- In my seminars about building trust in organizations, we brainstorm lists of what people do to reduce our trust and actions that increase trust. Whichever we do first, the reduced trust list is usually much longer. Joking I ask, "How many of us try to be untrustworthy? "Raise your hands." No one does. I say, "What a relief. "All the people who need to build trust "are somewhere else," and we laugh. We've all been stung by people being untrustworthy to us. Less apparent but just as important is earning the trust of others.
Good intentions aren't enough to gain trust. We all need to work on it. Everything's harder without trust. Our intent gets distorted by others concerns about our real motives or hidden agendas. Worse, they probably won't tell you they're skeptical. They'll smile or nod in apparent agreement. If they trusted you more, they might be more open but that's the challenge, isn't it? Even with good intentions, we can get stuck in this lack of trust loop. How can you break out and build trust across a wide range of people? Four steps: Study up, show up, open up, and follow up.
First, study up. Know your stuff. Lack of credibility drains trust, so in your area of knowledge, skill, or experience, stay current and step up in ways appropriate to your role in your meetings and conversations. Stay on your toes. Be prepared to put yourself into play. Respond promptly to questions or challenges that are relevant to your role. Be prepared also about your key stakeholders. Learn their expectations and their ways of getting things done. Learn how they run meetings, make decisions, deal with pressure, delegate, and communicate.
Learn who they are as specific individuals because that's how they need to feel treated to give more trust. That leads right into our second step: Show up. Be 100 percent present for the person or people with whom you're meeting. Another major trust reducer is coming across, like, we're multitasking. We're not getting away with it. They notice. And it's addicting. One leader I coached couldn't help himself, so he took meetings in a room outside his office, no computer, and leaving his phone behind until he broke the habit.
These days, we're all tempted to divide our attention. So, it stands out when someone fully tunes in to what we say and mean. Be that person. Lean in. Make eye contact. Ask questions. Be interested. Be expressive. Show empathy. Get them, their situation, and how you can help. Then you're ready for the third step: Open up. Laozi said, "He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted." If we're perceived as defensive, closed, or self-focused, it signals others to be defensive and closed in return.
Share a bit of yourself and give some trust in order to invite trust in return. People who are too guarded put us on guard. Lead by example and demonstrate the trust you want others to have in you. Don't overcontrol people. Give them room to take initiative. There is some risk here, so be thoughtful, but also keep in mind what Abraham Lincoln said. "It's better to trust and be disappointed "once in a while, than to distrust "and be miserable all the time." We don't want to be miserable, so let's open up.
After that, follow up. That's our fourth step. To build trust, we need to honor our commitments and obligations, and live up to the standards we say we expect. Failing to follow up is probably the most common trust depleter. Being seen as having double standards, is double trouble for trust. Remember, they get all the trust votes. Saying "Trust me" gets you nowhere. They decide what our impact is on them, so, be proactive about trust.
Ask checking questions, invite feedback, find out how things are going, and what can be better. Legendary college basketball coach Jim Valvano told this story. "I asked a referee if he could give me a foul "for thinking bad things about him." He said, "Of course not." I said, "Well, I think you stink," and he gave me a foul. "You can't trust refs." He's joking, but it's a fun reminder that people don't have to say what they think and probably won't if they don't fully trust us yet.
It's that lack of trust loop. Trust must be earned and it's easy to loose. But you can build it better with more people and keep those trust referees on your side if you study up, open up, show up, and follow up.
- Managing the intent-impact gap
- Designing the content of your message
- Improving vocal delivery
- Adjusting your body language
- Being politically savvy
- Listening to what's said, what's unsaid, and how it's said
- Increasing empathy and trust
- Overcoming anxiety<br><br>
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