The notion of trust in relationships is not new. Every day across the globe all sorts of relationships are thrown into the bins labelled rancour, hostility and regret because of a breach of trust. And we’ve all done it on some level – after all, we’re only human! A white lie here, an adverse action there, a failure to deliver on a promise somewhere else. Every time we do this we’re engaging in trust-busting behaviour.
Trust is the basis of positive human interaction. From trust springs commitment, loyalty, shared vision, compassion, and shared joy. Trust enables us to emerge from life’s rocky patches into the sunlight, like butterflies emerging from their dark, confining chrysalis, free to flit and float and display their beautiful colours and incredible lightness. And the workplace is not exempt.
Trust cannot be assumed. It is earned. But it is not earned simply by talking about it. Think politicians here! We’ve all heard the saying, “actions speak louder than words”. At an intellectual level we know that we build trust by what we do, not by what we say.
From “my-way-or-the-highway” dominators to “face-in-gadget” communicators messaging what they don’t have the courage to say face to face, people are forgetting that their actions speak. What are your actions saying about your relationships?
If your actions are sending trust-busting messages, then what you’re communicating is that those relationships don’t matter to you. Jenn touched on this recently in relation to being a great boss. In a team, this can cause tension at best and open hostility at worst, severely limiting creativity, productivity, and profitability.
7 easy ways to quickly build trust
1. Align your actions with your words
If you say you will do something, then do it. If you commit to a meeting, then be there. If you say you want to hear what someone has to say, then check your watch, phone, tablet and any other potential distractions at the meeting place door. After all, isn’t that what you want them to do for you?
2. Listen to learn
Zeno of Citium, a Greek philosopher, said it brilliantly, “We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.” These old Greek blokes were pretty smart! In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change,Stephen Covey considers the main barrier to effective listening is that “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Covey is pretty smart too. Observing and listening are the two biggest factors of learning, and without learning, we cannot grow, as individuals, as team players, as an organisation. We don’t always have to agree with what is being said but by listening we gain a different perspective and inform ourselves more thoroughly. Not to mention the trust-building message we are sending the speaker.
3. Be authentic
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. We cannot be who we aren’t…well, not for long anyway. And we cannot be everything to everyone. We all have beliefs, traits and behaviours that are “ours”, and to try to be anything different just sets us up for conflict and disharmony, inside and outside our head. That doesn’t mean we don’t have an obligation to improve and grow as human beings. But do it as yourself, not someone you think others want you to be – people will trust you more quickly if they believe you are genuine.
4. Resist over-promising
This is a biggie. In our attempts to get things done quickly, many of us bite off more than we can chew. This is very true of startups where maintaining the momentum is critical. When we say “Yes” to something, we set the expectation that we’ll deliver what we’ve promised. When we don’t, we’ve given people a reason not to trust us the next time we promise something. Go back to #2 and make sure you are really clear on what is involved so you can give people a realistic timeframe.
Give out what you want back. When you respect where others are coming from – their knowledge, experience, state of mind, values, beliefs, and needs – you are sending the message you value what they have to offer and you value the relationship. That doesn’t mean you won’t have your differences – robust discussion is part of any successful business – but when there is mutual respect in the relationship, you’ll trust the intentions of the other person. Just like #1, I’m pretty sure you want this from them too. Big trust-builder, this one!
6. Say thank you
This is another real biggie. How do you feel when you’re not acknowledged for your contribution to a project or for holding the lift door open that extra few seconds for the person hurtling towards you balancing three coffees? A bit irritated perhaps, resentful, or even angry? How do you feel toward the person who didn’t acknowledge you? Hmm, now you know what I’m talking about! A simple, genuine thank you goes a long way toward building trust and relationships. Not only does it make us feel better about each other, many a study and numerous blogs attest to positive business outcomes when we use “the power of Thank You”.
7. Be open to all forms of communication
We all have our favourite, most comfortable ways of communicating – some of us are talkers, some prefer the written word, while others are “app lovers” – but if we want to build trust and have a meaningful relationship, we need to be open to another’s way. That means getting out of our comfort zone now and then and trying something different. Show your trust by being willing to dance to another tune and you’ll find they’ll be willing to dance to yours. But always remember, effective communication at work is about clarity and understanding and sometimes 140 characters in a Tweet doesn’t cut it!
Exceptional results in the business world are never the work of a single person, beavering away alone in a back room somewhere. Exceptional results are achieved when people work together in relationships founded on trust.