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Being Trustworthy Does Not Build Trust

Posted by: Rod Kurtz on September 21, 2009

The idea that being trustworthy does not necessarily build trust may seem like a ridiculous concept to you. But haven’t you had the experience of people questioning your motives or credibility without justification? It is behavior that builds trust, not intentions. Other people don’t know your intentions, they only know what you do.

Every interaction you have with another person either enhances trust or diminishes it. The same applies to the managers and employees in your organization. Every interaction your managers have with their team members builds trust, or diminishes it. Every interaction that an individual in your organization has with a customer either builds trust or diminishes it, too.

It would make sense, then, to ensure that all managers and employees are mindful of the behaviors that build trust. Our research at Integro Leadership Institute has identified four elements that must be present for trust to develop:

1. Reliability is the most obvious element. We need to deliver what we say we’ll deliver, keep commitments, and perform the best we can in every situation.

2. Congruence is the behavior that lets people know you are trustworthy. Partly it is how we communicate—saying what you mean and meaning what you say. The other part of congruence is walking your talk—operating by your personal and organizational values.

3. Openness is essential for innovation to flourish. Encouraging employees to speak up with ideas, even to disagree with the way things are done, provides a spark for new ways to create value. Being receptive and listening to employees and customers builds trust and loyalty.

4. Acceptance is the least understood element, but everyone needs to be respected and valued. Your employees and customers are the most valuable assets your company has—are they treated accordingly?

All four elements of trust must be present for trust to build, and be sustained. When even one is missing, trust is diminished, if not destroyed. Take these four elements and discuss them with your team. Which ones are you doing well at, and where could your team improve?

Keith Ayers
Integro Leadership Institute
Sydney, Australia

Reader Comments

Rick Ferguson

September 22, 2009 1:08 PM

Good points. I do my best but have fallen short to fufill the above recently. Reason? No excuses, but I was happy to be HIRING at a time when other companies are downsizing. I made sure the employees really wanted to work with us. But it takes a Manager and more interaction to build trust and know their needs. Still improving. Do you recommend the book, "The Speed of Trust?". Thanks, Rick

Lee Johnson

September 22, 2009 5:22 PM

I have found Mr. Ayers work on the issue of trust to be extremely beneficial. His company, Integro Leadership Institute has an excellent process for building, or sometimes re-building trust, in organizations and relationships. Without trust, there is no foundation in which to build from. His work has produced some amazing results.

Jim Jackson

September 25, 2009 8:18 AM

It's easy to say, "Well, we do want more trust around here, but you go first. The last time I trusted somebody, they stabbed me in the back."

If we don't eliminate the fear of what's going to happen when we trust somebody, we're going to create a culture where it's dangerous to trust and dangerous to ask for help.
I wrote an article that explains the value of trust at work.

susan brooks

September 26, 2009 2:57 PM

'The Speed of Trust' offers incredibly fresh perspectives that not only inspire trust, but also graphically shows the financial benefits of trust. Covey's book is a 'must read' on this subject!

Etienne Bourret

October 6, 2009 10:12 PM

It's important to build trust, yes. But more importantly is to dig up when trust is lost.
like you said, "Other people don’t know your intentions, they only know what you do." and I say it goes further ; if you do something that they don't like, they can say that you did it because you did know they would not like it. Worst, maybe you won't even know it, but they will tell others. they is a reallyu good chapter about trust, and way to regain it, in the book "conflict resolution toolbox"


May 3, 2010 2:30 AM

great post as usual!

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