The Art of Strengths Coaching

T is for Earning Trust

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A pilot in the Red Arrows flying team gave an interesting view of trust. Describing his state of mind when performing, he said the following.

“When the team needs to turn right, I do not trust that everybody has turned right. I know that everybody has turned right.”

Trust is something that we earn by keeping our promises. It can be earned in some of the following ways.

By a person taking responsibility, keeping their promises and delivering the required results.

By a worker showing they understand what is required, making clear working contracts and performing superb work.

By a team showing they understand the employer’s goals, proactively keeping stakeholders informed and delivering the agreed picture of success.

Looking back, can you think of a time when somebody earned your trust? They may have been a parent, friend, teacher, doctor, trusted advisor or other professional.

What did they do to earn your trust? They may have shown you respect, shown they knew their job, kept you informed and delivered the goods.

What happened as a result? You may have felt safer, more confident and reaped the fruits of success. If they provided a professional service, you may have recommended them to other people.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when somebody earned your trust.

Describe the specific things the person did to earn your trust.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of them earning your trust.

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People like the feeling of predictability. They like to feel that if they make agreements, for example, then these will be met. This provides a greater sense of security in an unpredictable world.

People also like to feel that any professionals they hire are experts in their fields and will deliver success. This point was underlined in The Trusted Advisor, the book by David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford.

The authors say that a person needs to demonstrate three basic skills to become a trusted advisor to their clients. They need to earn trust, build relationships and give advice effectively.

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Different people earn trust in different ways. Here are three themes that it can be useful to bear in mind when aiming to help people.

You can show you understand the world
from the person’s point of view and show
you understand their picture of success

Credibility is crucial. There are various ways to build credibility. One approach is to go through the following steps. It is:

To show respect for the person, make them feel welcome and create an encouraging environment.

To show you understand the world from their point of view.

To show you understand their picture of success.

Good professionals often demonstrate such skills. They recognise that the interaction is about the other person and their agenda. It is also about using their knowledge to help the person to achieve success.

You can show you understand what is required and
make crystal clear contracts about the various
responsibilities in working to achieve the picture of success

Good professionals, for example, listen to what they client wants to achieve. They then play back their understanding to make sure that everybody has the same picture.

Such professionals are also good at explaining what they can and cannot do for the client. They may say something like the following.

“As far as I understand it, the specific goals you want to achieve are …

“The specific things I can help you with regarding achieving the goals are …

“The specific things I cannot help you with regarding achieving the goals are …

“If appropriate, however, I may be able to recommend others who can help you in those areas.”

If the person does want to go ahead, then the professional will make clear working contracts. They may say something like the following.

“The specific things I see as my responsibilities in working towards achieving the goals are …

“The specific things you can expect to see happening and by when on the road to achieving the goals – including getting some early successes – are …

“The specific things I will do to proactively keep you informed about the progress towards achieving the goals are …

“The specific things that are other people’s responsibilities – including your own – in working towards achieving the goals are …

“The other specific things that are worth mentioning are …”

Good professionals then do something to get a quick success. This reassures the client. It also buys them time to get on with doing the other necessary work.

Such people recognise that clients – be these people buying a service or their own leaders in an organisation – often worry. So they proactively keep people informed about the progress towards achieving the goals.

You can meet your promises, do superb work
and deliver the agreed picture of success

Delivery is crucial. People buy success, not the theory of success.

Good leaders, for example, manage by outcomes, rather than by tasks. They make clear contracts with their team members about the outcomes that must be delivered and by when.

They then expect people to use their expertise to deliver the agreed picture of success. One leader explained this in the following way.

“I am interested in what people are delivering, rather than what they are doing. This is why I employ bright people.

“People are expected make clear contracts about their contributions. They are then expected to proactively keep others informed about their progress and deliver on their promises.

“People must follow the team’s agreed principles, of course, but it is up to them how they use their talents to deliver the goods. This also includes encouraging other team members, however, and helping them to achieve the goals.”

Many people talk about the importance of trust. Certainly individuals must be given opportunities to stretch themselves and develop. At the same time, however, it is their responsibility to keep others informed and to deliver the goods.

Trust is an outcome. The more times we deliver on our promises, the greater the increase in trust. People will then give us more opportunities. They will do so because we have earned their trust.

Looking to the future, can you think of any situations when you will want to earn a person’s trust? You may want to do this in a personal or professional situation.

How can you show you understand the world from their point of view? How can you show you understand their goals? How can you show you know what is required? How can you make clear contracts, do superb work and help the person to achieve success?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to earn a person’s trust.

Describe the specific things you can do to do your best to earn the person’s trust.

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of earning the person’s trust.

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