Image credit: meenakshi madhavan | Flickr
As entrepreneurs, one of our greatest assets is our ability to be trusted.
No one does business with an untrustworthy person. Without trust, you can’t broker deals, close deals, sell stuff, or come out on top. Trust is the one thing you can’t live without.
Trust is hard to gain, though. Many people, especially successful businesspeople are inherently distrustful of others. This is one of the reasons why they’re successful. They have learned not to blindly trust people. By taking this approach toward most people, they have been able to protect themselves from stupid business deals and dangerous partnerships.
If you are an entrepreneur or business person involved in making and closing deals, one of the best things you can do is to build trust. Here are some things to keep in mind.
1. Authenticity — truly being trustworthy.
You can’t fake trust. You are either trustworthy or not. People who are emotionally intelligent and perceptive will be able to tell.
Being authentically trustworthy requires that you be honest in all your dealings — big and small. You must ensure that every area of your life has trustworthiness. That means keeping promises, maintaining relationships, following through on commitments, keeping your word, doing your taxes and following the little laws.
We all make genuine mistakes. You can’t be perfect. But trust isn’t about perfection, nor is it about some legalistic adherence to an arbitrary standard. It’s an approach to life that is characterized by the pursuit of trustworthiness.
2. Confidence — insisting on your own way.
Ironic as it seems, someone who is trustworthy is someone who insists on his or her own way.
Why is this true? In any relationship, people will trust someone who knows what they are doing. If you behave in such a way that you know what you’re doing, it inspires trust in others.
Obviously, you don’t want to be rude about this. There’s a way to insist on your own way that doesn’t run roughshod over others. Be gentle but firm about the way that you know to be the best, and people will trust you.
3. Humility — asking for feedback.
Another way to create trust in others is to ask for their input.
When someone voices his or her viewpoint on an issue, the person is creating buy-in. The individual feels as if he or she is having a part in the project, thus voluntarily becoming invested in it. As long as someone feels like he or she is a valued part of the project, the person will trust your leadership of that project.
In order for this approach to be successful, you have to really listen and respond. People can tell if you’re merely getting token acceptance, and whether they are being valued and appreciated.
4. Calmness — refusing to panic in stressful situations
As long as you have a sense of calm resoluteness, people will trust you.
Stressful situations are some of the greatest opportunities to create trustworthiness. While everyone else is running around in a panic, you remain confident and unflustered. People gravitate to that kind of approach. They trust you.
Stressful times are going to happen, both in life and business. The calmer you are, the more you will be able to inspire the trust of those around you.
5. Experience — trying and failing
You gain trustworthiness by experience. In order to get experience, you have to make bold moves. Yes, you might fail; but even in failure, you earn trust.
Many successful entrepreneurs whom I know are young. I’ve met twenty-somethings who are worth millions of dollars, investing in VC, starting tech companies and disrupting industries. One of the ways that they’ve built their businesses is by experiencing ups and downs, and creating trust in that way.
Experience breeds trust, but you can’t experience anything unless you go for it. You may fail, and that’s OK, because you’ve gained valuable lessons, and you’ve built trust.
6. Honesty — always telling the truth
At its core, trustworthiness is about honesty. People will only trust you if they know you’re telling the truth.
I can’t think of a business situation where it is better to lie than to tell the truth. As cliche as it may be, honesty is the best policy.
In a business environment that is dripping with inauthenticity, artificiality and scam deals, you’ve got to be a person that people can trust.
Trustworthiness creates its own reputation. As you prove your ability to be trusted, other people will trust you. This creates a cascade of trusting relationships, which lead to profitable business deals. You simply can’t go wrong by being trustworthy.
There will be times when you’re tempted to cut corners or do some little under-the-table deals. Avoid it. It can take a lifetime to build trustworthiness, but it can come crumbling down with one wrong move.