Trust: A Critical Success Factor

Being seen as trustworthy is the result of how others perceive our behavior, our actions. There are four specific behaviors critical to trust building.

By David McNally, CPAE, Chief Encouragement Officer, TransForm Corporation

In my local newspaper, two recent stories that demonstrated how personal character trumps charisma stood out. One featured a former high-flying corporate executive who was now on trial for fraud and obstruction. The other was about a professional football player who had received a multi-million dollar offer from a high-profile NFL team, but who refused to sign as he had promised another coach that he would visit him before making his final decision. His reason was simple yet profound: “I am a man of my word.”

Both of these stories point to how critical trust is to a healthy society and human relationships. When an organization has a rich, empowering culture, where the workforce is fully engaged and inspired to do great work, trust is the foundation. When an individual is highly thought of and who has a strong personal brand, he or she is unquestionably a “person of his or her word.”

How is trust built? Being seen as trustworthy is the result of how others perceive our behavior, our actions. There are four specific behaviors critical to trust building. As you read, reflect on how you and the people in your organization behave on a day-to-day basis and what changes might be made to build an even higher level of trust.

  1. Straightforwardness: Some people are so concerned with others’ feelings that they hold back or “fudge” stating how they feel. Being sensitive to others has merit, but not when others feel you are being less than honest with them. It often takes courage to be direct, but if you take that risk, people may not like what you say, but they do know where you stand. They know they can trust you to be honest.
  2. Openness: Have you ever walked away from another feeling he or she has “a few cards up their sleeve?” Some people are so risk averse and cautious in offering information that others experience them as secretive. Openness is proactively sharing information that helps others make better decisions. Like being straightforward, openness can feel risky, but the benefits include a deeper level of communication, more rapid solutions to problems, and a more collaborative environment.
  3. Acceptance: Do you assess others purely on the level of how you believe things should be done or how people should behave? If people feel they constantly are being judged, trust is destroyed. Innovation, creativity, and efficiency result from people being empowered to do things differently. We all need to be recognized for our unique and individual contribution. Remember, behind every employee is a person waiting to be acknowledged.
  4. Reliability: Do you do what you say you will do? Some people can be so motivated, so enthusiastic, or so anxious to please that they make promises that cannot possibly be kept. Excuses may be accepted once or twice, but if this behavior persists, the word gets out: You may likable, but you are not reliable. Even if you have the best intentions, how you follow through is what matters.

As you assess where you are in terms of trust, remember that actions speak louder than words. When you demonstrate through your behavior that you are reliable, straightforward, accepting, and open, and when these behaviors permeate the culture of your organization, the result is rich, enduring relationships with colleagues, customers, friends, and family. You will SOAR to new heights of professional and personal achievement.

David McNally, CPAE, is the CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) of TransForm Corporation.Elected to the Speakers Hall of Fame by the National Speakers Association (NSA), McNally is the author of the bestselling books, “Even Eagles Need a Push—Learning to Soar in a Changing World,” “The Eagle’s Secret—Success Strategies for Thriving at Work and in Life,” and “The Push—Unleashing the Power of Encouragement.” His co-authored book, “Be Your OWN Brand,” is used by many business schools to address the importance of building a strong personal brand. McNally’s books have been translated into 12 different languages and developed into corporate training programs that have been released in more than 20 countries. Abbott Laboratories, Ameriprise, Gartner Group, Merrill Lynch, Delta Air Lines, Pulte Homes, and Thrivent Financial are a few of the many organizations that have embraced McNally’s work as a key component of preparing their employees for an ever-increasing competitive and complex future. McNally also produced two inspirational films, The Power of Purpose and If I Were Brave. For more information, visit or e-mail


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