I Know You, I Like You…Can I Trust You?

It’s a fundamental truth — people do business with people they know, like, and trust. We’ve recently explored “knowing” (read Arden Coaching’s post: “Four Networking Traps to Avoid,”) and “liking” (read Arden’s post: “People Do Business With People They Know, Like, and Trust. Are You Likable?”).

Now comes the essential final piece of the puzzle — can I trust you?

There are two types of trust: predictive trust and vulnerability-based trust. They are both essential, but there are important differences between the two. Predictive trust is established over time and is based on patterns of action and behavior. You trust that Kayla will deliver her report on time because, historically, she always does. When Colin provides the group with an update, you trust that his calculations will be accurate and his assessments thorough because he’s always been a meticulous and conscientious person.

Vulnerability-based trust creates a safe environment in which people can interact. It’s open, honest, and “vulnerable” because it builds a space where people can safely say that they don’t know the answer to a question, admit that they made a mistake, share a delicate matter, or ask for help — “I’m not very good at this piece; can you show me how to do it?” For more, read Arden Coaching’s article, “Trust Me! All Team performance Starts With Trust.”

There are many approaches to building both types of trust. Here are a few to consider:

Be aware of your starting point. Whether we recognize it or not, we all have a pre-existing reputation among our colleagues and co-workers. Our past behaviors and actions follow us and establish a baseline that others use to set their expectations of us. Unlike the well-worn investment disclaimer, past performance IS an indictor of future results.

“Self-reflection helps you understand how people may be seeing you, and under what circumstances they do, and do not, trust you,” said Maren Perry, president of Arden Coaching. “Do you complete your work when promised? Do you hold information back from the team? Can I share a sensitive professional concern with you and not find myself being thrown under the bus later? Knowing where you stand helps you identify gaps and seek opportunities to build your levels of trust.”

Deliver on the small things. Especially when new to a company, a position, or a team, carrying through on small promises and commitments builds trust quickly and sets the stage for more important work in the future.

Behaviors as simple as providing promised data to the team within the two-day time frame you agreed to, or keeping a small confidence to yourself, as promised, will result in a positive first impression that you can be trusted with projects and sensitive material.

Demonstrate that you can handle difficult information and thorny issues. How do you react when another person makes a mistake, expresses an honest, but uncomfortable concern or issue, or holds a different opinion about the direction of the work?

If you hold that information against the person, share it indiscriminately, or leverage your knowledge to gain an advantage in political in-fighting, that person will keep their cards close to the vest and never share their thoughts with you again. “This is at the heart of building vulnerability-based trust,” notes Perry. “Can I safely tell you what’s really on my mind?”

Trust is not a light switch. Accountability and ownership for your behavior is essential. When you make a mistake, be quick to repair the damage and fix the problem. Trust cannot be turned off and on at will. As Volkswagen and Boeing have recently learned, trust built up over many years can evaporate quickly when it is betrayed. Consistency is vital. For more specific ideas about behaviors and actions that build trust, read Arden Coaching’s article, “Thirteen behaviors of a High Trust Leader.”

Someone may know you well; they may really like you. But without a strong level of trust, they are simply not going to take the chance of relying on you — as a colleague or a leader.

To learn more about executive coaching, building trust, and improving leadership skills, contact Arden Coaching at [email protected] or 646.684.3777.