Developing and maintaining trust is critical to success in your career, workplace teams, leadership and business. It is the foundation for individual and team performance. But trust can be difficult to earn and far too easy to lose.
Think of having a personal trust account much like your bank account. Every action you take with your customers, team, boss and direct reports is either a deposit into the trust account — or a withdrawal.
If you overdraw, you risk bankruptcy. Careers and businesses can be derailed because of a single incident and overdraft on the trust account.
How do you gain and keep trust? This isn’t rocket science — more like everything you learned in kindergarten. Here are a few guidelines:
- Do what you say you will do. If you commit to something, take responsibility and deliver. Better yet (to build overdraft protection), exceed their expectations. One of the surest ways to destroy workplace or client/customer trust is to overpromise and underdeliver. Avoid automatically saying yes to all requests. Know your limitations and resources. Commit to only those requests you know you can deliver on.
- Be genuine and congruent. Most of us can spot a faker, pretender or workplace politician. Sometimes you can’t put your finger on it — you just know something about this person isn’t trustworthy. A caution flag goes up in our hearts or gut that says, “Something is wrong with this picture.” When the words the person is speaking don’t match up with their non-verbal cues (the video we see doesn’t match the audio we hear), we lose trust. Be mindful of the messages you are sending — your tone of voice, eye contact and other non-verbal signs. Trying to fake or hide how you feel and what you think and want can increase the likelihood of others mistrusting you.
- Be clear and concise in your communications (including e-mail!). Communicate to be understood. Ask others to repeat multifaceted instructions or complex ideas for clarity. If you are one of those people who use too many words or don’t know when to stop talking, people may avoid you. Pause and let someone else in the conversation versus rambling or overexplaining yourself.
- Listen well. Be careful about spending too much of your communication time in tell or lecture mode. Spend an equal or greater amount of your time listening to understand the other. By the way, if you are crafting your reply or rebuttal in your head while the other is talking — you aren’t listening. Many leaders spend too much time telling and not enough time listening. I’ve never heard a leader criticized for listening too much. To listen better, be curious, paraphrase (you’ll pay closer attention if you know you have to summarize their words) and ask clarifying questions.
- Avoid gossiping. What happens when you hear a co-worker back-stabbing another co-worker? Likely you make a note to self not to trust him or her because it’s logical to assume one day you may be the target. If you have an issue with someone, have the courage and integrity to take it up with him or her directly. Back-stabbing is often a career derailer.
- Generously give credit to others. Self-promoters are typically not trusted. Spend less time promoting yourself and more time giving credit to your team or direct reports.
- Don’t hide the truth. Be transparent with co-workers, bosses and clients/customers. Most of us don’t like surprises and have no tolerance for being lied to or misled. It is often an “unrecoverable” in the trust account — ask anyone hurt by Enron or Wall street bad apples.
- Be flawless with your word. Honesty and integrity will get you everywhere. There is no better mantra for success and building trust in the workplace — period.
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