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Trust - A Critical Success Factor
by David McNally

As I read my local newspaper this morning two stories stood out as reflecting the challenges we face in our professional and personal lives. One story featured leading corporate executives who are currently on trial for fraud, obstruction of justice or similar illegal activities. The other was about a new recruit for the Minnesota Vikings who almost became a New York Jet but had promised the Vikings head coach that he would visit Minnesota before signing with any team. The comment that stood out to me in his press interview was this: "I am a man of my word."

The bottom line in both these stories is how the presence of trust is critical to a healthy society and to human relationships. When I observe an organization with a rich, empowering culture, where the workforce is fully engaged and inspired to do great work, I know that trust exists at all levels of the organization. When I experience an individual who is highly thought of, whose personal brand is strong, I know he or she is unquestionably a "person of their word" - that the ability to build trust is one of their most dominant traits.

How is trust built? As people cannot see inside of us, trustworthiness is the result of how we behave, of our actions. In my book THE EAGLE'S SECRET, I define four specific behaviors critical to trust building. During a time in which the business world is being viewed with a considerable level of distrust, they are worthy reviewing. As you read, reflect on how you behave on a day-to-day basis and what changes you might make to build trust more effectively.

Reliability - Do you do what you say you will do? Some people can be so motivated, so enthusiastic, or perhaps so anxious to please others, that they make promises that cannot possibly be kept. Excuses may be accepted once or twice, but in the long run the word gets out: you are likable but unreliable. Even with the best of intentions how you follow through is what ultimately matters.

Straightforwardness - Some people are so concerned with others’ feelings that they hold back or 'fudge' really saying how they feel. Being sensitive to others has merit but shouldn't leave others feeling you are being dishonest with them. It often takes courage to be direct but, if you take that risk, people can then trust that you are being truthful (whether they like what you say or not or not) and, therefore, your honesty is not in question.

Acceptance - Do you assess others purely on the level of their professional competence? If people feel that their different ways of doing things are constantly being judged or their needs are not being considered, trust is destroyed. Efficiency, in fact, is the result of people being willing to do things differently. We all need to be recognized for our unique strengths and competencies. Remember, behind every employee is a person waiting to be acknowledged.

Openness - Have you ever walked away from another person feeling he or she has "a few cards up their sleeve?" Some people are so risk averse, reticent or cautious in offering information that others experience them as secretive. "Is there something more I could know that would help me?" becomes an unresolved question. Openness is sharing information, both positive and negative, that can help others make better decisions. Once again opening up can be a courageous step but the benefits include a deeper level of communication, more rapid solutions to problems, and a more collaborative, creative environment.

As you decide where you are strong and when you could grow in terms of trust building, remember that actions speak louder than words. When you demonstrate through your behavior that you are reliable, straightforward, accepting, and open, people learn to trust you, value you and know that they can count on you. The result is rich, enduring relationships with your colleagues, your customers, your friends and, most importantly, your family. That is a wealth beyond measure.

"What gives a team richness, texture, and ultimately, resourcefulness is the uniqueness of its members and an artful linking of their diverse gifts."
- Allan Cox

Copyright David McNally. All Rights Reserved.

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