The Earning Trust Approach

A pilot in an air force display team described an interesting view of trust. They explained this in the following way.

“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. Sometimes can be done in 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 their stakeholders informed and delivering the agreed picture of success.

Looking back on your life, can you think of somebody earned your trust? They may have been a friend, teacher, doctor, trusted advisor, leader or somebody providing a professional service.

They may have shown you respect, kept you informed and delivered the goods. 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.

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.

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
a person’s picture of success

Credibility is crucial. There are various ways to build credibility. One approach is to create an encouraging environment and go through the following steps:

To show respect for the person;

To show you are interested in them and their goals;

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 not about them.

You can show you understand what is required
to reach the goals and make clear contracts
about working to achieve the picture of success

Good professionals use their knowledge to help the person to achieve success. They 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 do to help the client. Using their own words, they may cover the following areas with the client.

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 you can expect to see happening
– and by when – on the road to achieving the goals are:




If the person does want to go ahead, then the professional will make clear working contracts. Using their own words, they may cover the following areas with the client.

The specific things I see as my responsibilities
in working 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 do something to get a quick success. This reassures the client and buys them time to get on with doing the other necessary work. They recognise that clients often worry. They therefore proactively keep people informed about the progress towards achieving the goals.

You can fulfil the contract, do superb work
and deliver the agreed picture of success

Good professionals meet their promises and deliver the goods. It is also important for all the parties to fulfil their parts of the contracts. This is especially important when working in teams.

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 motivated and self-managing people.

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

“People must follow the team’s agreed principles but it is up to them how they use their talents to deliver the goods. This also includes encouraging other team members 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, it is their responsibility to keep others informed and 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 a situation when you may want to earn trust? This could be in a personal or professional situation.

How can you show respect for the person? 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 deliver success?

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

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