Building Trust in Relationships

Very often the challenges my coaching clients bring to their sessions relate to trust building trust in their relationships at work with line managers, direct reports, peers and clients.

Maister, Green and Galford, authors of The Trusted Advisor, outline an equation for systemically building trust.

the trusted advisor 

Whilst it is framed primarily around building trusting relationships with clients, the model is equally applicable (and very useful) in helping us think about how we build and foster trust in all workplace relationships.

According to Maister et al, most professionals instinctively focus on credibility and reliability. However, trust has multiple dimensions and winning trust requires that you do well on all four dimensions (in the other persons eyes).

Some of my favourite strategies for increasing trust in relationships are:

  • Credibility (C) knowing your stuff plus presence
  • Dressing like the other person
  • Using their language, acronyms, etc
  • Being proactive and confident, eg. being prepared for all meetings and conversations so that you can talk about content confidently and with purpose
  • Reliability (R) doing what you say you’ll do
  • Making specific commitments and then delivering on them
  • Sending meeting materials in advance to save meeting time for substantive discussions
  • Reconfirming scheduled events before they happen and announcing changes to scheduled or committed dates as soon as they change
  • Intimacy (I) knowing the person as a person
  • Finding out about the person
  • Finding a common interest / topic outside the work context you share
  • Taking the lead sharing something about yourself first.
  • Self-orientation (S) getting your ego out of the way
  • Focusing on the other persons success rather than just your own
  • Listening without distractions (eg. door closed, phone off, email not in sight)
  • As the denominator in the equation, small reductions in being perceived as self interested yield big returns in trust!

Every time I have a coaching conversation on this topic, I am reminded about the value of building lasting trusting relationships in business (and life) and how work can be achieved more effectively and efficiently with its presence.  Unfortunately, most people assume they are better at winning trust than they really are.  Remember that building trust takes time yet can take only a moment to lose.

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