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3 Questions to Test Your Trust

Trust is not spoken, it is demonstrated. Trust cannot be requested, it must be earned. Answer these three questions to assess how trustworthy your team thinks you are.
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In 2008, Bernard Madoff scammed over 5,000 investors out of 65 billion dollars. Like any crime that you read or hear about, it's concerning to each of us. Shortly after I learned of the scandal, my reaction deepened when I spoke with an old friend whose aging parents had invested their entire retirement savings with Madoff. I felt the real-life implications of broken trust as my friend's parents had to consider selling their house, changing a lifestyle they had worked years to earn and feeling the angst of an uncertain final chapter in their lives.

Trust is the basis for all successful leaders, and all successful relationships, for that matter. You cannot buy trust, but it is free. Trust is priceless yet can be earned over time.

Have you ever tried to request someone's trust? Maybe it was a team member, customer or a colleague. You may have wanted a decision to be made in your favor. To overcome some initial disagreement and expedite the decision making process, you might resort to "Hey, just trust me!" That statement is worthless. Either the other party already trusted you based on your past actions or they did not trust you and your request won't change that.

Trust is not spoken, it is demonstrated. Trust cannot be requested, it must be earned.

Trust is the wheel that makes relationships go 'round. Losing trust is not just like getting a flat tire.  Actually, it's like losing the whole wheel!  So, you need to earn and nurture your team's trust every day.  Your team will respond positively because a trusting team:

  • Is more open to change
  • Delivers better service
  • Focuses on finding win-win solutions
  • Has lower turnover
  • Shares unfiltered information to help the team be successful
  • Quickly forgives their leader if he/she makes a mistake.

Trust is also complex. There are complete books dedicated to trust that do not even address all of its facets. So, let's boil it down to this simple Trust Test:

  1. Do you serve your team's best interests?
    (Not your own interests)
  2. Do you communicate all the information they need to be successful?
    (Don't make assumptions about what you think "they can handle". Leaders who underestimate the intelligence of their teams generally overestimate their own.)
  3. Do you keep your commitments?
    (Leaders must watch their words because even a casual comment can be interpreted as a commitment.)

Notice these simple questions are geared toward how trustworthy you are vs. how much you trust your team. No passing or failing here--we can all improve our trust building behaviors. Today's winners are bold enough to be honest with themselves make necessary changes. Now more than ever, your team's success may come down to a matter of trust.

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Last updated: Jul 23, 2014

LEE COLAN | Columnist

Lee Colan is founder of the L Group, a consulting firm that equips and inspires leaders at every level. He is a leadership adviser, presenter of practical ideas, and a Thinkers 50 nominee for Top Management Thinker.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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