Think of one of your strongest relationships. This can be a work or personal relationship. Friend or family. Think about what makes that relationship so strong and so special. What does it feel like when you think of the person in that relationship? I hope you have a good feeling. One that makes you smile. One that makes you feel secure. One that makes you feel whole. Of all those feelings, I’ll bet the main thing that comes to mind is the strong feeling of trust. But, what makes a trusting relationship? Through my experiences, I have found trusting relationships have 3 things: honesty, vulnerability, and authenticity.
This may sound simple, but trust cannot be built without honesty. And I’m not just talking about being honest with the other person. You must be honest with yourself. In order to build trust, you need to be able to tell the truth with each interaction. You must be able to share some feedback even if it may cause some discomfort. If you respond, “I’m fine,” when someone asks how you are, knowing something is bothering you, the relationship won’t go very far. In the workplace, to build trust for growth and learning, you have to be open and honest with each other.
No trusting relationship can exist without vulnerability. Yes, I just felt you shiver and shudder at the mention of that word. We tend to mistake vulnerability with weakness. Vulnerability lets the other person in and gives them a chance to see a side of you they may not see. It shows you’re human and you experience the same fears, passions, and struggles that everyone else does. It’s ok to be vulnerable in the workplace. By being vulnerable, you strengthen the trust in any relationship.
You can be honest and vulnerable, but if you are not authentic, any chance at building trust will go away. If you approach each relationship as a project or chore, or if you are not genuine in your actions, you lose credibility. Be yourself. Your friends and colleagues know when you are being authentic. This comes through in your speech and body language.
Patrick Lencioni, CEO of the Table Group and world-renowned author and speaker on leadership and organizational health, wrote a book called “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.” This is a fictional story (based on actual teams and situations) about a software startup that’s going through a leadership change and some rebuilding. He describes the 5 dysfunctions that hold a team back from being a truly high performing team. These are a failure to focus on goals, absence of accountability, absence of commitment, fear of confrontation, and most importantly, the absence of trust.
Without trust, teams will not be able to have healthy conflict, stick to commitments and be accountable to each other or focus on team goals.
When you think about where trust began in your life, you didn’t even knew what trust was. As a baby, you trusted that your parents were going to care for you and feed you. You trusted that they would provide shelter and protection and would change that stinky diaper that kept dragging you down.
You trusted your teachers were teaching you the right things and providing you with the knowledge to continue to grow and prepare for graduation. Many of you went on to college. You started trusting in your own decisions. The courses you took, the groups of people you chose to hang around. You trusted that when you grabbed for a
beer Coke in the fridge, it would be cold when you opened it.
As you embarked on your career, you learned to trust your coworkers because you knew they would get the work done. Your clients and peers trusted that you would do what you say, deliver on your commitments, and do what’s right, always.
Building trust is not easy. There is no perfect script or step-by-step process for you to follow. This takes time and there is no time frame or formula to guarantee when trust will be built or how long it will last. This is a two-way street and requires both parties to be honest, vulnerable, and authentic.
Take stock in your most trusting relationships. See what makes them work and look to build trust in all of them.