How can you become more credible and trustworthy?

Trust is a must or your relationships will bust. That’s the truth. None of your relationships at work or at home will survive the loss of trust.

And yet, the loss of trust is evident everywhere. Our politicians say one thing and do another. The supposed “truth” or verified “science” that we’re told today proves to be false the next day. And almost every letter written to “Dear Abby” and other advice columnists talks about the lack of trust in their relationships.

It’s a HUGE problem. In fact, some poor souls still think “If you read it in the newspaper … or hear it on TV … or see it on the Internet, it’s got to be true.” I fear for those people and their futures…

… because some people and news sources are not worthy of your trust.

Trust is the key to more positive, productive, and profitable relationships and business.

The good news is you can actually build or re-build trust and credibility with others. One of my colleagues, Dr. David W. Johnson from the University of Minnesota, suggests these six behaviors for starters. Let me give them to you and my commentary on each of them.

► 1. Consistently appear warm and friendly.

People can’t trust you if you’re warm and friendly one day and crabby and grouchy the next day. People need to know what to expect from you.

So ask yourself, “Do other people find you consistently pleasant to be around? Or do they find themselves wondering what you’re going to be like this time?”

Of course, some of you will argue that it’s just your nature to be up and down, or you’ll say you have no control over your moods. I don’t buy it. You have the power to behave warm and friendly, no matter what is happening in your life.

Yes, you have the power to choose your behaviors. After all, we all know people who live with excruciating difficulties and still remain warm and friendly and we all know people who have everything going for them but they still gripe about everything.

Scott Lutz, the former CEO and President of 8th Continent in the soy milk market business, talks about how he learned the lesson of being consistently warm and friendly.

Long ago in eighth grade, Lutz had a teacher he respected and wanted to impress. In a classroom debate monitored by this teacher, Lutz defeated and humiliated his opponent and expected praise from his mentor.

However, the teacher took him aside and taught him something else. He told Lutz he was disappointed in him. He said how you win means as much as the fact you did win.

Furthermore, his teacher went on to say, your intellect and verbal skill can propel you to the front of the line. But the only way you’ll persuade people to follow you is to use your talents with compassion. He lost his warmth and friendliness in an act of arrogance and had to learn a new way to relate to people so he could build trust with those people.

► 2. Consistently express your intentions and motives.

Most of the time I’m sure that your words and actions are motivated by good intentions. But good intentions are never enough to come across as credible and trustworthy.

Because other people are always guessing why you’re saying or doing certain things. They’re trying to figure out your intentions and motives and they will guess wrong too much of the time. And they will guess wrong in a way that does not make you look good.

This happened to one executive who was urging her employees to balance their personal and professional lives, rather than sacrifice their family relationships for their work. And to lead the way, she decided to take a month off and travel to China with her 19-year-old son who was about to leave for college.

When the word got out that she was taking the vacation, several employees thought the executive was looking for other jobs. Others said she was distancing herself from problems that would hit while she was gone, and others interpreted the action in even worse ways.

When the executive caught wind of the rumors, she knew she had to address the issue. At the next all-employee meeting, she talked about the fact she hadn’t taken a vacation in ten years and the price she had paid for that. She talked about how she sacrificed her family for her job. She spoke personally about her relationship with her son and their ten-year dream of going to China. She talked about the value of work-life balance. And then her people understood.

She followed up her trip by encouraging others to get more balance in their own lives. She supported people who needed to leave a meeting a little early to attend their kids’ soccer game or attend a family reunion. She not only talked the talk but walked her walk.

That is not an uncommon story. People misread the words and actions of others all the time.

However, if she had clearly communicated her intentions and motives before the trip, all those fears, hassles, rumors, and backbiting would have never happened. So please, please, please, make sure you clearly communicate your intentions and motives to others so trust … rather than mistrust … is built.

► 3. Consistently demonstrate reliability and follow-through.

You’ve got to do what you say you’re going to do. Follow through on your promises. So other people know that your word is your bond. They can take it to the bank.

Simply put, if you’re going to build trust with anyone, personally or professionally, there should seldom be an excuse for you not keeping your word.

Of course, on rare occasions, all hell can break loose or an emergency enters your life when you can’t or don’t follow through. But the operative word is rare. Such things as “you don’t feel like it” or “you changed your mind” or “you’re busy” are no excuse for not keeping your word … if you want relationships filled with trust.

Sarah came up to me during a break in a seminar I was conducting. She said, “Dr. Z, I really WANT to move up in my job but I just can’t.” The truth was she wouldn’t follow through on any of the things that would move her up in her job.

When I asked about her personal development plan and what she was doing to move up in her job, she admitted that she avoided the various training programs that her company offered as much as possible. And when she did go, she didn’t listen that carefully to the speaker or follow through on what she learned. And she never invested any of her own money into training programs outside the company.

So I knew the answer to her question — why she wasn’t moving up in her job. She wasn’t reliable or following through on any of the things she needed to do. As a result, she didn’t trust herself and neither did the bosses who could have promoted her.

I let her know things could and would be different if she attended my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program, because it has a built-in follow-through component. She did attend and later wrote me this note:

“Your Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program is unlike any other program I’ve ever attended. Previously, no matter how good the course might have been, and despite my good intentions to get back to the material and use it later, ‘later’ never came.

“One of the major reasons the Journey works is your reinforcement program. You kept in touch with us. You kept on sending us reinforcements every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday … which made it so much easier for me to put into practice what I learned at the Journey. Brilliant! As a result, I’m winning the battle of losing weight, exercising regularly, and focusing on the key priorities at work and at home. And this is just the start.”

Those are three of the six behaviors you must exhibit to build trust-filled relationships with others. Work on them this week and come back for next week’s Tuesday Tip to learn the other three behaviors.