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8 Steps for Building Trust in Business

“I have discovered that ultimately you either trust that everything will be ok, or you believe things are bound to go wrong. This comes down to a simple choice, and it influences your entire perception of life.”

Written by Jeanette Cross, Expert on Life and Everything

Trust is the foundation of all healthy relationships. If you think about the people you have strong relationships with, you will realise that they are people you trust. In the business arena, trust makes for better working relationships, higher performance, increased customer loyalty and healthier growth. So what is the secret to building trust in business? Based on my experience as a trainer, consultant and coach, here are my 8 Steps for Building Trust in Business:

  1. Trust is built through consistent performance. If you are consistent in following through, people will trust you to deliver. BUT be honest about what you can and can’t do: don’t overpromise and under-perform!
  2. Before you express your own opinions and intentions, listen to the other person, and check that you have understood. When someone makes the effort to truly listen to us, we are much more likely to trust them.
  3. Especially in a customer service context, maintain a positive mindset and always focus on solutions. Even if you can’t ‘fix’ a problem, people trust you when they feel you are willing and ready to help.
  4. Be prepared to take responsibility when things don’t work out. Taking ownership shows character and builds trust; denying responsibility or passing the buck destroys it.
  5. Always keep confidences and don’t bad-mouth people to others. Even if the news doesn’t get back to the individual concerned, the people around you will not trust you to be loyal to them.
  6. Learn what the other person values most as an act of trust. For one, it might be giving them a leadership role, for another it might be offering them support.
  7. Be even-handed and fair. Where colleagues perceive favouritism or discrimination to be at play, they don’t trust you to protect their interests: morale drops and so does performance.
  8. As a leader, be transparent about decisions and, wherever possible, involve all levels of staff in planning and process design. The more open and inclusive you are about change, the more your people will trust the process and buy into it.

My Take on Trust

Trust is a choice.
We often feel that other people have to earn our trust, but it is amazing what happens when we show another human being that we believe in them. If you want someone to be trustworthy, you have to trust them first. It’s much more effective to say ‘I know you will do your best for me’, than ‘Please don’t let me down’!

Trust is the antidote to fear.
Many of us are held back from realising our dreams because we are afraid to take risks. We hang around at the water’s edge observing others around us and envying the ones who dive straight in. To give a personal example, I experienced a great deal of self-doubt and fear when I left my safe, secure job to become a freelance consultant. I had no idea how to run a business and knew nothing about the world of consulting. And the thought of not knowing where my next pay cheque was coming from terrified me. However, once I did take the plunge I quickly realised that I had all the qualities I needed to make it work. The key isn’t to wait until you’re certain you won’t fail, but to trust in your own abilities to get you there step by step.

A little bit of trust goes a long way.
Many entrepreneurs will tell you to ‘trust no one’ when it comes to the competitive world of business. It is certainly very risky to invest your time and capital in any deal without a watertight contract. However, I have learned that in some contexts, trust is the best investment you can make, and the rewards can outweigh any potential losses. For example, in my small circle of close associates we share ideas freely and help to build each other’s businesses. This is what we call ‘coopetition’ – half way between cooperation and competition! We all benefit from raising the bar, and instead of fighting over our piece of the pie, we realise that with a little teamwork the pie gets bigger, so there’s more for everyone.

Control is the enemy of trust.
Many people in leadership and management positions find themselves doing other people’s jobs because they live by the mantra ‘If you want a job done well, do it yourself’. Instead of leading, they micro-manage, and micro-management kills trust – as well as innovation and initiative. Effective delegation is the mark of a great leader. It requires you to extend trust to others, and the humility to realise that your way might not be the only – or even the best – way.

Trust: Letting go of the illusion of control.
We live in a competitive culture in which we are constantly given messages that imply we need to have control over our lives. Study hard, get a job, forge a successful career, find a partner, raise perfect kids…. The reality is that the only things we can directly influence are our own thoughts, beliefs, behaviour, words and actions. Ironically, many of us spend so much time worrying about what other people are doing, what is ‘happening to us’, that we don’t focus our energy on ourselves at all. This creates a feeling of helplessness and frustration, because we feel we are at the mercy of fate or the actions of others.

Trust your gut.
One of the most helpful lessons I have ever learned is to trust my intuition. We all have an instinctive physical reaction to strong emotions that often registers in our stomach or gut. That’s why we have phrases like ‘gut-wrenching’ or ‘stomach turning’. In any case, paying attention to how we feel, emotionally and physically, can help us decide whether something is good or bad for us. We usually try to make difficult decisions based on rational thinking – by making a list of pros and cons, for example, or following other people’s advice. But even when we think we’re doing the ‘right’ thing, we don’t always feel good about it. That’s our intuition talking, and our intuition is never wrong. It can be very hard to turn off our minds sometimes, so I like to use little tricks to help me bypass the arguments my head puts up. One is to toss a coin and check in with how you feel: Relieved? Excited? Scared? Disappointed? If you like the decision it makes for you, go with that; if you don’t like it, change it! Another is to make a big decision as if you are making a small one. You don’t agonise over what to eat for breakfast, for example, so why do the same with a bigger decision? If you go with the choice that makes you feel energised and positive, you are most likely to succeed.

The ultimate trust.
I have discovered that ultimately you either trust that everything will be ok, or you believe things are bound to go wrong. This comes down to a simple choice, and it influences your entire perception of life. Either way, you will always find evidence to prove your perception is true. If you have a negative mindset, are constantly worrying about what might happen, and feel the world is against you, every time things don’t work out the way you planned you will see it as a confirmation that life cannot be trusted. You will develop a ‘Murphy’s Law’ mentality: if something can go wrong, it will. If you develop a positive outlook, however, and believe that life is weighted in your favour, you will open yourself to possibilities and opportunities that you would never even have noticed otherwise. You will be resilient to knock-backs, expecting the next door to open to an even better option. You will look for a Plan B when Plan A doesn’t work out. Life’s challenges will merely become bumps in the road instead of major obstacles that prevent you from moving forward.

Get in touch with Jeanette at her company, Cross Training, here:

Cross Training
Tel: 061 309435/081 2509393

Jeanette Cross