Everyone wants people to trust them. So the question needs to be asked – are you being trustworthy?
Being trustworthy is critical to building trust. Otherwise, we’re simply asking for people to trust us, without actually doing anything to earn it.
In this article I’m going to take a look at some of the effects of being trustworthy that I’ve noticed during my career. Then we’ll take a look at some simple ways to start being trustworthy, so you can earn it!
Lack of Trust Is a Huge Distraction
When trust is absent in a relationship, it can be a big waste of time and energy.
Instead of getting on with the task at hand, people instead spend time verifying trust, worrying about trust or creating plans to cater for a lack of trust.
We verify trust by double-checking progress, checking that the chosen option is the right one, or making sure that people remember what they told us earlier.
We worry about trust when we wonder whether someone will stab us in the back, go against their word or take the credit for our work.
Then, we create plans to make sure we’re in the room when our project is being spoken about, or have a backup plan when someone doesn’t follow through with a commitment they made.
These challenges work both ways. We’ve all seen leaders micro-manage their people to “make sure they get it right”.
What we often don’t consider is the other side.
The part where the team members spend more time questioning, verifying and worrying about the part their leader is playing.
Simple Steps to Being Trustworthy
The solution to solving trust issues is to start being trustworthy. That’s not to say that if you’re reading this, you’re doing everything wrong.
But usually, we can all be doing more things right!
To start with, let’s look at the phrase “being trustworthy”.
I take this to mean taking more actions that make us worthy for people to put their trust in us.
Instead of demanding trust, we do more things to create the outcome of trust. We pull down the barriers that are blocking trust, so that it can flow in.
1. Start Being Trustworthy by Listening
Being trustworthy starts with listening. When you do it right, listening shows that you’re paying attention.
You can’t listen well unless you’re spending time and removing distractions.
Spending time means making sure that you have individual dedicated time with your people, scheduled and booked in.
It pays to set aside time devoted to discussing more than just a progress update.
Instead, talk about challenges, goals and aspirations. Talk about ideas for improvement and growth. Write them down, or enter them into a system.
Use the information you gather to shape the work of the team, to craft improvement opportunities and remove roadblocks. Ultimately, this type of listening and recall will lead to being trustworthy.
Why? Because it demonstrates that you care enough to ask, and you care enough to remember.
Curiosity is a Valuable Asset
Sometimes it can be hard to summon feelings of interest when you’re speaking with people. You know you should feel interested, but you’re distracted by deadlines and other workplace concerns.
Being legitimately curious can help, and when you do it well, it shows. When someone is speaking, start to think about why the topic interests them. Then ask them.
If someone is frustrated, dig deeper. Ask them what it is about the situation that causes the frustration.
When someone speaks about a career aspiration, ask them what it is about that career that engages them.
To feel more curious, try going a level deeper than you might usually. You never know what you might find out.
Learn More: The #1 Way That Leaders Damage Team Trust.
2. Start Being Trustworthy by Following Up
The follow-up is an important part of building trust.
Remember how you listened, then you asked questions and you wrote down the answers?
Well, following up is all about doing something with all the information you gathered.
It might be creating a new improvement project, organising a training or mentoring opportunity, or removing a roadblock for somebody.
Make time for the follow up. Schedule reminders in your calendar to do so.
Listening is just the start. Following up is the time when your people will start to say “Hey, they really were listening!”
Learn More: Team Improvement: 5 Reasons Smart Leaders Love It.
3. Start Being Trustworthy by Remembering to Give Credit
Most people know by now that taking credit for work done by somebody else is bad.
That’s not news.
What can often happen in busy workplaces is that leaders *forget* to give credit.
It could be that you become consumed with other matters that take your attention.
Or, it could be that you simply don’t realise that getting credit can be really important for certain people.
We all have different factors that drive and motivate us. Some people don’t really mind too much if they don’t get credit, because they enjoy doing the work.
Other people will see a failure to give credit as a slap in the face. A failure to recognise and appreciate a job well done.
This creates a potentially huge barrier to trust.
Make an effort to remember when credit is due, and recognise it in the most appropriate way.
4. Start to Consider How Your Actions Are Perceived
One of my favourite trust resources is the “Trust Equation” by Trusted Advisor.
In this equation, the denominator (bottom line of the equation for those who have forgotten their school maths!) is Self-Interest.
This means that any trust you’ve built up in the top line of the equation will be divided by any self-interested actions you take.
This is why when being trustworthy, it’s so important to consider how your actions are perceived by others.
Self-interest includes actions that make you seem as if you are looking out for yourself at the expense of others.
Some common examples of situations where you may appear self-interested may include:
- Being seen to be “sucking up” to the boss
- Treating others badly to improve your status, gain a promotion or a new opportunity
- Failing to support team members because you’re focused on your own tasks or never have time; or
- Being unreliable – not following through on promises.
It’s important to notice that people may perceive you as being self-interested, even if your motives are pure, so it’s not an exact science.
However, the point remains that often “perception is reality”.
What might your actions be saying about you?
5. Start Being Trustworthy by Building Up Your Rapport Bank Balance
One of my favourite models to consider trust is the Rapport Bank.
Having rapport means having goodwill, trust, common ground and generally getting along well with someone. So, it can be helpful to think of rapport as being like a bank account.
When you take positive, trust-building actions such as being reliable, consistent, helpful, friendly or supportive, you’re making a deposit in the rapport bank.
Over time, your rapport bank balance with people will hopefully increase.
You spend your rapport bank balance by taking actions that go against the goodwill that you’ve earned.
For example, you may need to make a hard decision that will upset someone, or you may fail to meet a deadline.
Perhaps you need to have a difficult conversation that could hurt someone’s feelings. Maybe you are promoted instead of one of your colleagues, or you need to ask somebody for a big favour.
Whatever the case, the idea is that we want to build rapport before we start spending it.
Asking someone to do you a favour when you have zero rapport is likely to end badly.
Missing a meeting with a team member is going to annoy them, but the damage will be minimised if you have built up a solid balance of rapport. They’re likely to give you the benefit of the doubt – knowing that it’s a one-off event.
What actions are you taking to build your rapport bank balance, and what actions are depleting it?
Don’t Ask People to Trust You, Start Being Trustworthy
Building trust is not hard, but it does require consistent positive action.
We need to be paying attention to how we behave and how we are perceived, instead of leaving it to chance.
When we are trustworthy, people bestow trust upon us.
When we are unreliable, inconsistent, flaky or self-interested, people will hold back trust.
Remove the barriers that are preventing trust, and let it flow in.
What do you do to show people that you’re trustworthy? Let me and all the thoughtful leaders know in the comments below!