“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
Do your followers trust you? What about your peers, or your family? Of course, you answer. Are you sure? Let’s take a closer look, because trust is a word we use casually and something we take for granted; my suspicion is that many people cannot really explain what trust means.
Trust is an assessment by others that your behaviors and actions are in alignment with their positive expectations, and that what they value is safe with you.
When I trust you, what I am saying is that I have confidence you will act according to how I perceive you should act. So, if share a personal piece of information with you I assess that you will not spread that story all over the Internet. As long as you continue to honor that assessment and act accordingly, I “trust” you. But, should I suddenly see my life on Facebook, I will begin to not “trust” you.
There are four fundamental areas we need to address when thinking about this intellectual and emotional decision – trustworthy or not.
- Reliability: Do you keep the commitments and promises that you make?
- Competence: Do you have the ability to do what you claim to be able to do?
- Sincerity: Are you honest in your behaviors and in what you say?
- Care: Do you have my interests in mind; do you care about what I care about?
All four of these criteria are related and have to be present for me to trust you in a specific domain. This is because trust is domain specific. It is impossible to trust a person in every domain, and often not necessary. Think of a friend whom you would trust with your life during a skydive, but definitely not trust to do your taxes or invest your money.
I trust that my dentist is competent when it comes to the care of my teeth, I checked out where she went to school. I also must deem that she is honest with me and has my interests (the care of my teeth) at the forefront of our interactions. Notice how though, if one of the criteria is missing or is breached, trust is eroded. If I show up to the dental office and my dentist is not there and I find out that at the last minute she has decided to play golf, well, that’s going to lead me to question her reliability and affect my trust.
How then to build trust? Here are three simple ways; you can see they are also interrelated:
- Do what you say you will do. You are your word, but if your word is not reliable, people will lose trust in you fast. Teddy Roosevelt is quoted as saying one key to his success was, “ I made very few promises, and I kept every one of them.” This can be your mantra too. Many talented people with the best of intentions overestimate the amount of hours in a day. They over-promise. Do not promise what you cannot deliver.
- Say No. The ability to say no is a key leadership skill for anyone attempting to build trust. Saying no can create challenges for those around you, but those challenges will be much less than saying yes and failing to deliver. Learning to say no means that when you say yes others can count on that yes. This is a powerful leadership skill.
- Be honest and truthful. Your grandmother and parents were right; honesty is the best policy. It does not mean you have to be rude or discourteous to others, there are tactful ways to say that an idea or work product is not satisfactory. Be honest with yourself too. If you do not have the skills or bandwidth to take something on – say so. If you have made a mistake, or a bad decision, be open about it. The more you are honest and truthful, the more others will see you as trustworthy. Nothing kills trust quicker than dishonesty.
So go out and build up some trust – and success. Deliver on what you say you will do, learn to say no, and be honest with others, and with yourself.