Monday, July 4, 2016

Building Your Perceived Trustworthiness

The one thing that we are told to expect about today's work landscape is for it to constantly be changing. Though this comes with its own unique benefits and challenges, few comment on the negative impact continuous change can have on the perceived trustworthiness of leaders. Studies all confirm that although trust is an intangible, it is a critical factor in how others work, interact and even listen to one another.

A lack of trust in leadership is a determining factor in employee turnover and engagement. As a leader then increasing your perceived level of trustworthiness will be an important component of your overall success.

Most leaders, if asked, will say that they are a trustworthy person.  However, it doesn't matter how trustworthy you think you are, what matters is how trustworthy others believe you are.  Your trustworthiness is part of your Reputation and therefore depends on what others think of you, not what you think of yourself.

The true secret to developing and maintaining your trustworthiness is your predictability.  Although being seen as predictable may sound boring, it is the main ingredient (the magic sauce, if you will) of building trustworthiness.  It is the congruence between what you say and what you do that builds the consistency of behaviour that others can trust and rely in, that they can count on.

Though we may think of people who are spontaneous as being fun, we likely won't view them as being particularly trustworthy, simply because we can't predict what they'll do next.  A new thought enters their head and off they go, regardless of what they may have previously indicated.  Although we may say that we value spontaneity, we are far more comfortable with those whose behaviour we can predict.

The truth is, we are all far more consistent in our behaviour than we may like to think.  Just look at your daily habits and routines for an indication of some of yours.  The good news though is that it's these consistent behaviours that help form the foundation of trust that increase our effectiveness as leaders.

The following are my top 6 list of behaviours that you can engage in to help you build your trustworthiness profile.

  • Do what you say.  You can help build your profile of consistency by letting others know what you intend to do. The important part, of course, is to actually go out and do it. The bigger the gap between what you say and what you do the less believable and credible you will be. Narrow the gap to build trust.
  • Keep your promises.  Be resolute with your word. Don't make promises you don't intend (or can't) keep and, if something prevents you from keeping your promise, make a point of explaining to others what happened and why.  This will help others to see your failure to keep your word as an anomaly and not the rule.
  • Trust others.  Extend trust to gain it.  Demonstrate the behaviour you would like to see in and from others.
  • Be Selfless.  It will prove difficult for others to trust in you if your focus is narrowed to... you. Self interest, particularly in a leader, will undermine trust. Your focus needs to be more broadly directed; to the team, department and company.
  • Be open and honest. This should be patently obvious but we aren't likely to trust someone who is constantly withholding or manipulating information. 
  • Keep confidences. If you are forever gossiping around the water cooler it will be difficult for others to view you as someone they can trust to maintain their confidences.
We all want a leader we can believe in and trust. To be that leader yourself, start by using the tips above to build your trustworthiness. Focus on demonstrating consistency in your behaviours and your word to build yours.

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