6 - Build and Maintain Trust

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What Everyone Ought to Know About Trust


Dams and Trust: How You Benefit


Have you ever seen a low or empty reservoir? It’s pretty dismal, especially if that reservoir provides drinking water or electricity to your city.

On the other hand, a full reservoir is impressive, beautiful, and fun to play in. It is also comforting to know there is plenty of drinking water and potential electricity available.

In many senses, Build and Maintain Trust, is like a reservoir in that it must be consistently nurtured and can be easily destroyed.

Trust must be consistently nurtured.

To stay full, a reservoir requires a consistent inflow of water. Likewise, relationships with strong trust require consistent actions that increase that trust. The following actions are ways to consistently fill your “reservoir of trust”:

  • Communicate often – Don’t leave others guessing about what you are doing.
  • Take responsibility for mistakes – people will respect you more for it.
  • Tell the truth – And be sure to tell the whole truth.
  • Be open minded to new ideas.
  • As a group, focus on shared, rather than personal goals. (This doesn’t mean throw out your personal goals though).
  • Send a Thank You card to a friend or associate.
  • Carry out other consistent actions that build trust in a relationship
  • Return voice mails or emails in a timely manner, typically within 24 hours.

If the flow of water into a reservoir stops, the reservoir will become stagnant and eventually empty. Likewise, if a person stops building trust, his or her reservoir of trust will become depleted over time.

As you continue to build and maintain your “reservoir of trust,” it’s much easier to solve difficult problems. But if your reservoir of trust is low, it can be difficult to solve even the easiest of problems.

Trust can be easily destroyed.

When a dam breaks, it is catastrophic. Homes, businesses, and land are destroyed. Things that can destroy years of trust include lying, stealing, cheating, and any form of unethical or illegal behavior. These threats to trust must always be avoided.

Make a decision right now to build trust, in other words, to start filling up the reservoir. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, it’s NEVER too late to start doing things that build trust, rather than erode trust.

Throughout the day, ask this question: “Are my thoughts and actions building or eroding trust?”

Weekly Action:

1. Either individually or as a team, choose one way in which you can build trust within your company or with a customer. Identify one thing that you can specifically do throughout this week to build and maintain trust. For example, write a note to a customer, respond to calls or emails within 12 hours, or follow through 100% on what you commit to do in the time frame you committed to do it.

2. If you’re not associated with an organization, choose a person in your life who is important to you. Identify a specific action you could take this week to build or maintain trust with that person. For example, go to lunch with the intent to listen or learn their story, find an act of service you can perform for them, or do something kind for them.

3. Read pages 105 – 124 in Becoming Your Best: The 12 Principles of High Successful Leaders for additional ideas and thoughts on how to build and maintain trust in your life and organization.


6 Ways to Build Trust

Not only is trust a key to becoming your best, it is the glue that holds relationships together in life. Almost every action begins with trust.

A poll of Americans revealed that 63% of people believe that in dealing with most people you “can’t be too careful”; 37% believed that “most people would try to take advantage of you if they got the chance.”

Amazingly, the same poll revealed that 85% expect the people they know personally to “try to be fair.”

If you want to influence people, your first job is to let people see that you can be trusted.

Let people see who you are, help them feel like they know you personally, and your trust ratio automatically triples. Opportunities for growth and progress come to those who are trusted.

Here are 6 ways to build trust:

1. Be consistent so others will see you as reliable.

2. Be predictable and always follow through on what you say you will do. Return phone calls and respond to emails. Be timely and responsive.

3. Give trust. As with most other things in life, you get what you give. In other words, giving trust often results in returned trustworthiness.

4. Do high-quality, high-quantity work and finish it when you said you would. In other words, you become the go-to person.

5. Share your values by being very clear on how you feel about trust and character. Clarity establishes a baseline for others to measure your actions.

6. Be sensitive to the needs of others around you by putting their interests before your own.

Weekly Action:

1. Reflect on the list above. Take a few minutes and ask yourself whether you’re doing all those things. If not, write down specifically what actions you can take to improve in those areas.

2. Do what you say and say what you mean. This week, make a concerted effort to do what you say you’ll do and do it when you say you’ll do it.

3. Read pages 87 – 104 in Becoming Your Best: The 12 Principles of High Successful Leaders for additional ideas and thoughts on how to live this principle and make others feel like gold.


An empty tank of gas

A recent study shows that only 44% of people trust other people. That’s not a lot of trust!

Hopefully we trust the people we associate with each day. What is the trust level that you have with your loved ones, work associates, and other key people?

Words like “build” and “maintain” are used when explaining this principle because those words describe the nature of trust. Build and Maintain Trust means that you regularly do the things that strengthen your relationships.

While driving through the Nevada desert one time, my son suddenly realized his fuel gauge was on empty and the needle was below the red line! He became very anxious since the nearest gas station was far away and he did not want to be stranded in the desert! This was a no-fun, stressful, and preventable situation–and he was upset.

How would you feel in this situation? Stressed? Upset? Anxious?


Fortunately, he made it to a gas station about 20 minutes later and filled his car up with fresh fuel. Now the fuel gauge was full and he felt relieved and confident he could continue the trip!


Like fuel, it is helpful to gauge trust levels in our various relationships with a “Trust Meter.” For example, select a person you know and identify how much trust you have in that relationship. Is your trust level full? Is it empty or somewhere in between?

When you feel your Trust Meter reads full–this indicates a robust, strong, and healthy relationship. When you feel your indicator is on empty, there is tension, angst, hopelessness, and discouragement. It is similar to how my son felt when his car was on empty in the desert.

Good actions cause the meter to go up; bad actions cause the meter to go down. Every action you make moves the needle. You can increase your levels of trust through responsible, proactive, and accountable actions.

Here are 7 ideas to Build Trust:

  1. Take time to listen intently to others.

  2. Give sincere compliments frequently.

  3. Recognize the good others do.

  4. Offer to help someone with something they need.

  5. Remember important dates such as birthdays or graduations and tell them how much you appreciate them.

  6. Be reliable and do what you say you’ll do.

  7. Respond to e-mails, phone calls, and letters as soon as possible.

Weekly Action:

1. Identify a person you consider trustworthy. Write down several reasons why you consider that person to be trustworthy. Which characteristics did you identify and how can you implement them in your own life?

2. Assess each of your key relationships by using the trust meter. Do you have a full tank of trust? What can you do this week to build a higher level of trust with those you care about?

Lake Powell, Warren Buffet and Trust

Did you know the Lake Powell reservoir took over 17 years to fill up? That’s a long time! Did you also know that in 1976, another reservoir—The Teton Reservoir— emptied in just a matter of hours after a catastrophic dam break?


Trust is like a reservoir. Like real reservoirs, trust can take a long time to build, but can be tragically destroyed and emptied quickly. The following tips can greatly build and strengthen trust, while protecting it from catastrophic breaches.

Why Character is the First Dimension of Trust

Character includes your honesty, motive, and intent with people. For example, hopefully people trust that their car mechanic is honest and respectful in handling their car repairs. Here are three simple ways you can build your trust levels by strengthening your character:

1) Show loyalty. Be genuinely dedicated to your responsibilities at home, at work, or wherever.
2) Be clear & transparent. Be very clear and honest in your conversations and avoid miscommunication.
3) Trust others. Whether children or work associates, everyone wants to feel trusted and will most likely reciprocate your trust in them.

Competence: The Second Dimension of Trust

Competence includes your capabilities, skills, results, and track record. A person that is sincere and honest may not be fully trusted if he or she doesn’t get results. For example, in addition to being honest, a car mechanic is expected to have the competence and skill necessary to fix your car. Follow these four simple ideas to build your competence:

1) Improve your skills. Acquire better trade skills in order to become a more proficient employee, parent, and/or citizen.
2) Keep commitments and let people know beforehand if you are unable to finish on time.
3) Deliver results. Be sure you are a needed and desired asset.
4) Be helpful. When you meet someone, think of ways you can help that person, not how they can help you. If someone asks for help, be willing to accept.

Would you trust Warren Buffet?

warrenbuffetWarren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is often considered one of the most trusted leaders in the financial world. In 2003, Warren Buffet completed a major acquisition of McLane Distribution from Wal-Mart. As public companies, Berkshire Hathaway and Wal-Mart were subject to significant amounts of regulatory scrutiny.

Typically, a merger of this size would take months to complete and be very expensive in order to pay for attorneys, accountants, and auditors. In this case, however, because both parties operated with high levels of trust, the deal was made in a two-hour meeting and a handshake. In less than a month, it was completed.

High trust leads to greater efficiencies, accelerated success, and stronger relationships. It doesn’t matter whether you run a large company, like Wal-Mart, a local mom-and-pop shop, or even just your own home. Trust makes life easier.

Weekly Action:

1. Identify at least two things from this list (shown above) to implement today. At the end of the week, comment on your progress in your Thoughts Journal.

  • Show Loyalty
  • Be Clear and Transparent
  • Trust Others
  • Improve your Skills
  • Keep Commitments
  • Deliver Results
  • Be Helpful

2. Identify a relationship that could benefit from increased trust. In your thought’s journal, consider and list ways you can develop trust in that relationship.