“Just as trust is the key to all relationships, so also is trust the glue of organizations”Covey 147
Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash.
Society is built on trust. All effective interactions require some level of trust. Especially in the world of business, it is essential that we are able to make people trust that we can deliver.
So, how do we build trust?
The lessons here are based on what I learned from reading Stephen R. Covey’s The 8th Habit, an excellent book that I fully recommend.
The 8th Habit
In as brief a summary as possible, four minute books sums it up as follows;
“The 8th Habit is about finding your voice and helping others discover their own, in order to thrive at work in the Information Age, where interdependence is more important than independence.”FourMinuteBooks
The central idea of interdependence being more important than independence is very strong in the book and it is this idea that really hammers home the importance of trust.
In the modern ‘knowledge worker economy’, we must be able to adapt to working arrangements and we must have the ‘soft-skills’ necessary to work quickly and effectively in collaboration with others. That work will only be possible if we are able to establish trust.
Covey’s quick checklist for establishing trust:
- Stick to your word.
- Be nice
- Say sorry when you have to.
Read on to learn more.
How to build trust?
Trust in life and in business is essential. In order for us to grow and thrive we need to know we have family and friends who we can trust will support us. For many of us this trust is automatic and at times taken for granted.
Furthermore, trust in the business world is essential. We need to have trust in a business to deliver what they say they will, on time, of good quality, and at the agreed upon price. If we can’t trust in that, we can’t make agreements, and therefore we can’t do business.
Further than that, employers need to trust employees with running their businesses and employees need to trust that they will be compensated for their work, on time and reliably.
Take it Further to Truly Grow
Covey would push this further, I believe, to argue that employees need to trust that they are valued and supported by their managers and employers. When they have this trust they can fully grow and achieve their potential.
And if we push it to the extreme, in my business, the business of teaching, we absolutely must have trust. Parents must trust that their most valued “assets” are in the hands of caring, professional and adequate teachers. Too that end, principals and administrators must trust the teachers they hire. And the teachers must trust that they are going to be supported to do the right thing.
Trust is essential, but not always perfect
Trust is not always perfect. I do believe with Covey in thinking that if we had a perfect world then trust could be assured and we would have a greater chance of achieving our potential and doing great work.
However, when we feel trust strained, we as humans are biologically wired to become automatically defensive. And in this very real world, defensive seems to more the norm. The problem is, from a defensive mindset it’s very hard to take the kind of risks that help to really produce amazing results. And operating from a position of fear is no way to build a business or work effectively in a team.
Fear destroys Trust
However, I do feel that this is the mindset that many people take into their jobs. They fear the consequences or the competition, or being found out for not knowing everything. Or the fear of being outsourced or downsized or being made redundant. What a horrible thought, to be labeled ‘redundant’.
Anyway, it is fairly obvious that trust in both business and life is absolutely essential if want to achieve great results.
So, how to build trust?
1. Stick to your word
This is an absolute no-brainer. You must at all times do what you say you will do.
Trust is lost in an instant. And once people, of the public, lose trust it is very hard to win it back. But more than that, what is trust? Trust is a level of belief in one’s character. ‘I believe you are the type of person I can trust to do what you say, to be a decent human being, to be fair and just.’ And once that image of character is broken, we no longer trust, we begin to fear that this person will hurt us.
Trust is an evaluation of character – that someone is trustworthy is a gold standard that says we believe in them. It should not be easily given, and it is certainly easily lost.
Character and Competence
Therefore, if you want to develop trust you need to be trustworthy. Covey states: “… trustworthiness comes from character and competence.” (Covey 149) And in order to be trustworthy one must have a trustworthy character. And the first part of character is integrity. As Covey states:
“Integrity means you are integrated around principles and natural laws that ultimately govern the consequences of our behavior … Integrity is keeping promises made to self and/or others.”Covey 150
So, to build trust you need to be trustworthy and that starts with integrity, which is keeping promises.
An example from family
For example, if you as a father promise little Johnny you’ll take him out to play catch, then you should follow through. He will count on it, get excited, and if you fail to live up to expectations little Johnny’s trust in you will be shot to pieces.
Now maybe one slip between a father and a son to play catch is forgivable. Maybe even a few. But if it becomes the pattern, to break your word, that will inform Johnny all he needs to know about trust. As in he can’t trust you. But worse than that, for a child not to trust a father, that’s more likely to become, you can’t trust anyone.
And what happens to the organization? Family ties are strained and Johnny rebels and Johnny’s future relationships suffer. (I’m no psychologist, but I can see the logic and I’m very cautious about this with my son.)
Equally volatile is the trust in business.
How quick are we to turn on the business that lets us down. Especially the ones that set up such massive expectations. We have an image of bliss and then they don’t deliver and what do we say, “never again”. We tell anyone and everyone how bad our experience was and we’re quick to put it all over the review how horrible they let us down.
Now maybe once upon a time, when we knew the man in the market and he knew us, we might trust that things happen, he really did mean to deliver on his promises. But today, where trust must be taken on faith in an instant, when they let us down we feel it and we don’t trust them again.
So keeping your word shows the world integrity and shows you can be trusted.
But beyond that, we can take character to a higher level.
“Maturity develops when a person pays the price of integrity and winning the private victory over self, allowing him or her to be simultaneously courageous and kind.”Covey 150
Maturity means to have control over yourself; to overlook base and selfish wants for long term or for mutual gain.
We know instinctively that it is better to trust mature people.
Like at the bank – are they going to give a teenager a credit card and say ‘go be responsible’. Of course not. We know that teenagers, when it comes to credit cards, substances, video games, sex, well you name it, are generally not responsible. They are not, on the whole, mature enough to handle all that responsibility.
Now I know I’m talking in rank generalizations. And I sincerely hope you have the kind of awesome teenager that you can trust with everything. But from experience, teenagers don’t have the maturity to think that long term, or to think deeply from other people’s perspective. I may be wrong on that, but I believe we can say that they are more prone to choosing poorly when pleasure is tempting them. I know, I’ve been one.
Long Term View
And this is the point of trust. We trust people we know will think relatively longer term. They make smart decisions. They don’t act rashly. They may take risks but they are not going to go off on wild extremes.
And we trust people that we sense have our best interests at heart. That’s how we choose our deep, best friends for life, type companions. They care for us – we care for them – we trust.
So we want maturity – we want people who are smart enough to understand us, reliable enough to be dependable, responsible enough to be counted on and loyal enough to support us.
And how do we know it?
We know it when we see self-sacrificing behavior.
When we see or experience someone giving up their sole pleasure so they can share it with us, with no strings attached, we feel that bond of trust. We know they are in control of their impulses and they are thinking from other people’s perspectives. We trust that kind of person.
Therefore, to be trustworthy we should model integrity, keep our promises, demonstrate maturity and be self sacrificing.
That doesn’t sound easy.
A great secret to help achieve this is Abundance Mentality
“Abundance Mentality means that rather than seeing life as a competition with only one winner, you see it as a cornucopia of ever enlarging opportunity, resources and wealth.”Covey 150
By switching our thinking to an abundance mentality, we see there is plenty to go around. We also start to see that we can get more when we work with people. And we realize life is better and everything becomes easier if we are working together instead of fighting each other for a perceived limited commodity.
Abundance mentality takes away all the fear of ‘not-enough’ or I have to be first, I have to win and so on. Think abundance and you will start to see you have abundant time and resources. From this sense of wealth it is much easier to trust others and to receive trust to others.
Trust that you can do the job.
Going yet further with the idea of character and integrity building trust, we can see that trust is not only a feeling based on character traits, but it also means faith in ability.
We trust not just the signs of character, we trust based on competence.
If you are trustworthy, in business, but equally in life, it means you are someone who is competent at what is expected, required and asked of you.
Covey breaks it down showing three separate components to competence:
“Technical competence is the skill and knowledge necessary to accomplish a particular task. Conceptual knowledge is being able to see the big picture, how all parts relate to one another. It’s being able to think strategically, and systematically, not just tactically. Inter-dependency is an awareness of the reality that all of life is connected …”Covey 151
So basically, to have trust is to develop trustworthiness. And we trust people who are capable; capable of doing, of thinking and confronting and solving problems, and we trust people who demonstrate that teamwork and relationship is a strength.
The first idea is straight forward. We trust people who are capable. This is obvious in business – if the plumber can handle the job, we trust him again in the future, because we trust his ability. Also, if our employee shows they can do the job and are reliable and responsible, we begin to trust them and rely on them.
Conceptual knowledge is a bit more tricky. Does trust have an intellect. Covey believes so, and I guess it makes sense. If someone lacks the social intelligence to understand social arrangement and loyalty, we will not trust them with secrets, or trust them to hear our opinions on sensitive things that have the potential to be dangerous if made public.
Also, we trust intelligent people. This is pretty obvious. We trust doctors because they are smart. And so on… We trust people who have the intellect to do the smart, reliable, expected thing.
Finally, we trust people who demonstrate value for interdependence.
We generally trust the people who we see have a clear value for interdependence. They are generally those people who are very likeable. They are sociable and they are quick to help others and not scared to seek help when they need it.
In this way they model their character as the type to quickly give trust and to receive trust. And we like to work with them because they are not intimidating. We trust them to do a good job supporting us and they aren’t going to use our weaknesses against us.
On the other hand, we view the overly independent as a risk. We don’t know if they will support us or if we can rely on them. They always strive to work alone – that must be because they don’t trust us. And why don’t they trust us? Because of the fear of their own untrustworthy thoughts.
This is often completely misplaced fear. The independent person most likely fears being judged or enjoys the challenge of being independent. Though fair or not, we tend to trust them less.
Great insights for me.
I feel I have the first two – I strive to always be competent in my job, in my relationships and so on. And indeed I have felt the pressure that comes when you feel inadequate. The feeling of letting people down. The feeling that you are not completely trusted to do what needs to be done.
And with conceptual knowledge, I feel I have the cognitive ability to be aware of what’s going on, to show the right signals, so people trust me with their opinions and thoughts.
However, the last is a weakness. I am an independent learner, thinker and worker. But I’m getting a lot better.
So step one, to build trust is to build character and competence.
You must do both.
As Covey argues: “Both character and competence are, of course, necessary, but they are also individually insufficient.”Covey 151
2. Be Nice
“With people, little things are big things. … even so-called big people, VIPs. Small courtesies and kindnesses given consistently yield huge dividends.”Covey 171-2
This is obvious. We all know if you want someone to like you, and to trust you, you need to be nice to them. And not just them, we must also be seen to be nice. If we see some horrible person kick a dog in the street, they’re most definitely not going to make our friends list.
So obviously we need to be nice. However, you can’t just fake it and pretend to be nice. It is very important that these kindnesses be genuine. People can sense fake and we hate it and we run a mile.
A worry for the future
Now to me this all seems very obvious. However, I do have a little concern for the future. I mean we all know what it means to be nice. I grew up and my father made a very strong point of teaching me how to be ‘civilized’ and how I should behave. And my mother made sure I good a good dose of religion to teach me about sympathy and empathy and good and evil.
However, I see a lot of that kind of thing slipping. Kids these days, on the whole, don’t get a lot of training about right and wrong. They don’t get a lot of religion and there’s no training in etiquette. Add to that the new digital ways of socializing that I see lowering the standards of social politeness, and I wonder how all that will effect how people can trust each other?
Nice in Business
Anyway, regardless of these worries, we know that being nice and presenting ourselves as civilized is a key to gaining trust.
In the family and with friends, even if our social habits are of a different standard, we still know how to judge who is nice and who isn’t, within our own personal context.
But how do we know nice in business?
Business is getting people to buy, nice or not, what does that matter. And business is do your job because I pay you, doesn’t really matter if I’m nice or not. Does it?
And I think we all know the answer.
Competition! If you are the only show in town, then yes, be as grumpy and mean as you want. But even dictators find competition sooner or later. And at the end of the day, we humans go with nice, kind, good and right – when given the choice.
Can you be too Nice?
Or on the other hand, yes we want to be nice to our customers so we keep them. And we want to have wonderfully nice employees feeling wonderful and inspired to make our customers feel good. But can that go to far.
Of course it can.
In business, or government, or organizations, even charities, if you are too nice people don’t trust you to be serious, they take advantage, and you end up losing.
So, How do we build Trust by Being Nice, and not being too Nice?
Covey offers the mindset that will help us to build a habit that encourages trust. That is to think Win-Win or No-Deal.
So the first step is obviously to be nice. If we operate from a position of fear, or from a position of where I have to win and not be anyone’s sucker, then we’re setting up an antagonism that is bad for business – the Win/Lose situation.
We need to change that to a Win/Win scenario. We want your money, a win, but trust us, we want you to feel great because of our product or service, a win.
Or as Covey puts it:
“the key to breaking out of this win-lose mind-set is to become emotionally and mentally settled on championing the other party’s win as much as your own.”Covey 172
But it’s not about giving away everything and taking a loss.
You are offering what people need, you care about them and you want what’s good for them. And on the other hand, when you act this way, you can expect that others will give you that trust and care in return. If they don’t then you must walk away.
How to avoid the too nice trap?
It’s not Win/Win or I keep being nice until you’re happy. No, it’s win-win or no deal – that is how you develop trust.
“when No Deal is truly a viable options, you can honestly say to the other, “Unless this is a true win for you and you deeply and sincerely feel it, and unless it’s a true win for me and I deeply and sincerely feel it, let’s agree right now to go for No Deal.”Covey 173
So trust comes when you first have trust in yourself.
Trust yourself to give great value and to be fair. Then you can trust others to give you great value and to be fair. Then look to deal in a spirit of Win/Win enhancing the trust you both have. And if it’s not possible – walk away.
You must walk away
This brings us back full circle to where we started with integrity. You have to have the integrity to stick to you position.
If you are ready to jump all over the place and give in and change your position or your price, how can we trust anything that you offer.
So be nice enough to trust others and to be trustworthy in their opinion, but strong enough to trust yourself.
3.Say sorry when you have to
So you tried the rest:
You have lead with integrity in order to build your character and show your trustworthiness. To do that you kept your promises and generally showed your strength of character.
You also did what you said by showing loyalty and integrity by sticking by those who you trust and those who trust you.
Furthermore, you did what you said well, by clearly communicating what you meant. (Covey points out the importance of clear communication in trust. He goes so far as to show that most of the problems with trust that arise in organizations is due to poorly communicated expectations.)
But you did your best to be clear and to stick to your word.
Furthermore, you worked on you capabilities and showed your true competence in the areas that are required of you. You learned to show maturity and responsibility, displaying your wonderful character and competence.
Beyond that, you were nice. You learned what it meant to be civil and you went forward seeking Win/Win with everyone, whilst maintaining your integrity and never taking a bad step.
But then you made a Mistake.
How do You Fix Lost Trust
People make mistakes. We all know that. But we don’t always see from the other person’s perspective. And that’s what happens when our friends get moody and give us the cold shoulder or the silent treatment. We finally get around to asking, ‘what’s up?’ And they get around to saying, ‘you really annoyed because of …’ Which is something to do with us not living up to their trust. They trusted us to support them, to defend them, to think of them, but we didn’t.
And then we say sorry and we all hug and make up and it’s all better.
But in business
In business, or schools, or public office, we need to make sure we are proactive and always thinking about how we are perceived and how people are feeling.
A great habit is empathetic listening, read about it here, How to be a Success: Have Successful Habits.
We often don’t want to admit defeat and say sorry.
It’s true, sorry is hard to say. So is love. So is believe. But it’s when you say ‘I believe in you,’ that you get the best out of people. When you say ‘I love you’, that you take a partnership to a whole higher level. And when you say sorry is when you recognize, ‘I broke your trust, I want to make a mends’.
Now sometimes that’s not going to be enough. Once trust is broken and people are hurt it’s very hard to win that trust back. However, I’d like to believe that if you are sincere and proactive and persistent then you can turn things around.
The best bet is always prevention.
Always follow through. Always be nice. And if you fail, be proactive – say sorry and make up for it.
Trust is absolutely essential!
It is not always the concept we think of. We imagine the tricks of marketing and the strategies of sales. We go to branding and image polishing to sell our business, our service, our product, our selves, when at the end of the day, the real secret to all transactions are trust.
If I trust that what you offer is going to be good for me, and I trust you, I’ll obviously take you up on your offer.
If I don’t trust you, or if I don’t like you, I’m not even stopping by.
So take some time and think, are you presenting yourself as trustworthy? Is your business set up to win the trust of customers, friends and strangers? Is trust the big, or the small, element that is missing to take you to the next level.
For me, I still have a lot to do before the world sits up and listens to us here, but I keep tapping away in faith that I’m doing a good thing and I sincerely hope it’s giving you some good value to take your life to the next level.
Mission for Success
The mission for success is to take our life to the level of awesome. We are actively learning the lessons that will bring us more success, that will improve the future for our children and will help make the world a better place.
If that’s something you want for your life, feel free to come join the mission for success by clicking here: Mission for Success!
All the best, and remember to keep striving for success.