I want you to try something with me. Think about the three people closest to you. Close your eyes if you need to. Go on, no one is looking. Just two rules, don’t fall asleep and keep reading when you are done.
Now that you have them, think about why they are special to you. Maybe it’s your spouse, your child, a best friend or a business partner. Now think of the one thing that is a common thread among all those relationships. What is it?
I am sure many things may have flooded your mind, but I can almost guarantee the one underlying theme is trust. Trust should be and is the foundation for any meaningful relationship.
So what is trust? If you ask a handful of people, you will most likely get a handful of answers. See, we all describe it differently, but we know what it looks and feels like. We also know that we need it to have any relationship work, both professionally and privately.
I know from experience with my own business, that I am only as strong as the people in my organization and our clients’ trust in us. But what does that look like? How can I strengthen trust between my employees and the clients they serve?
First, let’s look at the official definition of trust. Merriam-Webster defines trust as an “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something; one in which confidence is placed”.
Great, easy enough! And that means what? Ok, maybe not so easy. Let’s break it down to see exactly what it is and how we can develop it.
Character, otherwise known as “who you are when no one else is looking”, could possibly be the one part of trust that is the hardest to communicate quickly. It’s the one trait that is normally learned about a person over time. Think back to when you were single, and you met your significant other. Did you in the first hour you met them, decide to enter into a long term commitment? No, you needed to get to know who they were, what was important to them, where they came from and what they held true. Find out if what they “say” they are was really “who” they were. Yet, when we hire our employees or meet with our clients, we are essentially asking them to do that with our business within just a few interactions.
So what are ways we can quickly and effectively communicate our character? What does that look like in real world practice? Margie Warrell gave some great tips in her August 2015 Forbes article “How to Build High-Trust Relationships”.
- Share how you genuinely feel about an issue.
- Don’t promise to do things you don’t have the time, the resources or the genuine commitment to do.
- Reveal your vulnerability, and share an aspect of yourself that exposes your humanity.
- Take time to better understand how someone is feeling, to show concern and genuine compassion.
If we all did some of these, what would our company culture come to look like? How would our client relations evolve?
Having the skill and knowledge to do what you say you can do is key. If you are not strong in a particular area, it will show. That is why it is always smart to continue training in your chosen field. Especially with your employees. Encourage those who work with you to continue growing by either finding or providing essential learning opportunities. If you do have someone move into a role that requires them to perform in an area where they have little mastery, help manage expectations both within and outside your organization. Both your employee and your client will thank you for it. And perhaps most importantly, if you don’t know something, be honest about it. Tell them you don;t know, then go find the answer. People don’t expect us to be perfect, but they do want us to be honest.
Ok, let’s go back to the dictionary on this one. The strength I am talking about is the “quality that allows someone to deal with problems in a determined and effective way”. Life happens and it gets messy sometimes. People make mistakes. It is how you deal with them as an organization and a leader that can make or break the trust people have in you. When you get it wrong, admit it, apologize and make amends for it. Most importantly learn from it and, if necessary, put some stops in place to try to keep it from happening again. Knowing that you are fallible and managing your weaknesses is what keeps you growing strong.
Really this one should come first. In all honesty, if you don’t have a source from which to develop what you stand for, then how can you have character, ability or strength? Without a source of truth, then none of the rest have any foundation to stand on. This will need to be a personal search. But once it’s decided, you need to make it corporately known.
My personal truth is my faith in Christ. My company’s truth is based on our Mission Statement and Values.
Curious what those look like, learn more here (http://betterbookkeeperstx.com/mission-values/) or call me, I would love to talk to you.
Ok, I am going to ask you to close your eyes again. I know this has been a long post, but trust me we are almost done. (See what I did there, trust me?) I want you to visualize 3 more people, but this time make them employee or clients. You aren’t alone, I have my three too. Now, think about what you could do in the next two weeks to strengthen their trust in you. Maybe it’s through communicating your character or increasing their ability.
Got it? Great, now let’s go do it together! And if you have time, let me know about it. I would love to hear how it goes.