How to build trust: the core of all relationships

This month, we look at how to build trust: the core of all relationships.

I’ve recently read The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen Covey (son of the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) because clients from two different companies recommended it to me.

I found the book informative and practical, and have drawn out some key observations that you might find useful. I also invited my client, Fiona Wright, Sales Director LEGO UK to add her comments – she’s the one who introduced me to the Trust Equation in my article on Emotionally Intelligent Teams. Please see below to find out more…

How to build trust: the core of all relationships

Stephen Covey asserts that trust comes in waves: self, relationships and stakeholders. For this article, I’ll focus just on the first two.

Self trust – the principle of credibility

According to Covey, self trust comprises both character and competence.

This idea links to my previous article What’s the role of the leader? which included this definition of level 5 leadership:

“Deep personal humility blended with intense professional will.”
Jim Collins, Good to Great

We can see that ‘deep personal humility’ relates to character, while ‘intense professional will’ refers to competence.

In his book, Covey talks about four core aspects to self trust:

1. Integrity
Acting in harmony with your deepest values and beliefs / walking the talk. Having the courage to do the right thing (for example, speaking up to make your point if you think the wrong decision is being made). Others then trust that you stand up for what you believe is right.

“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.”
Mahatma Gandhi

2. Intent/Motive
Genuinely caring about the outcome and the other person. Trying to achieve a win:win solution. Being consistent in words and deeds. (This links to my previous article on Leadership Agility.)

3. Capabilities
Know what skills and talents you have and constantly improve them to keep up to date in a world of constant change. Keep yourself relevant. Know where you are going – start with the end in mind.

4. Results
To me, this means that it’s not enough to say and do the right things, it’s equally important to deliver results. Don’t imagine that activity, busy-ness and a diary full of meetings is productive. Instead, focus on concrete deliverables and outputs.

Relationship trust – the principle of behaviour

Covey describes 13 behaviours that are common to high-trust leaders and people throughout the world: I’ve picked three that resonated most for me as being particularly useful. Here are his bullet points and my comments.

Behaviour 2. Demonstrate respect
It’s important to respect people at all levels in the organisation, practicing “I’m OK, you’re OK” with everyone (you’ll find more on this in my article on High Performing Leadership Teams).

  • Genuinely care for others
  • Show you care
  • Respect the dignity of every person and every role
  • Treat everybody with respect, especially those who can’t do anything for you
  • Show kindness in the little things
  • Don’t attempt to be efficient with people

The Great Place to Work Institute partners with Fortune Magazine to produce the’ 100 Best Companies list’; they name respect as one of the three pillars of trust in organisations.

Behaviour 4. Right wrongs
When you make a mistake, go the extra mile when you correct it. Give a sincere and full apology that shows you really understand the impact your mistake had on others.

  • Make things right when you are wrong
  • Apologise quickly
  • Demonstrate personal humility
  • Don’t cover things up
  • Don’t let pride get in the way of doing the right thing

Behaviour 5. Show loyalty
It’s toxic when team members complain ‘outside the room’. As stated in ‘self trust’ above, you should have the courage to speak up at the time so everyone can discuss it and work through to a decision. Once the decision is made, everyone should align behind it.

Don’t talk about people behind their backs – think about the language you use and speak as though they are with you. It’s OK to talk about someone with a positive intention, such as a performance issue you need to discuss with HR, a colleague or their boss. Whenever you talk about someone, always be fair and respectful.

When you are presenting a piece of work on behalf of someone else, make sure you acknowledge them and give credit where it’s due.

  • Give credit freely
  • Acknowledge the contribution of others
  • Speak about people as if they were present
  • Represent others who aren’t there to speak for themselves
  • Don’t badmouth others behind their backs
  • Don’t disclose others’ private information

A message from one of my clients

Fiona Wright has a lot of experience building trust with colleagues across the world at LEGO. She is known as a highly effective leader within her company and I greatly admire her style. Here are her thoughts:

Building trust with my employees (and even in myself) has been one of the most powerful journeys in my professional career.

I have learnt that everything gets done a lot quicker and is a lot more fun if there is mutual trust and respect, be it with your direct reports or your colleagues and peers. It sounds so obvious, yet how many times do you hear colleagues openly criticising other people or other departments at the coffee machine?

  1. My starting point is to believe that everyone has the right intentions. We may all come at the same topic slightly differently but our intentions are basically good.
  2. I have belief in people’s potential – that people are good at what they do (that’s why they are employed), and therefore I must listen and consider their opinions, just as I would like them to do the same for me.
  3. I try and develop greater rapport with people, so conversations can become based around beliefs and values not just facts and figures. This allows me to challenge and debate harder, give feedback and hopefully collaborate better to get to that win:win position.

Using the trust equation has helped me in all aspects of life. It’s so simple, yet so effective.

Trust equation
With my direct reports I have used it to better develop our relationship, looking at what parts were perhaps lacking (were either of us not delivering to commitments, or were we just so focused on work we didn’t have time to share some personal insights). I have also used it to challenge my direct reports with their own direct report relationships, or when dealing with a colleague who they are not seeing eye to eye with. Most recently it helped myself and my sales team see why we were often struggling with other departments…egos perhaps a little too big, and us perhaps being a little less reliable than others would like…sound at all familiar?

I hope you find this information useful and welcome your feedback. Please let me know if you’d like to build trust within your organisation. I’d be happy to help.

Next month, we look at Coaching Skills.