Trust. Such a simple and complex word.

I don’t trust the guy in this picture.

I do trust my wife, who adores me. And I trust my doctor, who has a bunch of letters after his name. I trust Bob Goff, whom I’ve never actually met. I even trust the chair I’m sitting in, without even thinking about it.

One word, multiple meanings. I believe understanding and leveraging trust is core to leading at an exceptional level.

How are you at gaining the trust of others?

Here are four fundamental facets of trust and how to cultivate each one:

• Reliability. The most basic facet of trust is achieved through consistent behavior. If you regularly come through for others—they can count on you—then they begin to trust you. I consider this the simplest facet of trust, not because it isn’t valuable, but because it’s the same kind of trust we give to inanimate objects such as chairs, instruments, or tools.

• Competence. The next facet of trust is gained through knowledge or expertise. If you’ve established yourself as an authority on something, you’ve gained a level of trust with others. This is the trust you have with your doctor, your teacher, your mechanic—anyone who you believe knows more about something (that you care about) than you do.

• Compassion. This facet of trust is earned when someone shows genuine care for another person. For someone to make an emotional investment in you requires them to shift focus off of themselves and place it on you. This immediately generates a level of trust. Whenever someone shows sincere concern for your welfare, you tend to believe that they’re on your side.

• Authenticity. The most potent facet of trust is engendered by casting aside all pretense. If you’ve ever run across someone with no masks, no agendas and absolutely nothing to hide, you know what I mean. They have a realness and rawness that sucks you in and makes you feel more real, more alive. Trusting them seems as natural as breathing—and distrusting them seems as awkward as holding your breath.

Fail to provide any of these qualities and you’ll lose the trust of those you’re trying to lead. Likewise, to the extent that you successfully demonstrate any of them, you’ll gain a corresponding level of trust with others.

How do you cultivate trust?



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