In any work setting where relationships matter, trust – not needing to verify – is at the center.

Building relationships is a bit of a messy process. Therefore, building trust can also be messy.

Yet, there are things one can do to contain the messiness, such as paying attention to the choice of words one uses to outline and define roles.

During my time as a Money Market trader, I once attended a weekend team building session intended to help the sales and trading team shift the department from being a loss leader.

partner

The one thing that stuck with me was the sage advice to shift away from using the word customer to client. The session leader encouraged us to deliberately use the high-value label which would lend itself to the team cultivating, nurturing and striving to understand the people that we sold to and bought from.

I’m wondering now if the word “partner” would have been most appropriate.

Charles Green and Andrea Howe, in their book The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, suggest that anyone involved in building a trusting relationship with a stakeholder should deliberately use the word partner. It’s  a good metaphor for the give and take found in most great relationships.

That’s good advice.

It’s sage advice for anyone leading a change effort. The art is to authentically bring that wonderful role defining word into the ongoing conversation all change leaders should have with the culture and people context.