To Be Trusted, Demonstrate Trust
It starts with integrity, competence, and benevolence
“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” ― William Shakespeare, c. 1608
Imagine having your financial future secured as a toddler.
One of the great points of pride about young Finn Taylor’s life was that by the age of two, he was a landowner. When he was still a baby, his grandfather gave him the deed to a sizable parcel of land called Ivy Island.
And from his youth, he reminded anyone who would listen that he was a landowner. It was drilled into his head at home, as his parents asked him to remember the family when he came of age and took possession of all of that property.
But he didn’t let it change him — he still gladly played with the neighborhood children, even though in his head he knew he would be a wealthy landowner one day. It didn’t change him — until he turned 10, that is.
For the summer of his 10th birthday, Finn’s father finally gave in to Finn’s pleading to see Ivy Island and took him there to see it with his own eyes. And Finn’s eyes and mind would never be the same after that.
You see, Ivy Island was nothing more than five acres of swamp with a clump of trees strangled with ivy. Finn’s grandfather played a practical joke on him — one of the most prolonged pranks of his life — and Finn had been the butt of the joke among the family during that entire time.
That humiliating joke taught Finn a valuable lesson about himself and about human nature: he truly disliked being fooled, and people will fall for anything. Right then and there he vowed to never be deceived again.
But Finn would go on to pull the wool over the eyes of millions of people worldwide. For Finn — Phineas, to his family — knew that there was a sucker born every minute, and he used that to his advantage to fool millions of people around the world as one of the greatest showmen on earth.
You of course know him as Phineas Taylor… P.T. Barnum.
Trust is based on truth. And truth is a down payment on loyalty.
Trust is a strange thing.
We work so hard for it, make it the center of how we define ourselves, and then, with one small misstep, we can lose it for years. We hope that we can earn it back.
Some people pretend to care about trust, putting on a good show and giving you the impression that it matters. But then we find their actions don’t match their words.
And then there are those who don’t even pretend to care about gaining your trust. They charge ahead, reputation and relationships be damned.
In these scenarios, you need to be more careful of the former. At least you know where you stand with the latter, who readily admit that they have no interest in gaining your trust.
Those who deceive, lie, or simply mouth the words without doing the work — those are the real danger.
We’ve seen them before:
The tech company that breaches trust while constantly assuring us that trust is their #1 priority.
The coworker who assures you that you’re in good standing while badmouthing you to your colleagues.
The boss who encourages you, but is like a combination of Machiavelli and Svengali behind the scenes.
These false flags — like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown at the last minute —are demoralizing and degrading.
We may be guilty of these ourselves, however inadvertently, when we can’t live up to our spoken commitment. In that case, we owe it to our colleagues to acknowledge our shortcomings. By being honest and vulnerable, we instill trust. They can see we’re human and forgive our errors.
And then we try not to repeat the behavior; for if this becomes a pattern, our team quickly loses trust in us.
In doing so, you demonstrate to people the difference between command-and-control and collaboration. Summed up in an image, it might look something like this:
You know how hard trust is to earn and how much you respect those who have taken the time to gain yours.
Make sure you apply those same standards to the trust you seek to earn from others.
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