Article #15, October 24, 2003
The Importance of Trust
Trust is a critical component of any successful relationship – professional or personal.
Establishing and maintaining trust is a combination of your words and your actions, along with the other person’s personality and history. “But,” you might ask, “I don’t have any control over the other person’s personality and history.” Quite true! Therefore you need to be particularly aware of your own words and actions and learn not to take on other people’s baggage as your own. It really has nothing to do with you.
What all of this means for you is that you must start with yourself by holding yourself to the same standards as others. You begin by behaving in a trustworthy manner. When you make promises, no matter how small, you keep them. “Let’s have lunch – I’ll call you!” Does that sound familiar? If/when you say this, do you mean it when you say it? Do you mean it several hours later or the next day, and do you call? If you really don’t want to spend time with that person, then don’t. And don’t pretend like you will. Will you hurt their feelings? That is a possibility, but think about it this way – would you want someone to spend time with you if they really don’t want to? (In personal relationships this is called a ‘pity date’.)
When pursuing business or business relationships, keeping your word will take you far. Also, attention to the details and follow up are critical to building and maintaining trust – particularly if your prospects don’t perceive a substantial difference between your and your competition’s product. Customers will sometimes choose your product because of customer service alone. In fact, some customers will pay more for a trusting relationship with a vendor. In addition, many job promotion and hiring decisions are based more heavily on work habits than the actual work quality.
The most important word/action combination is to show up when you say you will. That means call or email when you say you will, return every call and email and show up on time. This doesn’t sound too difficult, but many, many people don’t do it. This alone will set you apart from your competition.
Allow me to illustrate how another’s personality affects trust. You are a member of a project team. You depend on others to complete their tasks and they depend on you. This dependency amongst the team members requires a certain amount of trust. Most of the time, everyone tries their best to keep the other team members informed of their status and they do their best work. There is one team member, the team leader, who seemingly doesn’t trust anyone on the team. They constantly ask each person if they will finish on time. Your team is working well together in general and is on schedule, so this mistrust is likely coming from historical bad experiences and has nothing to do with you.
How can you improve this relationship to relieve stress and build morale? Communication is the key. Keep those status reports coming – over-communicate if necessary. It might even be a good idea to take the project leader to lunch or coffee to talk about the situation. In a meeting where you may be encountering someone with a self-esteem issue or fear, it is not in your best interest to confront. You can care about a co-worker without getting personally involved. You might ask questions like: Is there anything I could be doing better for the advancement of the project? (By taking the focus off them and onto you, they have no reason to react defensively.) How can I help keep the project on time? (If you have any ideas at this point, ask if they are interested in hearing them.) What are your specific areas of concern in finishing this project on time – maybe I can help? Think about your questions and how to phrase them in advance.
There are many ways to build and maintain trust, and it’s important to stay true to yourself and maintain your integrity. Mean what you say, and say what you mean – in a way that can be well-received.
If you are having a trust issue with someone, professionally or personally, I would be happy to help. Send me an email – it will be 100% confidential. You can trust me!