If asked your customers, work colleagues and manager are you trustworthy, what would they say?

Obviously, we all want to be perceived as trustworthy because that is the essential ingredient required to form trusting relationships with others and to do business. Whether it’s your relationship with customers, work colleagues, manager, or other business units, your trustworthiness will determine if they trust you.

I provided details in a recent post about the end-to-end trust cycle and described the critical role of trustworthiness – you can access the post HERE if you missed it.

The key point is that, if you want to be trusted (and who doesn’t), the most important step in the trust cycle is to be trustworthy. If your trustworthiness can’t be demonstrated from the trustor’s perspective, trust won’t exist and you will find it impossible to do business with them. You can’t make others trust you nor can they make you trustworthy.

“You can’t make others trust you nor can they make you trustworthy.”

When someone engages with you for the first time, they face conditions of maximum uncertainty. They don’t know you, your capabilities, or history of delivering against similar needs to theirs. That’s why they’ll attempt to assess your trustworthiness which is responsible for up to 80% of their decision to trust.

What sort of characteristics are they looking for? It turns out there are three (3) key areas of interest:

Your Ability

Ability - Are you trustworthy

They are thinking to themselves “Can I rely on you to be competent?”

This relates to your knowledge, skills, and competencies that enable you to function reliably and effectively to deliver the required products and services and meet your goals and responsibilities.

Ability is specific to the domain requiring their trust. For example, if you are an accountant, you will be expected to have all the knowledge, skills and competencies associated with being an accountant. But that doesn’t mean you will be expected to have competence in every aspect of the business though.

Here are some ways for you to demonstrate your ability.

Ask Good Questions

Knowing how to ask good questions distinguishes knowledgeable people from average ones. It shows that you are eager to learn more about their situation, thoughts and needs.

More importantly, asking questions also helps you uncover information that may help you generate better solutions using your knowledge, skills and experience.

Asking open-ended questions will help you probe for insight.  

Take Notes

It’s always a good idea to take notes, particularly when meeting with a customer. It shows them you care about the details and helps you organise your thoughts.

You can lose a lot of information if you don’t take notes. Memory can be a fickle thing, and you’re bound to forget one or two things unless you have a written record. 

When people are talking they can go off on a tangent or lose their train of thought while speaking. Note taking helps you keep things on point and focussed.

Respect Other’s Time

Time is a precious resource that must be spent wisely. Busy people typically don’t have the time to do everything they want so they prioritise.

The time someone provides you is a privilege and that means you need to give the respect they deserve.

Showing respect for other’s time means showing up on time and being prepared. If you have a set amount of time with someone, use it wisely and strategically, and make sure to end the meeting on time. 

Be Confident

A quality that can tip the scales in your favour is self-confidence. You’ll more likely deliver a successful pitch or persuade a person to make a decision if you are confident in your abilities and your solution.

Being confident means knowing your worth and effectively communicating the value you offer. This will also help reinforce the perceived value for money.

Confidence doesn’t come out of thin air. While you can choose to be more confident in your actions, you also need to back it up with substance. You need to put in the time and energy to improve your skills and build your brand as an expert in your field.

Ensure that you can clearly articulate your value and overcome any objections. If you get stumped on a question, be frank, admit that you don’t know the answer, and commit to finding out.

Know Your Values

Your core values help shape your business’s culture. They are the guiding principles that help you make better decisions and differentiate your business from your competitors.

Make a point of explaining what your business is about. Help them understand why your business is different. For example, you could talk about how a commitment to reliability has helped you deliver better results for your customers. 

Use Case Studies

If you are engaging with a prospect, authentic case studies from existing customers are a good way to demonstrate your ability, particularly if each case study reflects a situation that mirrors that of the prospect’s own. The key point here is that the case study has to be authentic and not contrived to ‘trick’ the prospect into incorrectly thinking you have the ability that they’re seeking.

Admit When You Don’t Know

As I alluded to earlier, successful operators know the limits of their knowledge and value the insight of others. They’re honest about what they know and don’t know and aren’t afraid to ask for help.

Don’t be afraid to admit if you don’t know the answer to a specific question, but offer to get the answer. 

If the subject matter is not in your area of expertise, then say so, and offer to refer them to someone who is better placed to assist.

Your Integrity

Integrity - are you trustworthy

They are thinking to themselves “Can I trust that you will actually deliver while doing the right thing?

This means the consistent adherence to commonly accepted ethical principles and moral values, such as honesty, fairness, promise fulfilment, responsibility for your actions, and operating within the law. Integrity is also demonstrated by living expressed values. Not only do you need to demonstrate your competence, but also that you will deliver on your promises.

Here are some ways to demonstrate your integrity.

Be Honest

Truthfulness is the path of least resistance and makes life so much easier than the alternative. Be honest with what you’re doing and how it’s going. This also extends to being able to candidly discuss with a prospect or customer the best options to solve their problem or, in fact, if you are able to offer a solution in the first place.

Be Accountable

If you say you are going to do something or be somewhere, make sure you follow through on it. Keep those involved in your commitments in the loop, especially if you are running behind schedule, over budget or struggling to deliver the solution you promised. Seeking forgiveness after the fact is not the best approach and will undoubtedly lead to a perception that you can’t be trusted in the future. Own up to your mistakes.

Be Punctual

Show up to work, meetings, and other obligations on time and be ready to go. Turn in projects and other documents by the agreed upon dates. Other people are depending on your work, so you need to demonstrate to them that you understand how important this is to them. Don’t get a reputation for always being late.

Show Consistency

A person can only be described as possessing integrity if they are consistent in their ethical behaviours. It’s one thing to make an honest and fair choice only when it happens to benefit you, your business or someone close to you. But it’s quite another to uphold the same principles when a fair outcome means that you or someone you like won’t get exactly what they want or could be adversely impacted by your decision.

Show Sincerity

We’ve all experienced situations where it was obvious the other person lacked sincerity and made us feel they couldn’t be trusted. In the same vein as honesty, it’s important you practice sincerity in all dealings with others. People are very good at sensing insincere or fake behaviours and don’t react well to it. On the other hand, people have a high regard for others who come off as authentic and show appropriate vulnerability because trust requires vulnerability from both parties.

Show Empathy

It can be easy to get stuck in a world of self-interest when we make decisions, but it’s important to remember that our lives exist among many other lives that are equally important. Each person you interact with has their own life story, their own trials and tribulations. Listen actively and resist the urge to pass judgment. The other person will invariably be experiencing something in their life you are not aware of.

Your Humanity (Benevolence)

Benevolence - are you trustworthy

They are thinking to themselves “Will you act in my best interests at all times?

This means exercising benevolence and a duty of care to those affected by your business’s operations, products, and services. At a minimum this means doing no harm. But, more broadly, it involves having a positive orientation towards others that goes beyond the profit motive. Will you continue to do the right thing even though you may be negatively affected?

Although ability, integrity, and benevolence are equally important for the development of trust, benevolence is the most potent source of differentiation because it is the rarest of the three trustworthiness attributes.

“Benevolence is the most potent source of differentiation.”

Benevolence is rare, not because most businesses are intentionally malevolent, but because the importance of benevolence is usually underappreciated, and because the non-stop need to grow revenues and otherwise improve business performance makes it harder for people in businesses to practice benevolence on a consistent basis. This often boils down to the prevailing culture.

Here are some ways to demonstrate your humanity (benevolence).

Follow The ‘Golden Rule’

This essentially means that you will treat others the way you wish to be treated. When a business treats you right or sells you a terrific product, you feel happy. You feel loyal. You’re likely to buy more from that business. You’re likely to recommend that business to friends, family and colleagues. Make it your goal to encourage others to have the same sense of happiness and loyalty.

Be a Great Resource

If anyone needs an introduction or referral, make those to others you know and trust and will add value to the person making the request. People will see you as the go-to person and come to you for recommendations, enhancing your trustworthiness.

Give More Than Expected

Unexpected positive outcomes or surprises enhance your reputation because they demonstrate that you will go the extra mile because you value the ongoing relationship. Because you provide more value than what you charge for or deliver your product/service faster than promised, you strengthen your overall trustworthiness.

Provide Excellence

In a similar vein to the previous point, you should consider it your mission to only offer top quality products/services. If executed well, this will help you differentiate your business against competitors. Other ways to achieve this include responding to all email/phone messages promptly, giving customers uninterrupted attention, and listening to and addressing concerns as they arise.

Develop a Mindset of Serving Others

Many entrepreneurs are in business because they are on a mission to serve others in a way that makes it obvious they’re serving others rather than their own needs. When you live your purpose, you’ll live a life of joy while making a difference.

It’s important to note that if any one of these characteristics (ability, integrity, humanity) is missing, it will undermine perceptions of your trustworthiness, so you will need to focus on all three to be effective in demonstrating your trustworthiness.

Finally, another way to think about your trustworthiness is the following formula which combines the power of your ability, integrity and humanity.

your trustworthiness = your ability × your integrity × your humanity

You will note this formula involves multiplication, rather than addition. According to the laws of mathematics, there are two unavoidable consequences of the trustworthiness formula:

    1. If you score a zero on any one of ability, integrity or humanity, your trustworthiness will also be zero
    2. If you score highly on all three characteristics, your trustworthiness will grow exponentially since big numbers multiplied by big numbers produce even bigger numbers.

It’s important you understand if you are perceived as trustworthy and what specific behaviours you should adopt to reach that critical goal. What do you think?

Trust is the basis for all connection with others. In an organisational context, it is an ongoing relationship between an entity and its key stakeholders such as customers, employees, suppliers and investors. When performed with the right intent and a high degree of competence, your organisation’s actions can earn trust with these groups.

Trust is a strong differentiator for any organisation and a dominant driver of future business profit and growth. When you put trust at the forefront of your purpose, strategy, and execution, your stakeholders are more likely to trust you.

At MyNextAdvice, we’ve made trust tangible via our Trustgenie service—helping our clients measure, manage, and maximise trust at every opportunity. If your organisation is interested in unlocking the power and value of trust, MyNextAdvice can help.

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