I’ve got to be transparent here and say that I’ve been a Sade fan since about 1985 and love her music and the whole nightclub vibe of her musical style. One of her songs has been running through my head lately when I’m coaching clients on their business culture and results. The song is from her “Stronger Than Pride” album, and these are the lyrics that are stuck running through my head, over and over. “In the middle of the madness when the time is running out and you’re left alone. All I want is you to know that it’s strong still. Can’t pull us apart. Nothing can come between us. Nothing can pull us apart. It’s about faith. It’s about trust.” I think the authors, Stuart Matthewman, Helen Adu, and Andrew Hale created a track with an infectious groove that has stood the test of time. The lyric resonates with me and with my clients when I’m talking with them about that essential cultural element, trust. If you have faith in your people, if you create trust, nothing can pull you apart. In the middle of the madness of any business challenge, faith and trust will keep you strong and prevent anything from pulling you apart.
It’s About Trust — When people work together with trust, anything is possible. On the other hand, when trust has been damaged, has broken down or hasn’t yet been established, almost everything is difficult, expensive, and very slow to develop! There is no substitute. Prepare for developing trust with your employees, prospects, customers, and you will enable an atmosphere of productive collaboration where everyone feels like they are working towards the very same goals and outcomes. Commit to building trust and never cut corners.
It’s About Efficiency — In these days of tight budgets and whipsawing financial climates, business professionals have little choice but to get more done faster and at a lower cost than ever before! One of the very best strategies to introduce competitive advantage is to get everyone on the team bought in, and to teach your team how to develop trust and how to protect it over time!
You First — Building trust takes time if you’re going to do it right. There is no better time to begin that journey than right now, at THIS moment. Don’t wait for someone else, go first, and show the team your strong confidence and leadership. By demonstrating character in all that you do, be showing that you are humble and that you can admit to mistakes and ask for help when you need it, you will be on your way. You prove that you deserve trust from your teammates when you are honest and show your good intentions day in and day out.
Fundamentals — Trust depends upon the presence of all of the following: Warmth, Openness, Transparency, Character, Integrity, Honesty, Positivity, Empathy, Reliability, Competence, Candor, and Consistency, among others… You cannot gain the trust of others unless you deliver all of the above EVERY day! Trust is like a piggy bank and you deposit coins into that account daily with your conduct. After weeks or months of deposits, it only takes one misstep to break trust, and you will see the piggy bank shattered into many pieces. You will devote a long time to build up trust in your account, but it only takes one instant to lose months worth of trust that you’ve built up. Protect your trust account carefully by being consistent in your behavior and communications with the team.
Control Yourself — When others break trust with you, slow down and calmly think things through. Don’t react in anger, don’t do anything suddenly that will seem rash. Count to ten, and breathe deeply as you consider a constructive response. Be quick to assume the best in people, and be very slow to accuse and believe the worst in others. Far too often, we over-react when a situation is unclear, and learn to regret rushed actions and statements made in the heat of the moment. Better to breathe first than to have to apologize later for having reacted harshly in haste.
No Brutality — I am always amazed that people in business speak of brutal honestly as if it is good. I hear people excusing their lack of professionalism by saying “I’m just passionate about what I do” all the time. Let’s be very direct here, OK? Honesty is certainly good in every case. However, let’s not kid ourselves, brutal honesty is never appreciated as much as diplomatic honesty and integrity Diplomatic honesty and integrity build trust. Brutal honesty is narcissistic and counter-productive to those who want to build trust. Excusing your rude or bullying behavior as just a consequence of your “passion” is the epitome of unprofessionalism. We can and must do better.
Building trust must start first with you. You must be willing to honor your commitments to yourself. If you cannot keep your commitments to yourself, there is no chance that you will be able to keep your promises to others. Recognize that you can mend broken trust and end up with greater trust than you originally began with, but it is far better to avoid the difficult work of having to mend broken trust altogether! Think ahead, gain clarity, and be careful to honor your commitments in a way that prevents having to apologize or recover later. Don’t ever make the assumption that expectations and commitments are clear to everyone. In the words of the Gipper, “trust, but verify.” Verify that everyone understands expectations and can communicate their understanding of them in their own words. Gain affirmative commitments to your goals from everyone on the team and leave nothing to chance. In the end, if you build trust, nothing can come between you and your team. It’s about trust!