Have you said some version of these words recently?
“I can’t trust him.”
“My trust has been broken.”
“We can’t put trust in them anymore.”
These refrains are common and heartbreaking. In both its presence and absence, trust is a critical and yet also often elusive quality of effective working relationships.
Being able to trust someone comes from the quality and depth of the working relationship. But being trustworthy – worthy of another’s trust – is not a rigid or permanent state or a fixed personality characteristic.
Trust comes from the consistent demonstration of certain behaviors: sincerity, competence and reliability.
- Sincerity means delivering consistently with your intentions: people believe you mean what you say. This means acting and being in integrity with professional ethics as well as personal or organizational values.
- Competency means having technical skills to do what you promise. You can deliver on your promises because you have the technical capacity to do so.
- Reliability means fulfilling promises consistently, over time. You can be sincere and competent, but given a history of inconsistency, your reliability may be questioned.
Unintentionally, assumptions of insincerity, incompetence and unreliability can easily infiltrate working relationships. When these assumptions are dominant, distrust becomes the foundation upon which working relationships get built – not a particularly steady place to grow from.
So how can you develop and nurture trust in your working relationships?
- Take a look in the mirror and start with yourself. Trust is first an inside job, and it begins with you. How do you show sincerity, competence and reliability in your work and working relationships? How can you strengthen each of these first in yourself? When or where are you insincere, incompetent or unreliable? How can you better align your actions and words, build your skills or capacity, and keep your commitments?
- Design agreements that build trust. Embrace practices that will strengthen your sincerity, competence and reliability, and support those behaviors in your team.
- Reward the behavior you want. Recognize when promises are fulfilled in order to create a team culture that names and acknowledges sincerity, competency and reliability.
- Be specific in your requests of others, as well as your own commitments. What will be done, by when, and how will you measure success?
- If you find that you don’t have as much trust in someone else’s sincerity, competence or reliability, see if you can turn your complaint into a request. Behind every frustration or complaint is an unfulfilled request. Instead of complaining about it you can be more productive in your feedback by making a request.
- Be brave and ask for help. Opening a conversation on trust within your team or organization takes a willingness to engage in a different kind and level of dialogue with others. It’s not an easy task, so find resources that support you, and be willing to learn from each other and from your mistakes.
In the Comments below, I’d love to hear your take on developing trust. What works to build trust in your team?
Hanna Cooper is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.