The Importance of Trust

Trust is an underrated lubricant for success in any organization.

It’s the critical key component of healthy relationships. Because businesses are built on the relationships between team members, trust will be what powers you through every phase of your company. It will lead to your team’s mutual success (however you define it).

Or trust will be what sinks you.

Losing Trust

Most of the time, people lose trust without realizing it. Here’s what you can do to have people stop believing in you and what you say:

  • Be overly political. While espousing views on the latest political debate might annoy your coworkers, you’ll upset them more by playing office politics.
  • Being an appeaser. Don’t tell people what they want to hear. Stop pandering. It’s insulting.
  • Being a liar. I know, this is obvious. But when you say one thing to managers about their performance and something else to the board, you are in fact a liar.
  • Being inauthentic. If you’re sending team-wide communications using cliched and branded language, you earn your eye rolls.
  • Being afraid of bad news. You have to celebrate your wins and acknowledge your losses.
  • Being a bullshitter. Specifically, bullshitting your company’s best bullshitters from sales and marketing. You think they can’t see through you?

I want to call this out: Tell your team the truth. Don’t stand in front of your people and say that everything’s great when it isn’t. If change is coming, tell the team what it is and why it’s happening. Be honest and don’t hide behind “proper messaging.”

But there’s good news! Trust doesn’t only collapse. It can be built.

Rebuilding Trust

It doesn’t matter if you’re repairing a problem or want to build a strong foundation, here’s how to get people to believe in you, your company, and each other.

There are two things you must pay special attention to:

  • Culture. Specifically, a culture of openness and transparency. People need to be unafraid to say what’s necessary and feel that you heard them. Once you destroy culture, you can’t fix it. Remember, people will work long and hard to solve problems. But they will kill themselves to solve problems they care about.
  • Executive trust. Everyone hates a micromanager. You hired managers, let them lead. Give them specific, measurable goals and have your people achieve them independently. Show that you believe they can make the right decisions. But make sure your execs aren’t in over their head. Make sure people trust them.

Don’t ignore these either:

  • Constant communication. People hate being left in the dark, but they love being in the know. Overcommunication is okay.
  • Honesty. If you’re always honest, people know where they stand with you. They can plan accordingly.
  • Equity understanding. Normally, equity is a nebulous number. But you can help your employees understand what it means and why they have it. Ownership is a powerful incentive — that’s why you allocate it to your team in the first place
  • Commitments. Your team makes commitments to you all the time. You should reciprocate. And you should always meet your commitments.
  • The opposite of Machiavelli. Don’t play that game. Do what you say. No smile and waving.
  • Critical feedback. People respect leaders who give them the honest truth.
  • Manage your board: Don’t be a pawn for some VC who isn’t independent and has no clue what it’s like to run a business. The same treatment applies to the VC who ran a business back in the day but has forgotten how. Everyone sees through it.

These steps aren’t difficult. You need to follow them consistently if you’re going to create trust.

But sometimes, trust isn’t achievable.

The Untrustables

Trust can be lost or won. But some people don’t deserve it at all. Identify them.

  • Are they always thinking of storylines? Do they actually use the words storyline?
  • Do they show up, pretending to be your friend, to help you “work out a situation?”
  • Are they a “close friend” but they say things like “I can’t tell you that” or “I know you better than you know yourself?”
  • Do they forget where their bread is buttered? Better yet, do they have misconceptions and delusions of grandeur regarding their role baking the bread or even buttering it in the first place?

Are you with me through that last one? Good.

Smells likes bullshit, right? These are tactics for manipulating people, not building real relationships.

Your organization needs trust if it’s going to succeed. Discard these people like yesterday’s trash. Keep them out of your company and your life.

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