I was waiting to get my hair cut and picked up one of the magazines—a Reader’s Digest from several months ago. It caught my attention because it had Robin Roberts from Good Morning America on the cover.

Like many people, I love Robin. She’s been a part of my morning routine for many years and have watched her go through some serious health issues. For some reason I not only like her, but trust her—which was interestingly, what that article was about. I quickly wrote down a few key words from the magazine before my hairdresser called my name, knowing that it was perfect fodder for my own article (it was, and here it is).

Trust is one of those things we don’t often put in words, but we know it when we see it. We get vibes about people. Some we trust right away and others…not so much. Trust is a biggie when you think of leadership and in the building solid relationships in our lives. We often do this without thinking; but I’ve listed a few key factors that influence our gut who guides us.

Authenticity. Perhaps one of the biggest things in trusting someone is seeing that that their actions align with what they say. When we see someone over a period of time like at work, we can observe their consistency and integrity.

We used to call it the “hidden agenda” when I worked in corporate America.  You could just tell when there was a person who supported this or that because it was good for them, even though they positioned it as “good for the company.”

We have all had chance meetings though, with people where our “trust” indicator gets tested. How about when a sales person who tries to convince you that this outfit, this coat, or what-have-you is simply perfect, but you know they just want to sell you something? What truly impresses me is when a sales person tells me “no,” that doesn’t look right on you or sorry, I don’t have what you’re looking for; have you tried——-? That sure gains my trust and loyalty for the future.

Personal excellence. It’s hard to trust anyone when they don’t seem to know what they are doing. There’s a big difference in having people “follow” you because of your position versus someone who is respected for their wisdom, experience, and good decision making. Competence doesn’t always translate to trust, but trusting someone requires it.

Likability. It’s said that people want to do business with people they like, know, and trust. No matter what our personality may be, being interested in others as a human being goes a long way in building trust. As leaders in the workplace, truly listening to someone and having empathy for them is a critical skill.

Moral Compass. It’s people who take the high road even when it’s not the easy route are those who leave heart-prints on people. People who do something nice when no one is looking or it is not expected, create followership and loyalty. It doesn’t have to be something big. When I was in HR, I would sometimes get an off-handed comment from someone’s employee sharing how her boss did this or that for them when they had a personal or family crisis. Often, it was a minor little gesture or comment that was probably forgotten by their manager. They may never know what a long way that went in building long-term commitment.

Recovery.  Mistakes and life’s trials happen to all of us. It’s often how people handle those moments that cement our opinions. In the business world, nothing could be worse than observing a manager blaming their assistant or member of their staff for an error that they themselves made. Cringe. The tough times in our lives bring out the true character of someone. Back to my HR days, I was knee deep in alligators while closing our Rochester, NY facility. Employees were invited to either move to Massachusetts or lose their job. It was a life-altering event and I got to observe how this crisis brought out the best in some people and the worst in others.

When someone stopped in my office, I was braced for what I was about to hear. (The good news is that they felt comfortable in venting to me when they felt threatened to raise their question/issue with the other managers. The bad news is that they felt comfortable in venting to me.) Anyway, when I talked with a person who looked at this unforeseen interruption in their lives not as a cruel and inhuman event, but as a possible opportunity, I wanted to hug them. I got to know the real depth of some people. And it was sure an eye-opening experience for me.

Perhaps this is where Robin excels. She has taught us how to make our mess our message. While she could have kept her story to herself as many celebrities do, she helped a lot of other people by using her TV platform to share her story, and in doing so, has helped many people facing similar challenges. As leaders and as people, we have the same opportunity. You can share what you want to share, but people trust people they feel are human and not just a “suit.” You become connected as part of the human race. It’s a gift that only you can give and goes further than any financial incentive you could ever give a person on your team.


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