“The way to make people trust-worthy is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway
“I need to build trust. Fast.” These are the words I heard from an earnest executive I worked with this week. She’s in a new business ecosystem which is undergoing immense change. She has an important role and wants to develop trust with her senior leaders, peers, and direct reports in order to have the most positive impact in this new position.
At pLink, we often quote the Special Forces slogan, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” It makes sense in driving a tank over treacherous terrain. It makes sense in business too. Trust allows us to move faster when it’s in place, and it takes time to develop. Writer Ernest Hemingway is credited with saying, “The best way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them.” Perhaps, and yet how do you ask that of others, in what is a complex and high-paced environment, when you are an unknown commodity?
It turns out there’s a recipe for trust. While there are many great bodies of research on trust, the one I find the most powerful and easiest to follow is from the research of social scientist Brené Brown. Perhaps it’s my corporate experience smiling from the past at its juicy acronym – BRAVING. Building, maintaining, and certainly rebuilding trust requires courage, so it’s an easy acronym to remember, and the tenets of trust woven into the acronym are extremely helpful when applied intentionally to how you want to build trustworthiness. As a bonus, they can also be used to diagnose what is at play in a breach of trust. We can use this model of trust with and for ourselves, our teams, and our organizations, as we put our arms around this somewhat squishy topic of trust.
We all know what it feels like when trust has been breached–often felt viscerally and noted in its detrimental effect or cascade of effects–but when we have trust, we may not even notice its presence, as we enjoy the glide of progress without the sticky impediment that breaches of trust create.
Back to the recipe of trust. If trust were a baked good and BRAVING were the ingredients, you’d want to make sure each one was added in the appropriate amount to allow for a beautiful, fluffy cake or rich, moist brownie. There are very few corners you can cut in baking and still bring out from the oven a lovely, tasty offering–versus a dog’s dinner.
Let’s look at the ingredients:
B – Boundaries: Simply put, are you making it clear what is and is not acceptable? Are you creating and holding your boundaries? Are you making it safe to have the clarifying conversations about the “yes” and “no” decisions, for yourself and others?
R – Reliability: Are you true to your word and delivering what you said you would? Are you aware of your commitments, priorities, and liabilities? When priorities and commitments change, how do you communicate to the team and stakeholders?
A – Accountability: How are you owning your accountability? When mistakes occur, are you able to apologize and make amends?
V – Vault: Are you holding confidences with the utmost care?
I – Integrity: Are you living in alignment with your values (i.e., practicing over professing) and walking your talk?
N – Nonjudgment: Are you asking for what you need and making it safe for others to ask for what they need without judgment? Are you more curious than critical?
G – Generosity: Are you making the most generous assumptions for the intentions, words, and actions of others?
These simple and researched practices can certainly speed the building of your trustworthy leadership, and while not always easy, they are worth the flex of courage. What ingredient might you need to add a little more of in your recipe to maximize your trustworthiness?
About the Author: Helen is a partner and executive coach at pLink Leadership, LLC. Helen is passionate about bringing evidence-based methods and practices to her clients in the service of their highest contribution and wholehearted well-being, in their businesses, homes, and the world at large. Originally from the UK, she lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with her husband, teen son and daughter, and rescue pup.