MAYA (SYLVIA) DOLENA Sylvia Dolenais a colleague of mine from when we both worked for Hewlett-Packard. She led and provided consulting, coaching and training expertise for dozens of initiatives in employee engagement, technology implementation, and customer satisfaction.

Now, Sylvia is a Master Business Consultant and Executive Coach in Hawaii, and founder of Conscious Commerce Coalition and Winning Edge University. I was grateful to have a conversation with her recently about her experience working on building trust between people and companies.


Sylvia, you have some expertise on building companies which have Trust and Integrity. Could you help me understand how you’re using these concepts?

My definition of trust a belief in someone’s capacity and capability to deliver in the 5 C’s of Trust. The 5 C’s of trust are:

  • Credibility: can I believe this person;
  • Character: is this person authentic;
  • Consideration: does this person care;
  • Confidentiality: can this person respect confidences;
  • Competence: is this person qualified or capable to do what they say.

Integrity to me literally means consistency or congruency as in, “What I think, what I say, what I do is consistent and in alignment with my core values.”

How does this relate to the work you’ve done on establishing a company’s core competencies?

When we consider building core competencies based in values, we set a foundation of integrity to earn trust. When clients and customers know what they can rely upon from you, their provider, they will grant trust. So before building core competencies in quality or customer service, for example, we must establish integrity in the 5 areas of trust first.

I don’t know any business owner who says they’re NOT working toward their customers’ trust. What’s different about those which have actually adopted this as a core value?

I can’t speak to what is different or how to compare to other businesses; however, I can tell you what businesses who have adopted values as their core competencies do. They create a vision and a plan to achieve that vision similar to a strategic plan to go after a new market. They consciously develop themselves, their people and their work processes and procedures to align to the trust areas.

For example, if a business decides to improve and establish a core competency in Credibility, they would develop behaviors and adopt policies that would establish their credibility in all facets of their business. They would question themselves to determine where they need to improve or establish the behaviors that would earn them credibility. Here are some examples:

  • Do we follow through on all commitments to our customers?
  • Can customers believe what we say at all times? Do they consider us honest? If not, where do we need to shift?
  • Do we do what we say we are going to do? Do we keep our agreements? Are we consistent at all times in similar situations? Are we consistent will all customers?
  • Are we honest when we making a sale, handling an issue or providing the product or service?

I was fascinated when you said that the culture in Hawaii places Trust at a premium. Could you give me some examples?

There is a different mentality when living on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. News travels fast and if you are not in integrity, you will be found out because there is no place to hide. You are on an island with your customers as your neighbors. Once your reputation is established through your interactions—good or bad—it will take a lot to change it.

There have been several mainland businesses that have tried to establish branches here but have not been successful. If the company does not fit into the culture or if it operates with the mainland mentality, it will not be successful. Trust begins by fitting in and being one of us first rather than bringing your own customs here with the intent of imposing them.

I’m not sure that answers the question, that’s the way it seems to work here.

Does this mean you think that Hawaiian companies need to act differently than those on the US mainland, or in other countries?

Large businesses which have already have an established reputation on the mainland and make an effort to hire local people and fit into the culture do well. In a sense, they act differently to some degree. For small, local businesses, there is a need to act very differently. If you are a small, new local business, then you need to build your reputation based in trust because you are relying on your neighbors to be your customers. And do Hawaiian companies need to act differently? My opinion is that if more companies had an island mentality, there would be more integrity in those businesses.

I agree! I believe that’s true of any small business which serves local customers, but the effect may well be magnified when a community is particularly tight-knit.

I’d like to revisit your 5 C’s of trust, because I find them very powerful. Do you think that there’s modifications when you’re talking about the trust given to a company rather than to an individual?

In my mind, trust is about operating in integrity. Companies are made up of individuals. The only modifications I would make for a company rather than an individual are the terms and conditions. What I mean is that when providing a product or service to an individual, there typically is no official contract. When providing B2B, typically there is a contract or terms and conditions. However, these are all based in trust and integrity and the documents are primarily for clarity of the agreement. The foundation is the same.

Let’s just see how this fits applying the 5 C’s of trust to a business.

  • Credibility: can I believe this business and what they are saying or recommending?
  • Character: is this business authentic and can I trust they are who they say they are? This would especially apply to online businesses due to all the scamming going on.
  • Consideration: does this business care about my experience, my values, or how their products/services affect me?
  • Confidentiality: can this business respect confidences? Do they sell my email addresses? Are my purchases and the amounts I spend kept confidential?
  • Competence: is this business qualified or capable to do what they say?

This seems to work for me. I believe that any business who wants long-term relationships with their customers can apply the 5 C’s as their business core competencies.

Thank you so much for sharing this information with our readers, Sylvia!

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