In her post Change and the Credibility Factor, Gwyn Teatro pointed out that a synonym for credibility is trustworthiness. In reading her excellent list of things we can do to earn credibility, I started thinking about this question:
What simple, everyday actions can we take to earn trust?
This is not to say that I think earning a reputation as being trustworthy is a simple endeavor. The conditions for trusting can be very personal and we don’t always make rational assessments when it comes to trusting others.
We also don’t all take the same approach. Some of us grant trust and take it away when someone does not live up to our standards. Others believe trust must be earned. The rest of us fall somewhere in between.
Nonetheless, there are things we can do to give others reason to trust us.
Here are my top 7 recommended ways to develop a reputation for being trustworthy.
1. Be on time: Consider that being consistently late sends a very loud message, not just about your reliability, but about your lack of respect for and commitment to the other people who have to wait for you. If there is a pattern of people showing up late, you do not get a free pass from this one. Showing up consistently on time in an organization that has this costly habit is an opportunity to lead. Why not take advantage of the opportunity?
2. Prepare. We use the excuse of having to go to so many meetings or back to back meetings not only as a reason for being late, but for not preparing adequately. As one of my coaches, Gordon Star, used to say: failing to prepare is preparing to fail. It also wastes peoples’ time, including yours. If you waste my time, how likely am I to trust you with something else that matters to me?
3. Do not gossip: If you have an issue with someone, work it out with them. From what I have seen there is way too much gossip occurring under the guise of venting. What’s the difference? When you vent you actually have a commitment to working things out with the person with whom you have an issue. Venting is one thing you do to prepare to have what could be a difficult conversation. Gossiping is venting without commitment. Besides, what message are you sending to the person you are gossiping to? They may be left wondering if they will be next.
4. Keep confidential conversations confidential: Knowing something others are not supposed to know is a big responsibility. It can also be a bit intoxicating. If you have to mention to someone else that you shouldn’t be telling them this, do you really think that qualifies as keeping a confidence? You may experience a moment of power, but consider whether it is worth the risk to your reputation or to others.
5. Honor your promises. I use the word “honor” instead of “keep” your promises deliberately because no one keeps all of their promises. Stuff happens and we are, after all, human. So this means EITHER do what you said you would do OR tell someone in advance of the due date that you can’t deliver. When you can’t deliver and you tell someone in advance, you can figure out together how to deal with the potential breakdown. That doesn’t count as keeping your promise, but it does honor your commitment and your relationship.
6. Admit when you don’t know something. It is an illusion to think that if we hide what we don’t know we will protect the perception that we are competent. Reality is that the more competent we are the more aware we are of what we don’t know and the more confident we will be that we can find out. Admitting you don’t know something is a sign of strength, not weakness. Also consider that, as a manager, if I know you will admit when you don’t know, I am actually more likely to entrust you with something that may be a stretch for you.
7. Own your mistakes. Admitting your mistakes is a good start because it demonstrates honesty. Want to demonstrate reliability, too? Take full responsibility by dealing with the consequences of your mistakes and taking full advantage of the opportunity to learn.
These all fall into the “simple, but not easy” category for many of us. Yet if you do these things consistently you greatly increase your chances of being trusted with the things that really matter.
What else can we do to increase our trustworthiness in the eyes of others? Please add you ideas so we can all learn from your wisdom and experience.