Time to buy another car. Ugh. Not something I particularly look forward to. Dealing with car sales people is not my favourite past-time. Why? Because *they* have earned themselves a reputation of being untrustworthy. The stereotypical “dodgy geyser” known to turn back the odometer and describe a vehicle as roadworthy with knowledge to the contrary may well be a ghost from the past, but such images loom easily from the memory bank. (And sorry to those in car sales reading this who are different).
Having earned such notoriety, how do we do the opposite, build trust?
An expert in the field, Fernando Flores*, proposes that there is a structure to trust. That trust is measurable and can be deliberately built. Given how important trust is in both the workplace and at home, this is great news. He says that if someone is repeatedly, over time:
in a particular domain, they are trustworthy there. Note “in a particular domain”. This means that, for example, I may trust my hairdresser to cut my hair, but not to do brain surgery. I say this because we tend to characterise someone as trustworthy or untrustworthy rather than look at a particular skillset they have. Another example: Jo considers partner Jim to be a trustworthy person and yet, one interaction usually doesn’t go well. When Jim goes grocery shopping, he forgets the list and comes home with some but not all items. Jo is infuriated. There’s a simple solution here, but in the complexities of the business world, things are trickier.
Suppose Greg on my sales team meets his targets (competent), is an enthusiastic team participant (sincere) but can’t deliver reports on time then no matter how much I like him, I best go elsewhere for my sales reports. Suppose Lou meets her targets, participates enthusiastically AND consistently delivers her reports on time (reliable) then who will I choose for my reports? Yep. Lou’s the one for the job. She’s built trust with me over time in delivering reports. (She may lack my trust in other areas, but in terms of delivering sales reports, she’s earned it).
Competence and reliability are relatively easy to measure; sincerity less so. How do we measure if someone is sincere? More to do with gut feeling. In generations gone by our survival depended on the strength of our gut feel, or intuition, so provided we learn to slow down enough to listen, it’s generally a valuable asset.
A personal case in point is an accountant I hired. Came highly recommended and I trusted the referral source. During the initial chemistry consultation I experienced him as “sincere enough” to take the risk and signed up. As time went by, while I had no quarrel with the timeliness of the accounts or the competence with which they were prepared, it became clear that his promise to personally look over my books had been abandoned in favour of a junior eye, and I felt let down - not quite betrayed, but close enough. In the Flores model, sincerity had been breached and I chose to fire him.
Who would you like to build trust with? How will you do this? What specific actions?