5 steps to building trust.

A close up (below the knees) of a person standing

When I was little, Mum used to say that I had a golden heart. She said that I was so quick to trust people and so willing to do anything for them. I think I’m still like that. The ‘automatic A’ principle, you’ve got one from the get go, just need to keep it.

In thinking about the principles that need to be present within organisations that are striving for human centricity, trust is always mentioned. To be vulnerable, trust needs to be present. To be courageous and try something new, trust needs to be present. To make a stand for something, trust needs to be present. And often isn’t.

It is also curious to me that trust is spoken of within the context of business as something that the organisation ‘has’. The organisation has a trusting culture. When actually, trust is something that exists between people individually, and is set up with a very simple mechanism. This simple mechanism was developed by a Chilean engineer, entrepreneur, and statesman Fernando Flores, called Conversations for Action. And here is my respectfully simplified version.

Two people balancing on train tracksStep 1: Receive a request. Someone will ask you to do something. This is a request. “Can you please update this spreadsheet before Friday.”

Step 2: Make a promise. You will then say, “yes, sure thing” or some variation of that remark. This is you making a promise. As I explained to my beautiful son recently, a promise doesn’t have to have the words “I promise” in them to be a promise. When you say you’re going to do something, that’s a promise.

Step 3: Take an action. Do the thing you said you were going to do by the time you said you would do it. This of course is where things start becoming unstuck with competing priorities and changing environments.

Step 4: Complete the action. I might be projecting here, but I think people are pretty good at starting stuff. I think I have started about 7 books all at the same time, and you’ll find my inspiration page on this website, full, all the time, because of all the books I’m starting. Finishing them though, now that is a whole other ball game. And one that I am focussing on deliberately. As it is only in the finishing, that we get to deliver on our promise.

Step 5: Feedback. Let the person you’ve promised know that you’ve done what you’ve said you were going to do. This is so important because it closes the loop.

With each completion of this cycle, you are building trust between yourself and the person you are interacting with. As you complete these cycles you are also building strength in your word, which feels really good! And you are also building integrity.

With each break of this cycle, at any point, you are doing the opposite. Now things happen, and sometimes we just can’t keep our promises. In that case, you start by admitting that you didn’t keep your promise, “I said I was going to do this and I didn’t”, and then you make a new promise, “I will have it to you by Monday 9 am” and then you complete the cycle.

If everyone within an organisation did this with each other, we would truly have efficient, effective and trusting cohorts of people, wouldn’t we?