As discussed here previously, to become more "ART-ful," your enterprise must become more agile, resilient, and trustworthy. This post digs a bit more deeply into trustworthiness, why it matters, how to achieve and sustain it and the critical role of security in those efforts.

Let’s cut to the chase. There are likely no circumstances under which you would choose to do business with any person or business you could not trust. It is equally likely that every client (internal and external), partner, and prospect of your enterprise thinks and feels exactly the same way. Trustworthiness is therefore at least as critical to your enterprise’s success as agility or resilience.

Or, to quote perhaps the world’s best-known investor and businessperson, Warren Buffett, "Trust is like the air we breathe. When it’s present, nobody really notices. But when it’s absent, everybody notices."

This is especially true for companies that sell products or services, which is just about all companies. Hank Barnes is a research director at Gartner, focused on go-to-market strategies for technology providers. In a Feb. 3, 2015 blog post, Barnes wrote, "Trust levels are the underlying current that drives buying. And providers are usually starting from a weak, un-trusted position. Everything you do needs to be about building trust between the buyer and you, your product, and your organization."

Trust and the Bottom Line

Stephen M.R. Covey is the author of the book "The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything." from which the above quotes come. He is also the son of Stephen R. Covey, the author of the worldwide bestseller, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," and was CEO of the Covey Leadership Center. In three years, Stephen M.R. Covey grew that Center from $2.4 million to $160 million in revenues, before orchestrating its merger with Franklin Quest to form Franklin Covey.

A central element of Stephen M.R. Covey's thesis is that deals get closed faster and are more successful when those involved share high levels of trust. As he says in his book, "Above all, success in business requires two things: a winning competitive strategy, and superb organizational execution. Distrust is the enemy of both. I submit that while high trust won't necessarily rescue a poor strategy, low trust will almost always derail a good one." Franklin Covey also operates a Web site that features case studies, task lists, and other resources intended to improve organizational trustworthiness.

The bottom line? Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm, surveyed some 33,000 people worldwide for its 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer. Of those respondents, 63 percent said that they simply refuse to buy anything from those they don’t trust, while 80 percent will only buy from those they trust. Or as Zig Ziglar, one of the best known and widely read sales professionals in the world, once said, “If people like you, they will listen to you. But if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.”

How to Achieve and Sustain Trustworthiness

Know where you are. Bite the bullet, and ask your most important constituent groups (privately, of course) questions that help you assess how much they trust your team or company. At minimum, ask if they'd do business with your team or company again, if they'd recommend your team or company to peers, and why or why not.

Fix what's broken. Use those questions and answers to identify any unsatisfied constituents, find out why they're unsatisfied, and fix it. Every unsatisfied constituent is a detriment to trustworthiness, and you should assume that your constituents talk with each other.

Cultivate advocacy. Use those questions and answers to identify your happiest, most trusting clients and partners, then ask them to let you make them stars. That is, ask for their permission and cooperation to showcase them in your outreach efforts. Then, make it as easy for them as possible to be featured in the success stories, presentations, interviews, and other content you produce with their cooperation and support.

Show your work. It’s one thing to claim to be trustworthy. It’s another to be able to demonstrate and document trustworthiness credibly and on demand to any and all stakeholders –from customers, partners, and prospects to auditors and regulators. This is a major, long-term, continuing effort. And everything you do to make and keep your organization’s IT infrastructure comprehensively, demonstrably secure greatly aids these efforts. Comprehensive, proactive, user-centered security is a firm foundation for managing governance, operational transparency, and reporting. All of these, in turn, enhance your organization’s ability to both claim and credibly demonstrate trustworthiness.

Make the goal of trustworthiness a significant part of every plan, strategy, and process that governs your business. Especially those focused on IT security, since the security of your IT infrastructure has direct and profound effects on your organization’s ability to be trusted. And include your internal and external clients and partners in this effort wherever practical. It may be the single most significant thing you can do to minimize time to success and maximize the number and value of constituent relationships, for your constituents, your team, and your enterprise.

Next: tying it all together!