These past few blog posts have been dissecting the elements of trust. If you were to boil down trust to its four basic and most essential components, what would they be?
“It’s not enough to keep your word; others have to be aware that you are doing it. And here is where it gets sticky. Like beauty, behavioral integrity is in the eye of the beholder. Consistently keeping promises and living by your stated principles are difficult tasks. Being seen as consistently doing these things is harder still.”
– Professor Tony Simons, The Integrity Dividend: Leading by the Power of Your Word
As a leader, you know how fragile trust can be. Four key components contribute to your overall trustworthiness, according to Maister, Green and Galford in The Trusted Advisor.
1. Credibility (the realm of words) is our level of expertise and how we present our knowledge determine our credibility. When we study facts and complete analytical research, we build up our credibility.
We boost credibility in our business conversations by:
- Developing formidable expertise in our industry
- Staying current with industry trends and business news
- Offering our point of view (when we have one)
- Being willing to say “I don’t know” when this is an honest answer
- Expressing passion for your areas of expertise
- Communicating with self-assurance (a firm handshake, direct eye contact, a confident air)
2. Reliability (the realm of actions) is built over time, but it can be destroyed in a second. Do you fulfill the promises you make? Do you deliver on your commitments?
Boost your reliability with consistency, predictability and certainty:
- State expectations up front and regularly reinforce them.
- Make lots of small promises, and consistently follow through on those promises.
- Be prompt.
- Communicate if you fall behind an take responsibility for delays.
- Respect organizational norms and culture.
3. Intimacy (the realm of emotions): While credibility and reliability are predictable, workplace intimacy can be tricky. It’s easy to keep a professional distance in our interactions, but the “all-business” leader rarely gets ahead. We need and should seek trusted relationships at work. Without openness and transparency, the real issues will never surface.
The problem with intimacy is that the word carries a connotation of closeness that is not appropriate at work. In reality, intimacy refers to your willingness to share appropriate information about the things that truly matter. In short, can you speak with candor?
Boost intimacy by sharing personal experiences and values. Learn to:
- Listen beyond the words – pick up on tone, emotion and mood. Acknowledge these elements aloud.
- Tell people what you really appreciate about them. Don’t keep it to yourself.
- Use people’s names in conversations.
- Share something personal about yourself – this makes you more human and interesting.
4. Self-Orientation (the realm of motives): Without doubt, we are all self-motivated to a degree. But we also want what’s best for others, the company or the team. How often do you speak about yourself: your wants, needs, goals and priorities? Are you oriented toward finding win-win solutions that take others’ needs into account?
When trust breaks down, excess self-orientation is usually to blame. You can lower your level of self-orientation in relationships by:
- Taking time to find the best solution
- Sharing time, resources and ideas
- Asking lots of questions from a place of curiosity and figuring out your partner’s definition of success
- Negotiating for a true win-win
- Listening even when it’s uncomfortable to be silent
- Speaking hard truths, even when it’s awkward
- Giving your partner the credit for ideas and achievements
I also use a model developed by Julio Olalla, which has three components consisting of Reliability, Competence, and Sincerity. I have found the simplicity of the model make it easier to have the hard conversations around trust.