To Earn More Trust, Be More Trustworthy

Trust is the currency which enables us to be effective in our work.  It often is elusive and fragile.  It can be difficult to gain, yet disappear in an instant.  It is perhaps the foundation of all successful relationships and efforts though it is directly discussed infrequently. 

When you ask individuals what causes them to trust others, however, the answers tend to be almost unanimous.  The list of trust factors includes:

  • Clarity of share purpose, values, and direction: Do we have similar beliefs about why we’re here, where we’re going, and how we should get there?
  • Depth of the relationships: Do I have enough history with you and/or understanding with you to feel connected beyond the superficial levels?
  • Demonstrated understanding of roles and responsibilities: Do all parties understand the various contributions each makes to our shared success, as well as the appropriate boundaries of their respective roles?
  • Competence to get the job done: Do you demonstrate through your actions that you know what you are talking about and know how to produce the desired results?
  • Frequency, timeliness, and forthrightness of communication:  Do you freely share information with others and operate in the spirit of transparency or do you selectively disclose what you know, brokering information as a source of power and control? 
  • Consistency between intention and action: Have you consistently shown that you are a person who honors his/her commitments?  Human beings (and groups of them) are fallible and will make choices that diminish the trust others prescribe in them.  When we do, we need to accept responsibility and apologize sincerely, act quickly to repair the damage, and realign our actions with our stated values and commitments.  Relationships can have remarkable resiliency and taking these actions will be a catalyst to restoring the trust once held among the parties involved.
Most of these criteria require interactions that unfold over time, but we can also accelerate trust between people by simply talking about it more overtly instead of just acting on it covertly.

The next time you are part of a committee, task force, or community that is in the forming stage, pose this question to help with the group's development: what do we need to know and understand about each other in order to develop the level of trust required for the work we have joined together to accomplish?  You'll be surprised how quickly it breaks the ice in a much more meaningful way than asking people to share their most embarrassing moment or some other fun fact.

And if you want to earn more trust individually? Simply be more trustworthy … then repeat again and again and again.

What other factors that influence the level of trust you have in individuals?

Image credit: Endless Origami. Used under Creative Commons license.