Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - February 27 , 2013

Straight Talk: The Trust Continuum

In this issue of Jeff's Thoughts, I welcome my colleauge Tom Bengston. Recent editions of this e-zine have focused on "trust,". and I am pleased to have Tom contribute his perspective to the discussion. More about Tom below.

Business is ultimately about relationships - the interaction you share with your employees, colleagues, shareholders and customers. Trust is the natural product of a good relationship. When there is a high degree of trust, people become willing to take risks. And risk is essential for change. Launching something new, reaching out to a stranger, doing more than the minimum, or going the extra mile all involve risk. Yet life's greatest rewards in the commercial arena as well as personal circles come when you go the extra mile, reach a little farther than you thought you could, or believe in someone a little more than you should.

This is the trust continuum: Reward comes from taking risk; people take risks when they have a high degree of trust; and trust comes out of sound relationships. At least two business authors -- Stephen M.R. Covey in "The Speed of Trust," and David Horsager in "The Trust Edge" -- have documented the benefits of a high-trust environment. They draw on age-old wisdom that I find worth revisiting from time to time, including now.

When business is slow, as it is for many business owners now, people tend to focus on the "change" end of the trust continuum. We want people to buy more, work harder, think smarter, or come up with something new. We want them to come up with something that will make my business better. But, in fact, we are focusing on the wrong end of the continuum. Rather than focusing on the result we want at the end of the continuum, we would do better to focus on the relationships we have at the beginning of the continuum. The fact is, we can't do much about the changes people make but we can do a lot about the relationships we have. We can take concrete steps to form better new relationships and to deepen the relationships we already have.

Every relationship starts with self, the only person any of us can change. So look in the mirror and make changes in the areas you see that need work. Set a good example for those around you, praise those who work for you, be honest but sensitive, work for others instead of yourself. The greater interest you take in others, the more they will take an interest in you. In community banking where money is a commodity and there aren't enough transactions to make a profit on volume, it seems to me relationships are all you've got. Make the most of them and you might be amazed at the result.

Tom Bengtson is Managing Director of the Bank Holding Company Association, and publisher/editor of NorthWestern Financial Review magazine. Learn more at or Tom can be reached at