With the kind of work we do at Strengthscope, we are deeply conscious of the importance of trust and actually within consulting generally, the holy grail of client relationships is often seen as achieving hallowed ’trusted adviser’ status. But how do you become the ‘trusted adviser’, how do you become trusted – as an individual or as an organisation?
Remember that being trusted is an outcome of what you put in but you don’t have direct control of it, it is others’ responses to you that tell you whether or not you have built their trust.
What Undermines Trust?
We have to start by thinking about what undermines trust? When we hear about something in the news or at work, or in life, are there some examples of things that lead people to trust others less (whether they are an individual or an organisation or a brand)? Here are some of the biggies:
Feeling that someone has a hidden agenda – you know when you just can’t be sure what’s motivating them and what they say doesn’t quite stack up with what they do
Someone doing unpredictable things that don’t seem aligned with the expectations you have of them
Feeling someone is lying or saying different things to different people, breaching confidentiality; or saying one thing and doing another, or
Finding out that someone has done something that they shouldn’t have but have kept it hidden in the hope they wouldn’t be found out.
So now let’s think about how you as an individual or as a business can build trust with others. Here’s all-time Top 6:
6 Ways to Build Trust
1. Be authentic – show up as real actual ‘you’, the human. Showing your strengths and your vulnerabilities, being more ‘what you see is what you get’ is more likely to get people seeing you as trustworthy. When people are inauthentic we can tell because we can subconsciously pick up when others are hiding things or suppressing emotions. So first up is know yourself and then be yourself. Be authentic, behave according to your values and purpose.
2. Be consistent – consistency of behaviour, of messages, of what you say to whom and linking your words to your actions. Do what you say you will do. In short deliver to your own and to other people’s expectations. In being consistent, you will be perceived to have integrity. Which then leads to people believing you are trustworthy. And remember that it takes time to become trusted! It takes time to build a reputation that you are reliable, a safe pair of hands.
3. Be open and honest – this includes being honest about your own agenda, what you would want to get from a particular situation and encouraging others to do be honest about their needs and wants. Also, acknowledging your mistakes and giving others feedback as well as requesting it. This is the essence of openness and honesty – being comfortable to give and receive feedback. A final part of this area is getting good at listening and being careful with criticism. Particularly with public criticism, where you are criticising other people openly; while this may have the short term benefit of getting you closer to the people you are sharing your views with, in the longer term, it’s likely to lead to concerns that you may be saying the same or similar about them with a different group of people.
4. Develop a Growth mindset – so a growth mindset is bringing an attitude of openness to learn, actively looking for opportunities to learn, and not presenting yourself or trying to be perfect; instead, show others that you are willing to learn and that you want to KEEP learning. None of us is the finished article after all.
5. Be appreciative – be appreciative of others’ efforts without being sycophantic or saccharine. People appreciate being appreciated and it’s more likely to lead to them reciprocating to appreciate you. And with that will come a greater sense of understanding and a quicker path to mutual trust.
6. The final point is a little more controversial but it is to Trust – trust others BEFORE they’ve earned your trust. This relates to the pygmalion effect…that if you believe in others’ skill or competence, they are more likely to demonstrate that skill or competence. This approach, of course, brings risk because it is possible that unscrupulous people might abuse your trust, but if you can trust others in a measured way, while still having some checks and controls built in, the more likely your trust will be reciprocated (the logic goes: if you’re trusting me, I must be trustworthy, which means you probably are too).
So there are the Big 6: be authentic, be consistent, be open and honest, develop a growth mindset, be appreciative and trust others. If you do all 6, you’ll get to trusted adviser status about as quickly as is possible, but let’s be real, it does take time and it takes discipline to build that all important reputation with others.