Build Trust

Trust is a key ingredient in high performing teams and organizations. According to Stephen M.R. Covey in The Speed of Trust, one of the quickest ways to build trust is to keep your commitments. Conversely, one of the quickest ways to decrease trust is to not keep them. I have worked with a number of Type A, dedicated people who struggled with keeping commitments at work, home, or both. They are not bad people. In fact, they are often very well-intentioned and passionate about helping others and doing whatever the team needs them to do. However, they can have trouble staying on top of everything over because of competing priorities or information overload. When that happens, it can then become harder for people to feel like they can count on them.

Here are some tips on how to help you keep commitments and build trust:

  1. Be thoughtful about which commitments you agree to take on in the first place. If you say “yes” to a new commitment, what will you be saying “no” to? Is what you are saying “yes” to consistent with your values and priorities, both professionally and personally? People generally interpret gaps between our words and actions in a negative way, which can breed mistrust. Saying “no” or “not yet” more often may be critical to becoming more trustworthy and reliable to others.
  2. Take a hard look at all of your current and ongoing commitments. How do you typically respond when people ask, “How are you doing?” If you tend to say, “Busy,” this may be an important step for you to take. Which tasks, events, and responsibilities can you let go of or hand off? Given that projects and tasks almost always take longer than we think, blocking twice the time required for task completion and deadlines is a good rule of thumb. It also builds in some extra white space to accommodate the unexpected.
  3. Leaders and supervisors: Engage in deliberate, regular conversations with your subordinates to monitor their workloads and help them re-prioritize when needed. Often supervisors don’t realize how much their subordinates already have on their plates. I remember talking with a client who had a handful of additional responsibilities given to them on top duties they had assigned to them since first arriving at the organization several years ago. Leadership had no idea! Doing less with less as opposed to more with less is how you take care of your people and maximize productivity and results.
  4. In addition to keeping your commitments, appropriately extend trust to others as well. When people are entrusted with a project or task, they are more likely to feel motivated and empowered. Contrast that with bosses who micromanage, who only trust themselves and squeeze the morale and motivation out of people around them. People also tend to quit bosses who micromanage them.

Ultimately, trust and mistrust are both contagious. What is one thing you can do differently to help the people around you catch the right one?