All of us would prefer to be considered trustworthy, wouldn’t we? It is one of the fundamental principles for being able to work together, that we feel we can trust each other. Yet we rarely stop and consider how we create trust between us. It certainly requires some building – it is rare that we will feel an immediate trust of someone we’ve just met. And that is even more true in the workplace, because the people concerned have not generally chosen to work together: we’ve been given those work relationships as part of the deal of having the job.
When we feel that we do trust someone we work with, or we are trusted by them, we do not usually analyse what happened to create that trust. We just assume that there are some people who are trustworthy and some who aren’t. If that were true, our level of trust would never change, yet it clearly does, so what happens? By looking at how we can actively encourage others to trust us, we can also identify what helps us to trust others – the same things apply. And one of the features of building trust is that if we behave in ways that help others to trust us, we also will tend to enhance our own trust of them – it’s a two-way thing.
Ways of creating trust
1. Getting to know people as individuals, rather than roles.
This is central to creating trust. When we feel that someone understands us and our world, we are more likely to trust them. Think about it: we automatically relate more easily to people who have something obvious in common with us – a similar sense of humour; a shared background; a similar attitude to their work. This is because we assume they will understand us better, although that is not necessarily true.
By getting to know the others you work with as individuals, you discover some of the things you have in common that aren’t as obvious, and find some common reference points. At Meta we encourage people to ‘chat’ – talk about themselves, their interests, their lives, their views, and they often say that this is one of the most useful things they do on the programmes, because it makes them feel more comfortable with work colleagues they didn’t previously know very well.
2. Do what you say you will do.
We all need evidence that someone is reliable and consistent, if we are to trust them. So turn up on time for meetings, do the actions you’ve promised, and if you slip occasionally, don’t make excuses – apologise and do it now. We all accept that sometimes that happens, so long as the person is honest about it.
3. Don’t gossip or whinge about people.
If you are doing that about someone behind their back, you might do it about me with someone else, and I will be wary about telling you things.
4. Be genuine.
We all spot it when someone is pretending, and it affects how much we trust them. So don’t give effusive praise when a genuine thank you is appropriate, don’t pretend to be in a good mood – just admit that you’re not, so they don’t think it’s their fault.
These simple everyday behaviours build the foundations of trust between people, and they’re not difficult. We do them automatically with some people – why not apply it more generally? The pay-off for consciously working on building trust is that you establish a firm basis for a good working relationship, and once there is trust, you have taken away one of the main obstacles to effective cooperation.

About Jo Clarkson

Jo Clarkson is the CEO of Meta and a frequent writer of the blog.

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