Being Trustworthy

Being Trustworthy - Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Most people want to be seen as being trustworthy. In fact I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want to be seen this way, including criminals. So what does it take to be seen as being trustworthy? Who do we trust and who do we not? This is not as simple as it seems, there is more to it than being honest.

What we need to trust

A while ago I said I couldn’t trust a colleague. They took it badly as I imagine anyone would. It wasn’t because I thought they were dishonest. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I would have trusted them with the contents of my wallet. So why couldn’t I trust them?

It comes down to four factors that need to be in place to be seen as being trustworthy. They are honesty, care, competence and reliability. In my colleague’s case, I was feeling let down when they didn’t follow through and attend events they had committed to. I assessed I couldn’t rely on them to show up and that broke my trust in them.

Trustworthy context

We’ve already talked about honesty, so let’s explore the other two factors. Competence is an interesting one. I am working with a team of very highly skilled medical professionals. I would trust each one of them with my life. But would I trust them as a teammate to stand up for me in a meeting I couldn’t attend? That is a different question and it illustrates that competence is contextual. In what context am I trusting that you are competent? You shouldn’t trust me to diagnose your health but you hopefully do trust your doctor.

The last one is care and this one is tricky. Do I believe you have my best interests at heart? It is very subjective and requires me to seek understand what is important to you as well as sharing what I need. Once I understand this, I can connect to what is important to you, a key skill for any leader.

In my next post I am going to share a tool to assess your trustworthiness. For now I’m going to give you a sneak peek. My good friend and exceptional coach Dave Stitt created the Trustworthy Tracker. You can find it here.

Comments (3)

This is a really concise and practical summary Andy. In my experience, without these important distinctions about trust, it remains as something important, necessary, but also vague, difficult to understand, and hard to work with or do something about. With your great explanation we are better equipped to understand trust, repair it when possible, and improve the quality of our relationships. Can’t wait to see Dave’s Trust tracker!

Well said Phillip, and this was exactly what happened with the team I shared this with. Trustworthiness became practical and actionable, it was a big shift!

Always on point and practical Andy, well done. I once heard that trust is earned by the teaspoon and lost by the bucket. So, it’s easy to loose your trust in someone very quickly. But, I also saw an outstanding example of leadership years ago when Alan Mullaly was at Boeing. He famously created a culture of trust and transparency with a key supplier by writing out by hand a “Mutual Understanding” agreement on a single sheet of paper and having the key people in the relationship physically sign their name to it. It started with the words “From this day forward, …”. They knew there had been issues on both sides in the past, and they were both committed and determined to do better. It worked and became a model that represented the core corporate value of integrity for many agreements. Boeing – and many other companies – would do well to revisit this issue when it comes to their supplier/partnership agreements.

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