Ask one hundred people their definition of trust and you’ll get one hundred different answers. Our research and experience working with thousands of leaders is that trust has two important aspects; safety and accountability.
Some people equate trust with safety first, asking the question “Am I safe with you?”
Trust goes up when they are comfortable and confident that you will accept them the way they are, avoid judgment, and be supportive. Trust goes down when communication is impersonal, when they feel judged, or if you break their confidence around sensitive personal information.
Some people equate trust with accountability first, asking the question, “Can I count on you?”
Trust goes up when they are confident you will follow through, make good on your promises, and persevere through obstacles. Trust goes down when you are late, make excuses, or go back on a promise.
Top Five Trust-Busting Behaviors
- Failing to meet a deadline and making excuses
- Breaking a promise
- Leaking personal information without permission
- Criticizing or judging a person’s feelings, ideas, or opinions
- Withdrawing emotional support when someone fails or makes a mistake
Six Trust-Building Behaviors
For Safety-First people
- Reassure: Reassure them that you believe in them and will like them even if they make a mistake or don’t know all the answers.
- Open up: Be transparent with them. It’s OK to share your feelings and personal side once in a while. Your vulnerability is a key to building credibility and safety.
- Encourage: Show your support by asking how they are doing, being genuine with them, and encouraging them.
For Accountability-First people
- Step up: Take the initiative to make a commitment or promise.
- Follow-through: Get it done. Do a good job. Finish on time.
- Take a stand: Find something to believe in, and be willing to share it. Showing that you stand for something is a critical basis for trust.
Even though people have a preference for one of these two trust questions, both are important. Safety-first people care about accountability, and accountability-first people care about safety. The most trustworthy people are able to recognize each person’s trust question and answer it positively through their daily behavior. Great leaders role-model and coach trust behaviors while fostering environments where safety and accountability flourish.
Want to rebuild trust in your organization?
Our PCM training unpacks the nuances of communication that builds or undermines trust. Learn how to build rapport, value people for what matters to them, and how to trust yourself more. Our LOD training quickly gets to the bottom of how drama undermines trust, and how anyone can turn that negative energy into compassionate accountability. Discover how conflict can actually build trust, loyalty, and engagement when used properly.
Here’s an overview of our courses.