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Trust Transparency Defined

Trust means different things to different people. When it is mentioned, it can automatically conjure images of a specific person, such as a parent or spouse. It can be applied equally to personal relationships and business transactions. Some people relate trust to honesty, while others relate it to reliability and certainty. Depending on the person or circumstance, trust can be any of those … or it can be all of those. That is because the trust we bestow on someone or something is personal and based on our experiences, expectations, and beliefs. There are many factors to take into consideration, including the role the person or entity plays in our lives.

Trust is often a vague concept, but since the moment we were born, it’s existent throughout our entire lives. I define trust as a belief that things are and will be as promised. Trust provides us with confidence in people, products, and services and reflects upon their integrity, effectiveness, and the level of assurance we have in them. Trust is our perception of the delivery of a promise, whether it’s a commitment from a loved one or an expectation between employer and employee.

Trust can be spoken or unspoken. It can be expressed in the form of a signature on a legal contract or in the transfer of money in exchange for a service. Past generations used a handshake as a signal of trust, signifying a binding agreement and promise to deliver. Trust wasn’t visible when the deal was sealed, but the relationship and agreement formed would have been impossible without it. It’s important to note that trust isn’t always visible. It’s an intangible element in our lives that, like running water, is taken for granted until the well runs dry. Unfortunately, by that time, the damage has been done, which is why I’m an advocate for making trust transparent and proactive, rather than reactive. Just like a car requires maintenance to avoid costly repairs that result from neglect, making trust a visible priority in personal and business relationships can prevent damage to a reputation or public perception that could be costly, if not insurmountable. As I stated earlier, in life and in business, at some point our very survival will rely solely on trust.

Like a handshake that seals a promise, transparency is the vehicle by which trust is communicated. In this sense, I do not mean that everything should be openly shared with everyone. For example, there is no benefit in telling someone that you really don’t like their new hairstyle or, worse, “yes, dear, those jeans do make you look fat.” For our purposes, transparency means to share as much as possible and do no harm. Transparency is the open disclosure of information that needs to be known in order to prevent a violation of trust.

Trust and transparency are two words that have been part of our vocabulary forever. But my goal is to introduce a new term and definition—trust transparency. Let’s remove the ampersand! Let’s delete the “and” entirely to create a new concept that will enrich all of our business interactions, communications, and relationships.


Because I’ve found that together, trust and transparency are exponentially larger than they are individually. The synergy of the two concepts combined into one thought process is incredibly advantageous to our professional and personal success.

Panera Bread recently published a “No No List” of ingredients as a commitment to making their food 100% clean. The list includes over 80 artificial ingredients, preservatives, sweeteners, flavors and colors they will not allow in their pantry or food. Panera is working hard to achieve an increased level of consumer trust through the use of transparency. More companies should follow their lead.

By taking trust and making it visible, we have the ability to improve our relationships, sales, consumer confidence, and, ultimately, the reputation that follows us wherever we go.

In good health,

Scott Steinford, Managing Partner, Trust Transparency