I Trust You

When it comes to friends and family, there are no better words to hear than, “I love you.” And actually, when it comes to friends and family, there are no better words to say than, “I love you.”

“I love you” says you accept unconditionally, you embrace time spent together, and you serve and protect because you care.

It doesn’t get any better than, “I love you,” in our personal lives.

Now at work it’s a slightly different story. We don’t often going around telling colleagues that we love them, although I will admit that I’ve had some colleague relationships through the years that have turned into sincere and authentic love for one another. But for the most part, “love” is reserved for friends and family. And work friends who become personal friends.

But there is a parallel at work…a similar selection of words that carries great meaning to colleagues whether it’s directed to you or you’re the one saying it to another.

“I trust you.”

“I trust you,” like “I love you,” carries deep meaning. “I trust you” means that you’re on the same side and are completely aligned. “I trust you” says there’s no one else that you’d rather be with at work. “I trust you” says that you serve and protect because you care about the work you are trying to do together.

It doesn’t get any better than “I trust you,” in our work lives.

Just like love, you have to earn trust. And in many ways, trust is even harder to earn than love. Trust is more straight forward and more functional, to be honest, which in some ways makes it even harder. There aren’t as many complicating emotions involved. It’s more foundational and hardly ever happens “at first sight.” “Love at first sight,” yes. “Trust at first sight,” hardly ever.

Like love, trust is very hard to find, and you’ll only really find it with a very small collection of people. Let’s be honest, how many people in your life do you really and truly “love?” And how many people in your work do you really and truly “trust?”

It’s probably a short list in both directions. And I’m betting that the “trust” list is even shorter than the “love” list.

Trust takes a tremendous amount of work, and a tremendous amount of time. So how do you get there? How do you build trust, if it is indeed such a hard place to get?

Communicate with honesty and transparency. At its most fundamental, you build trust by being honest. Over and over again. Strive to be clean in your communications and be forthcoming with your objective. If people question your motives, they can’t possibly trust you. So be clear about what you’re trying to accomplish and communicate early, often, and transparently all along the way.

Take a stand and stick to it. People will learn to trust you if you are decisive and take a strong stand on issues at work. It’s hard to trust someone when they don’t make decisions or delay stating their opinions over and over again. So let your people know how you feel and make rational decisions quickly that allow the team to move forward. They’ll start trusting your judgement as they see you stick to your word.

Keep your agenda a team agenda, not a personal one. The easiest way to build trust is to be honest about your agenda, enrolling the team into it from the beginning. Make your agenda one that benefits the entire team, not just you. In fact, you should take any personal objectives out of the equation, focusing squarely on how the team will benefit. Make your agenda a team agenda and make it clear how every team member will benefit.

Relate to your team emotionally, not just functionally. While I said earlier that trust is more functional than love, that’s not necessarily entirely true. Trust is actually just as emotional as it is functional. Sure, it starts out functional as teams get to know each other and start to accomplish goals together, but then trust starts to become more emotional as relationships start to form and get deeper. As you get to know your team, make sure you understand what’s important to them, not just what’s important to you.

Be consistent with each decision, each milestone, each communication. Of course when it comes to trust, consistency is king. With every interaction, both in-person and online, be consistent in your approach and stay true to the team’s agenda. There’s nothing that will destroy trust faster than a sudden change in mood, direction, style, or decision. If you’re not consistent, then your team will question your motives, question your abilities, question your decisions, and ultimately question you. When they question you then they are questioning whether or not they can trust you.

It’s not easy to earn trust and it’s not easy to keep it either. One false move or one bad decision that leaves people feeling out of touch will destroy trust and destroy your management and leadership abilities.

This is why trust is paramount to success. This is why trust is paramount to great leadership. But you’ll need to work on it every day, with every interaction. You have to earn it every day, even when you think you’ve already got it. Getting it means you also have to keep it, and the greatest of all leaders get that.

“I trust you.” It doesn’t get better than that.