The idea that being trustworthy does not necessarily build trust may seem like a ridiculous concept to you. But haven’t you had the experience of people questioning your motives or credibility without justification? It is behavior that builds trust, not intentions. Other people don’t know your intentions, they only know what you do.
Every interaction you have with another person either enhances trust or diminishes it. The same applies to the managers and employees in your organization. Every interaction your managers have with their team members builds trust, or diminishes it. Every interaction that an individual in your organization has with a customer either builds trust or diminishes it, too.
It would make sense, then, to ensure that all managers and employees are mindful of the behaviors that build trust. Our research at Integro Leadership Institute has identified four elements that must be present for trust to develop:
1. Reliability is the most obvious element. We need to deliver what we say we’ll deliver, keep commitments, and perform the best we can in every situation.
2. Congruence is the behavior that lets people know you are trustworthy. Partly it is how we communicate—saying what you mean and meaning what you say. The other part of congruence is walking your talk—operating by your personal and organizational values.
3. Openness is essential for innovation to flourish. Encouraging employees to speak up with ideas, even to disagree with the way things are done, provides a spark for new ways to create value. Being receptive and listening to employees and customers builds trust and loyalty.
4. Acceptance is the least understood element, but everyone needs to be respected and valued. Your employees and customers are the most valuable assets your company has—are they treated accordingly?
All four elements of trust must be present for trust to build, and be sustained. When even one is missing, trust is diminished, if not destroyed. Take these four elements and discuss them with your team. Which ones are you doing well at, and where could your team improve?
Keith Ayers President Integro Leadership Institute Sydney, Australia