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How to Build Trust at Work and Avoid the 5 Behaviors that Break It


Staff member
Jan 20, 2024
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Trust is essential to a company’s success.

Trust is a cornerstone on which many other necessities are built: leadership, teamwork, culture, and employee engagement just to name a few. Without trust, a company will crumble.

Trust is vital between co-workers and leaders, but unfortunately, according to a poll conducted by Maritz Research, “…only 7% of employees strongly agree they trust senior leaders to look out for your best interest, and only 7% strongly agree they trust your co-workers to do so.”

In an environment where trust is lacking, culture and engagement are negatively affected. People mentally check out. Communication and commitment are weak. Enthusiasm drops. Creativity decreases, and so does the willingness to take risks.

All put together, this creates a workplace where it takes a LOT longer to get things done. Progress moves at a snail’s pace, and everything… slows… down.

Think of how you would operate in an atmosphere of mistrust. You second-guess your actions, cover your tracks, prepare to be questioned, and take other protective steps.

These time-consuming activities take time out of your workday that could otherwise be better spent on something else of real value.

Conversely, in a workplace of high-trust and confidence, you get an atmosphere bubbling over with speedy interactions, smooth transactions, and open communications. The pace picks up, time is used well, and productivity and progress increase.

That describes an environment of great success—for individuals, for leaders, for teams, and for companies.

No matter what position you hold in a company, it’s important to share trust—to trust others and to be trustworthy yourself—in order to be most productive and contribute to your company’s progress and success.

So, how does one become a role model for increasing trust at work?

Trust is earned one person at a time. It’s built between two people, and it doesn’t happen overnight. And while it can sometimes take a while to build trust, trust it can be earned more quickly when people can demonstrate they’re trustworthy.

If we refer to the ABCD Trust Model, created by The Ken Blanchard Companies, we see the four characteristics that must exist for you to be trustworthy: Able, Believable, Connected, and Dependable.

If you want to do your best work, excel in your job, and be more successful, you’ll want to exhibit these characteristics.

What’s interesting about these traits is that three out of four of them tie DIRECTLY back to workload management, which is HOW you work. And when these traits aren’t evident and the skills that are needed are lacking, trust and confidence take a hit.

Before I explain why and tell you which three traits tie in with how you work, I’d like to first share the very abbreviated definitions for all four letters in the ABCD Trust Model.

“Able” is defined as demonstrating capability, showing competence, using your expertise, and getting results.

“Believable” is defined as acting with integrity, being honest, treating people fairly, and modeling good values.

“Connected” is defined as caring about and taking an interest in other people. This includes building rapport, being a good listener, and giving recognition and praise when appropriate.

“Dependable” is defined as being reliable, meeting deadlines, being on time, and delivering what’s been promised.

Again, three out of the four characteristics tie directly back to HOW you work and these are:
Able, Believable and Dependable.

In your workday, there are two ways to demonstrate these three characteristics.

One way is simply by using your expertise. You have the experience, education, background, skills, talent, and/or training to do what you do best every day in your job.

You are Able, Believable, and Dependable just by knowing what you know and doing what you do. If new learning is required in your area of expertise, more training, education or certification may be available.

The second way to demonstrate being Able, Believable and Dependable is by showing how well you manage your work and get results. Knowing how to work efficiently, effectively, and productively allows you to make noticeable, tangible progress while using your expertise.

When you’re consistently Able, Believable, and Dependable in both your expertise AND in how you work, others will have trust and confidence in you, and they will be comfortable relying on you to get things done.

But when you DON’T exhibit the signs of being Able, Believable and Dependable, others will generally think, “They don’t know what they’re doing.”

But the question is… in which way?

In their area of expertise or in how they work? Because these are two VERY different things as explained above.

If you focus ONLY on how you work and not your specific expertise, consider (and avoid) the following Top Five Behaviors that diminish trust and confidence.

  1. Saying “Yes” Too Often
    When you say “yes” too often, there’s a risk of overcommitting, over-promising, and creating overwhelm. In many cases, saying yes shows the ABILITY to do a task, but time is missing from the equation. Commitments end up broken because unrealistic time frames are promised, priorities get mixed up, and overwhelm takes over.
  1. Task Clarity is Missing
    When you try to keep track of tasks by using too many tools (legal pads, spiral notebooks, post-it notes, whiteboards, excel spreadsheets, task apps, calendars, etc…) and then try to plan, prioritize, and accomplish them, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to do so efficiently and effectively, without missing, losing, or forgetting something—or a LOT of things. Worries persist because awareness is down and without total task clarity, it’s too easy to miss targets, due dates, and deadlines.
  1. Uncertainty About Time
    When you’re uncertain about where your time goes or how much time is required to get a task or a project completed, it’s more difficult to be prepared, confident, and in control of your progress. When you don’t protect enough time proactively or you let others schedule your time for you, you’re losing time you really can’t afford to lose and this means you have FAR LESS time to be productive. Big progress is difficult to make in left-over scraps of time.
  1. Working reactively
    When you jump at every email, phone call, distraction, and interruption, it negatively affects your focus and concentration. Interruptions will pour in all day long if you have an all-day, open-door policy and distractions will guarantee that the non-essential will get in the way of the essential. “Working reactively” means there’s no solid plan for getting things done and sense of urgency for accomplishing the priorities that are most important. Outside of addressing true emergencies, your goal is to be in charge of your time and your work so you can be PROACTIVE. You can only do this when you have task clarity and control of your time as mentioned above.
  1. Disorganization
    When you’re feeling disorganized, a lot of time and energy are lost due to looking for things. These things could be to-do lists, notes, emails, attachments, contact information, e-documents, papers or files. When information can’t be found, it stops you from finishing tasks and emails and making progress—and not just for you, but also for those who are waiting to hear from you.

Do you ever see these traits or behaviors in others? If so, what do you think of that person?

Is it easy to have confidence in their abilities? Are they believable when they make promises? Can they be relied on to get back to you or get the job done on time and on target?

Do you ever see these traits and behaviors in yourself?

It’s important to your productivity and success—and to those of your company—to learn how to become the MOST Able, Believable and Dependable person you know.

As Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte states, “your skills are the currency for your success.”

If the way you work isn’t working and your skills for workload management aren’t measuring up, you can remedy this by learning the secrets to working more efficiently, effectively, and productively.

When you take this step, you can not only increase your progress and success, but also increase the confidence and trust others have in you and your abilities. When this happens, everyone will work better together and be more productive as a whole.

Trust increases productivity and productivity increases trust. And that’s a cycle that creates powerful success.
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