Without trust, your ability to achieve significant work is limited. Low trust environments operate much slower than high trust environments. The unique pressures of project work make trust even more important. Limited time makes it difficult to accomodate traditional off site meetings and trust building exercises. Before you become discouraged at building trust, let’s consider the following points on trust
What The Research Says About Trust
- 39% of Canadians trust what their senior leaders say and less than four in 10 feel that senior leadership is doing a good job of communicating what is happening in their workplace. (HR Reporter)
- 64% of American of employed adults feel their organization treats them fairly, 1 in 3 reported that their employer is not always honest and truthful with them. “This lack of trust should serve as a wake-up call for employers,” says David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, head of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence. “Trust plays an important role in the workplace and affects employees’ well-being and job performance.” (American Psychological Association)
- ” It takes evidence of only a single lie for a manager to be branded a “liar.” In contrast, a person has to tell a whole lot of truth to qualify as a “straight shooter.” Credibility, as we have all seen, is slow to build and quick to dissipate. A generally straightforward manager who is caught breaking an important promise will likely have trouble recovering.” (The High Cost of Lost Trust, Harvard Business Review)
We know trust is important. The Harvard Business Review study also found a link between integrity and increased revenues. These findings give us compelling evidence on the value of trust. That leaves the question – how exactly do we generate trust? I suggest breaking trust down into its component parts.
The Trust Framework
In my approach to trust in this article, I am indebted to the Skillsoft course “Building Trust.” I recently took this course as I have become more interested in interpersonal skills. The course was well worth the effort to study. I’m happy to share my notes and reflections on the course material with you. If you have found trust to be a vague concept in the past, then you have come to the right place. This framework shows the various behaviors and actions needed to build trust.
Building Trust Through Competence
Your ability and knowledge to complete a task is part of being a trustworthy professional. For growing people who love to learn, this is an important factor to consider. To build trust, it is important to be clear on your capabilities. If you have no working knowledge of Spanish, then it makes sense to decline Spanish activities. Let’s look at ways you can apply the competence principle to build trust.
- High Confidence Response. In situations where you have a high degree of confidence about your skills, say as much. “Yes, I can get this analysis done for you. I know my way around the software and the data.”
- Learning Emphasis Response. From time to time, you will encounter new tasks. In those cases, you have to use your judgement to determine if you can learn how to do the task with the time and resources available. You might say, “That’s interesting. I would like to do that and I should let you know I haven’t done this before so I will have a learning curve on this task.”
- Saying No. In some situations, it makes sense to say no. However, you can go further to help the person making the request. You might say, “I don’t know how to do that. Fortunately, my colleague Jane is an expert at regulatory compliance and she may be able to help you.”
Building Trust Through Dependability
At first glance, dependability may seem self-evident. In fact, there are several important practices related to this personal quality. Many agreements are broken because they were never clearly understood in the first place. To improve your dependability, use the following steps:
- Determine if there is a request. Sometimes others make vague statements that sound like requests. Listen carefully to determine if someone is actually making a request to you.
- Clarify and evaluate the request. To clarify the request, seek information on deadlines, quality and other key aspects of the work.
- Be clear. Once you make a decision, tell the requestor what you plan to do.
- Follow up. Following up is a vital skill (and I admit to having had shortcomings in this area in the past). It could be as simple as sending a short email to the requestor telling them that the work is done.
Building Trust Through Honesty
A reputation for honesty is one of the most valuable qualities in society. All the contracts in the world have no value if there are doubts about your the value of your word. In the context of building trust and teams, there are a few key principles to keep in mind.
- Omissions. Holding back critical information prevents others from effectively making decisions. For example, if you hold back data about a decline in the quality of a vendor’s work, then you would likely be considered dishonest.
- Facts vs Non-Facts. For others to understand and evaluate our comments, it is important to know our facts. Specifically, this means admitting to speculation. For extra credit on this point, it is a best practice to have references and sources available for facts you state. There is nothing wrong with communicating forecasts, estimates or opinions as long as they are communicately in a clear fashion
- Consistent Message. Sticking to one message in several circumstances is key to this quality. If you change your mind, clearly tell everyone affected why. Otherwise, many people may not understand why you changed your views.
Building Trust Through Consideration
Adjusting our communication and actions for others is a key aspect of consideration. In the project world, this theme relates to stakeholder management. It’s natural to focus our attention on friends, family and those with the most power (e.g. our managers). Yet, consideration encourages to think more broadly.
- Seek to understand other’s interests. You cannot be considerate until you understand what the other person wants. You can use surveys, meetings and other approaches to gather that information.
- Practice active listening. Demonstrating that you are listening is vital. In a face to face meeting, you can nod and take notes as the other person speaks. In virtual meetings, directly state your understanding of the other person and ask for clarification.
- Make adjustments as necessary. This is where the rubber meets the road. You may get better ideas and improvements from the other person. In other cases, consideration may exact costs. In either case, concrete action is a good way to show consideration for another person’s viewpoint.
Question & Action:
Which of these principles will you put into effect this week to become more trustworthy?