and that he could trust me to share that commitment.

I still see him in the airport lounge on my regular commutes between Edinburgh and London, and every six months or so he’ll introduce me to a colleague. He’s always polite, measured and professional. As for me, well, I always have a coffee in my hand.

But we both know.

Trust in the Time of the COVID-19 Pandemic (Episode 38)Trust Matters,The Podcast

Welcome to the newest episode of Trust Matters, The Podcast. Listeners submit their personal questions about professional relationships, trust, and business situations to our in-house expert Charles H. Green, CEO, Trusted Advisor Associates and co-author of The Trusted Advisor.

A leader in a consulting firm writes in desperately trying to figure out how to manage business development and clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. She asks “Do you have any ideas about how to build trust with potential clients in a time of crisis like this?”

Do you want to send your questions to Charlie & Trust Matters, The Podcast?

We’ll answer almost ANY question about confusing, complicated or awkward business situations with clients, management, and colleagues. Email us: [email protected]

Trust in the Job Hunting Process (Episode 37) Trust Matters,The Podcast

Welcome to the newest episode of Trust Matters, The Podcast. Listeners submit their personal questions about professional relationships, trust, and business situations to our in-house expert Charles H. Green, CEO, Trusted Advisor Associates and co-author of The Trusted Advisor.

A technology project manager writes in and asks, “I’ve been responding to postings in my field, I’ve got a solid resume, and I’m getting interviews, but – I’m not getting call-backs. In my interviews, I make sure to highlight the project management fits in my resume with the specific requirements they cite. But something isn’t working. Any advice?”

Looking for more advice on how to improve your interview skills?  Join our next webinar How to Influence a Skeptical Audience: 3 Simple Steps

Do you want to send your questions to Charlie & Trust Matters, The Podcast?

We’ll answer almost ANY question about confusing, complicated or awkward business situations with clients, management, and colleagues. Email us: [email protected]