Building Trust to Build Your Team

Taking a close look at how your own behavior can (and does) impact your ability to build trusting relationships—both at work and at home.

Randy Anderson
December 20, 2023

Becoming a Catalyst for Building Trust Within Your Organization (and Personal Life)

Few things in life are as crucial as trust. That’s a strong assertion but think about it and see if you wouldn’t agree. With trust, you can experience better relationships and pursue much larger goals and challenges than you can without it. When trust is absent, you not only feel somewhat lonely, but you often feel like you must “watch out” for people around you. Personally and professionally, trust is an essential ingredient in interpersonal relationships.

Is trust prevalent in your various teams in life? Do you generally trust your boss, your coworkers, your subordinates, and your customers? Do you usually trust your neighbors, your friends, and your children? That second question may seem strange, because you probably don’t worry about friends doing something to “wrong” you, but lack of trust isn’t limited to a concern about moral compromise. Do you trust others to be competent enough to do things correctly and committed enough to do them thoroughly? Or do you feel like you must constantly “remind” them what to do and how to do it? (By the way, to them, you’re nagging…not reminding.)

Whether you don’t really trust other people or feel like you’re not trusted as much as you deserve to be, a lack of trust can work to slow things down, add frustration to an already stressful world and life, and it can trigger many other counterproductive thoughts and actions. If you are a trusting person, and you do feel trusted, there is still the challenge of helping others to reach that point, so I want to give you some strategies for increasing the level of trust you give, receive, and cultivate in life.

Trust is built through three things: actions, interactions, and reactions. Whether you build or destroy trust will depend on how you navigate those three things. Here are some ideas for handling them more effectively.

Trust is built through our actions

More than what we say, people often judge us by what we do in life. We’ve all had the experience where someone says one thing but does something different.

For example, a manager that promises an opportunity to be a part of a significant project or to move into a position of added responsibility, then never follows through, or gives a dozen reasons why it “didn’t work out”. Maybe it is a co-worker that offers to help you finish something, only to retract later because they didn’t complete their own work. Even more hurtful, a family member that commits to attending a special event or helping with a significant occasion, but as always, something comes up, and they’re not going to be able to make it…again.

People watch, judge, and remember our actions much more than our promises.

Trust is built through our interactions

How we communicate—whether verbally or nonverbally—sends messages to people that are processed consciously and subconsciously, allowing them to form an opinion of us that is referred to as our reputation. Your reputation is built or reinforced constantly…but so is your character. While reputation is who or what other people believe you to be, character is who you know you really are.

When you interact with others—whether personally or professionally—it is vital that you practice being communicative. You must be willing to speak the truth, but you also need to be prepared to hear the truth. Consider the following:

  • How well do you give and receive feedback?
  • How would others rate you on the timeliness and clarity of your communication?
  • Are you actively working to become a better listener?
  • What grade would you give yourself for being compelling, persuasive, and memorable?

While many of these questions seem to be more about communication than trust, much of the trust we develop is based on how well we communicate and relate to those around us. As you navigate through interactions with those in both your professional and personal life, here are some things to remember:

When you’re interacting, make it a point to demonstrate genuine empathy. Try to understand other people’s challenges and frustrations.

Respect the fact that everyone has certain things that make their job more difficult. Make sure you aren’t guilty of what frustrates you.

If you really want to build trust, live by the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would have you do to them. That is harder than the Golden Rule which instructs us to treat others the way we want to be treated. Other people may not want you to treat them the way you want to be treated. Maybe they aren’t as direct or confrontational as you. Maybe they are very direct and prefer to confront things early, but you tend to avoid conflict. Treating others the way they want to be treated is the ultimate test of empathy, and we have the opportunity to do it multiple times each day.

Keep confidence if someone shares something private with you. Don’t damage trust by repeating something that the other person didn’t want to be made public. This is especially true in personal matters. Maybe they confided in you about their family, a career change they are considering, or some other challenge they are struggling with. If you betray that confidence, you can be sure it will permanently damage their trust in you.

Trust is built through our reactions

While we would like for people to judge us and form opinions about us when we are at our best, and when circumstances are predictable and calm, the fact is, they often draw those conclusions when they see us in the midst of difficulties. How you react in a tough situation will go a long way in revealing your true, unguarded character.

When a problem arises, try to be responsive not reactive. In other words, measure your words and actions. Avoid coming back with an instinctive knee-jerk reaction, which could have the effect of pushing people away. And don’t cultivate an “us vs. them” atmosphere, or allow that to exist.

Consider the following:

  • How would people describe your typical “response mechanism” when the unexpected and unpleasant erupts?
  • Do you remain objective?
  • Are you fair in your assessments, meaning do you work to treat everyone equitably, if not equally?
  • Are you consistent in how you react so that people generally know what to expect from you?

Building trust in the various parts of your life is one of, if not THE most, significant factors in developing personal influence. Doing the things put forth in this article will allow you to strengthen your relationships and deepen your impact.

Take the time to do some honest self-assessment and self-reflection. What do you need to work on? How can you become someone that others trust and want to be close to? If you answer those questions honestly, and work purposefully to do what you know you need to, then you will grow your personal influence exponentially.

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