Getting to We: All About Trust, Transparency and Compatibility

Getting to We is a book about negotiating. It is not, however, a typical negotiation book when compared to the hundreds of other negotiation books. It is a book that opens the way to developing a new mindset and process for negotiating business relationships where it’s the success of the relationship that matters most.

And that success depends on establishing a foundation of trust, transparency and compatibility; they are the building blocks of a solid and stable foundation. To achieve the WIIFWe mindset, partners must have some measure of these three components.

  • Trust

Trust is the core quality, the cornerstone if you will, of any collaborative partnership. Trust is the enabler for everything else that follows on the path to We. Trust lowers transaction costs, fosters innovation, and provides the necessary space for the flexibility and agility needed in today’s markets.

Trust establishes the conditions for productive collaboration. Companies with high degrees of trust can spend their energy leveraging each other’s core strengths and creating value. Collaboration is enabled in two ways:

  • A trusting relationship unleashes the extraordinary power of human innovation and creativity. As levels of trust increase, parties are relieved of the burden of having to look constantly over their shoulders. Once that occurs, they can spend their time and energy in the pursuit of more creative solutions. Thus, trust allows companies to invest in the future because they trust that their counterpart will continue to support their strategic objectives.
  • Trust decreases transaction costs. Transaction costs entail the costs associated with using the “market” to produce something for your company and can come in the form of deciding where to buy a good or service instead of making or performing the service yourself. Trust makes sure the benefits of cooperation exceed the benefits of going to the market to get a better deal. By lowering transaction costs, companies are free to use their energies to pursue cooperative potential.

Is trust built over time? Does a person choose to trust his or her partner? Or is trust built quickly out of necessity and put to the test? The answer is, it depends, but typically trust is formed over time. It doesn’t have to take a long time to create high levels of trust, but high degrees of trust can be developed rather quickly when circumstances demand it. On the other hand trust can disappear in an instant and then take a very long time—if ever!—to be reestablished.

The primary things to know about trust is that it is a choice and that it has the power to transform a relationship.

Trust is the result of actions, and since actions are a result of human thought and willpower, individuals and organizations can make the choice to take actions that increase trust and avoid actions that decrease trust.

Trust goes to the heart of the collaborative partnership. And it must be established once and for all: trust does not increase or decrease by coincidence.

  • Transparency

Transparency requires that parties share relevant information to ensure they will make good decisions for themselves and for the relationship. In fact, solving business problems requires parties to share more information than they ever imagined possible. Truly collaborative relationships embrace this and work to determine what information to share, how much information to share, and with whom to share it.

Trust requires a high degree of transparency between the parties, providing them with the information needed to perform to the mutual benefit of all. The two go hand-in-hand: without trust, parties are less likely to share information openly; without transparency, it is difficult for partners to agree to follow the guiding principles, to negotiate a financially beneficial win-win, and to continue to embody the We philosophy.

Transparency is a foundational element on the path to Getting to We because it fosters trust and generates an environment for reaching more complete solutions.

  • Compatibility

A collaborative relationship is helped along by a certain level of compatibility between the parties.

While trust and transparency are important foundational components for creating a WIIFWe mindset compatibility also matters, although to a lesser degree. Successful partnerships do not need to have nearly as much cultural compatibility as trust and transparency.

At least one research study found that when there was little compatibility among team members, the teams that designed a fair and transparent communication process circumvented problems associated with low compatibility.

Compatibility is made up of two elements, behaviors and culture. Compatibility fosters an atmosphere of trust because the partners’ behaviors and culture are somewhat aligned.

Compatibility and trust make possible the openness necessary to solve problems.

Accurately assessing trust and compatibility is not easy. It is often a one-sided affair: a buying company will evaluate a supplier’s trustworthiness without understanding the supplier’s perceptions of the buying company’s trustworthiness.\

This is why companies should consider doing a Compatibility and Trust Assessment (CaT) early. More on the CaT in another post.