9 Ways A Leader Can Earn Trust

| | General Leadership
9 Ways A Leader Can Earn Trust

The conditions for trusting someone are very personal. In fact, despite how logical your assessments regarding trustworthiness may seem to you, it’s important to remember that not everyone takes the same approach. Some of us grant trust and take it away when someone does not live up to our standards or expectations. Others believe trust must be earned. Many of us fall somewhere in between.

Also, consider that some approach trust as a feeling, using their intuition as their guide in whether to trust someone or not.

However, one thing is certain when it comes to earning trust as a leader: your actions speak far more loudly than your words.

Here are 9 actions you can take on a daily basis to actively earn the trust of those you lead:

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. This includes those times when you ask someone to meet you in your office. Don’t keep people waiting by finishing up that last email or lingering on a phone call. Be ready when people show up to meet with you at the time you said you would be ready.

Note also that if there is a pattern of people showing up late in your organization, 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 by your actions. 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 John Wooden said: “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” It also wastes people’s 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.

8. Give people credit.

When someone believes you are taking credit for their work to those above you organizationally, you instantly lose credibility, even if it’s not true.  That’s one reason why it is important to actively and visibly give credit to people for their contributions. The added bonus is that people who feel appreciated by you also tend to trust you more.

9.  Ask for feedback daily.

People tend to trust people more when they are confident they are interested in what they think and have to say. Asking for feedback on an idea, a decision, a perspective, etc., on a daily basis is one way to make listening a habit.

These actions may fall may into the “simple, but not easy” category for many of us. Make earning trust a habit by taking these actions consistently, however, and you will 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 your ideas so we can all learn from your wisdom and experience.


Image Copyright: olegdudko / 123RF Stock Photo


Enter A Comment

Mino F Akhtar   |   20 April 2017   |   Reply

Hi Susan, great article and love those 9 individual actions leaders can take to build trust. I think you touched on humility and vulnerability as well, which is so important in building trust. E.g. leaders have to share something, not all, of themselves as a person to connect to people. It makes them more human and approachable! Would you agree? Best, Mino Akhtar

Susan Mazza   |   20 April 2017   |   Reply

I definitely agree that humility and vulnerability are a key underlying context for actions that build trust. These things also mark the difference between have power over vs empowering.

Hal Roberts   |   20 April 2017   |   Reply

Trust is leased, never owned you must earn it everyday. Takes months/years to earn, but can be lost by one wrong choice over night.

Susan Mazza   |   20 April 2017   |   Reply

That’s why I think it is so important to tend to those daily actions that build trust over time. People will cut you some slack for even a big misstep if you have demonstrated your trustworthiness consistently over time in a multitude of ways.

andy_mcf   |   21 April 2017   |   Reply

Helpful to keep these points “front of mind” and, as you imply “front of action.” Your readers may benefit from Covey’s book which I provide brief overview of at: http://pivotpointsolutions.net/2012/08/27/worth-the-read-trust-me/

Thanks for posting!

Susan Mazza   |   21 April 2017   |   Reply

Thanks Andy! I too am a fan of Covey

Ron Manzi   |   24 April 2017   |   Reply

Thank you for the article. The nine points you mentioned apply not only to leaders but to all relationships.

Susan Mazza   |   24 April 2017   |   Reply

They certainly do Ron!

Stephanie Liu   |   15 May 2017   |   Reply

Hi, Susan. I am really appreciate you especially this blog. I think these nine things are really what a good leader should be do. And I think you are a good leader like you what you state.

Susan Mazza   |   18 May 2017   |   Reply

Thank you for your kind words Stephanie!