Why should I believe you?

In the world of deep fakes and unchecked half-truths that enter our social feeds, it’s hard to know who or what to believe. That makes it tough for anyone trying to connect with audiences who are increasingly skeptical and overburdened with information and who ask themselves: “Why should I believe you?”  Building trust is at the core of any successful relationship, business or otherwise.  So how can you earn trust in the age of distrust?  Here are few tips:

  1. Be clear about who you are and what you stand for. Communicating your identity is not simply telling others what you do, but showing how your enterprise connects to your target’s aspirations – and fears.  Too much business communication is focused on telling people how good your team is without helping your target see why you are good for them. For example, instead of saying we are honest, say, “We work to earn your trust by doing this (and be specific).” Instead of saying we are committed to providing great service, say, “We will respond to your questions in 24 hours or less.”  Then you are not just telling, you are making a promise.
  2. Live your words. Talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words. If you say it, be prepared to do it and every day. Wells Fargo had an ethics policy prominently featured on its website, yet thousands of employees bilked customers out their hard-earned money.  If you aren’t willing to live what you say, then don’t say it.
  3. Own up to mistakes. We are all human and far from perfect. When you screw up, admit it. Focus on how you can make it better now and for the future.  When you deny, blame or simply ignore, you drive a wedge between you and your audiences.  You might save the refund or win the argument, but in the process, you also engender anger and sow seeds of distrust. Own the mistake, and make good on what went wrong.
  4. Listen carefully. Take the time to listen to what customers, clients, employees and partners like and dislike about your product, service or enterprise. Sometimes you will hear things that make you uncomfortable or that you will want to challenge.  Keep quiet and listen.  And if you aren’t prepared to listen and act on what you hear, don’t bother asking the question.
  5. Don’t lie. This may sound obvious but when backed into a corner or feeling uncomfortable, it’s easy to lie rather than own up to a mistake or share an unpleasant truth.  Maybe no one figures out that you lied, but more often than not, the truth eventually comes out.  People can deal with bad news. What they can’t often forgive is being lied to.  When you lie, you disrespect yourself, as well as others.
  6. Deliver value consistently. Always look at what you do through the eyes of your customer, client, partners or employees.  How are you helping them, making their lives better or taking away something that is hard and burdensome?

Every action you take should be through the lens of living up to the expectation of excellence and conducting your work with respect for those around you. To build trust, tell the truth. And to fortify that confidence, make sure everyone in your organization follows that formula.

How have you built and kept trust with your most important stakeholders?  And for more tips on effective communication and leadership, follow me on twitter @lizwainger or on LinkedIn.