Trust. It’s the bedrock of personal and business success. Trust is similar to communication skills in that most people strongly agree they are important skills—yet fail to recognize and take action to improve their own! (Meaning – it’s other people’s poor communication skills that is the problem – not their own.) And an example as it relates to trust is, “of course trust is important and if only X (fill in the name) would be trustworthy, then we may have a start at working effectively together!” Lack of trust results in more time, and, in many cases, more cost to get things done –two valuable resources.
Yet, most people tend to view themselves as trustworthy. All the while, our filters carefully sorting out those we feel we can trust and those we feel we cannot. But remember, at this same time, someone else is applying his or her filter on you. How do you measure up? Do you know?
What we call “trust events”, situations that create a trust violation, can range from small and easily resolved (i.e. your boss asked if you called a client, you say yes, then immediately call the client after the conversation ends). Or it can be large and non-recoverable (i.e. embezzling money from your employer). Large trust events tend to result in immediate and strong negative feedback. Small trust events don’t. But if they are a part of your behavior, they accumulate, and just like a boxer throwing body punches for nine rounds, they add up and will lead to major problems. For the boxer – that is a tenth round knockout.
We see partnerships dissolve; employees leave organizations because of trust violations, employees no longer interacting and cooperating in the workplace. Billions of dollars of lost productivity, lost opportunity, and suppressed growth can be attributed to trust issues.
We realize it’s difficult to self-reflect on an issue as sensitive as trust in the workplace and business. And it’s also unrealistic to assume that if someone has a trust issue with you, they will tell you. Some will, of course, but most won’t. (They will however, tell others, which can negatively impact your reputation and brand.) So instead of asking you directly to assess your “trust quotient” (tQ), as Stephen Covey references a person’s trust-ability; we suggest you derive it (or test it) based on a series of simple questions, or symptoms that you may be dealing with a low TQ:
• Are people you once interacted with on the job, spending less time with you? Maybe even avoiding you?
• Are people who once shared personal stories and talked with you with animation and interest – not doing so any longer? Has the conversation turned and stayed matter of fact and business like?
• Are you invited to fewer meetings and events?
• Are you losing customers and having a hard time acquiring new ones?
• Are calls that once were returned quickly, not being returned?
• Are emails, that were once responded to quickly, being responded to slower and with less information in the response?
• Are you being passed over for key projects or a promotion?
If you answered many of these questions with a yes, you likely have a trust issue. Of course, this could stem from a temporary work overload or stress overload of the other person. However, a pattern of yeses with various people, and over some time presents a high likelihood that your trustworthiness is not coming through to others. This calls for attention on your part if you do not wish it to diminish your relationships and success.
To give you examples of actions you can take to gain and keep trust, we pull from Stephen R Covey’s great work and book, The Speed of Trust, in which he identifies 13 character and competency behaviors of high trust leaders. We identify these, and then briefly describe them from our perspective:
1. Talk straight—That is, communicate clearly and clarify agreements to avoid
2. Demonstrate Respect – This is grounded in principles of fairness, kindness and
civility to all, not just those that have influence on/over you.
3. Create Transparency – Be open and authentic about yourself and agendas.
4. Right Wrongs – If you were wrong/wronged someone, whether intentionally or
unintentionally, be accountable sooner than later. Apologize, clear it, be accountable
and make it up someway if needed. No excuses, no defensiveness, over-ride your
ego and grow through humility.
5. Show Loyalty – Be generous with praise, appreciation and recognition of others and
6. Deliver Results – Produce consistently.
7. Get Better – Adopt a life-long learning and self development philosophy; and do it.
8. Confront reality – You have heard us say over and over—“eyes wide shut!” is not a
viable strategy for relationship building or success.
9. Clarify Expectations – Create common ground and agreements on direction (and
10. Practice Accountability – Demonstrate your own by taking responsibility and
seeing it through; and if leading others, be clear on how progress is tracked and
consequences are delivered then uphold the standards and practices.
11. Listen First – Two ears and one mouth for a reason…the more you hear and the
less you assume, the more you will understand the individual.
12. Keep Commitments – Keep your word. If you must break it (for whatever reason),
immediately acknowledge it, apologize if appropriate and renegotiate next steps.
13. Extend Trust – Offer (demonstrate your giving of) trust through first believing others
are worthy of it and capable and caring enough to earn and uphold it. You get by
giving – not withholding.
One thing is for sure; trust – your personal quotient (sense of trustworthiness by others) – is critical for your business success, and in your professional and personal relationship building. If you are waiting to be anointed with trust, verses demonstrating your ability to be trusted – opportunities, like ships, may sail on without you.
Learning & Action: Leadership requires personal growth and development, and this starts with self-awareness. Take a few minutes to revisit the symptomatic questions above to reflect on your current practices, behaviors and outcomes as it relates to your trust building with others. Then identify one or two actions you can focus on to strengthen your TQ, in support of yourself, in benefit to others, and for your greater success.