It’s human nature to want to trust people.  And while some have more issues with trust than others, most of us would agree that being “trustworthy” is a highly desired attribute.  But what we don’t talk about very much is how to build trust.  We assume we have it or we don’t.  But some researchers in Utah determined that there are three factors needed to build trust.

Why do you need to be trustworthy?

Before talking about the “how”, let’s talk about “why”.  Why is it really necessary?  Is it just something that makes us feel good.  Does it have real impact on our bottom line?

According to Accenture, Trust declined in 10 of 15 industry sectors in 2017.  In their “Competitive Agility Index”, they rate companies on a variety of factors.  One-third of their score is based on “sustainability and trust”.  According to their research, “While trust accounts for a fraction of a company’s total score, it disproportionately impacts revenue and EBITDA.”

Trust has a direct correlation on three key areas of business growth:

  • Customer retention – Customers will stick with companies that they trust.  They will work through issues, resolve conflicts, and weather the storm of conflict if they trust you.
  • Referrals – Customers, business partners, and friends are more likely to refer others to your company if they trust that you will honor your commitment and provide quality service to the person they are referring to you.
  • New customers – Prospects are always suspicious of new vendors.  Taking on a new relationship takes a level of trust.  If they do not have a basic level of trust in you, they will not sign on with you.

What is it?

We all talk about trust, but we all have our own definition. Trust is defined as a “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something”.  For some, trust is something that they have in everyone, but it can be lost.  Others require you to earn trust.  Ronald Reagan lived by the mantra “trust, but verify”.  That is probably somewhere in between.  Some people are very trusting, others are slow to build it.

Behavior style has an impact on how people develop trust.  We utilize DISC as a platform for our behavior assessments.  A person who is a very outgoing people-person (High I behavior style) is the quickest to build trust.  They like people and they want to trust them.  Therefore they build trust quickly.  People who are reserved and are rule-followers (High C behavior style) are the most reluctant to trust new relationships.  They require a lot of data and evidence before they will sign on with a new provider.

How to build trust

Researchers at Utah State University conducted one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies of trust.  They found three key factors in building trust.  The three key factors are:

  • Integrity – operate out of integrity
  • Capability – you have to be good at what you do
  • Benevolence – you have to be willing to do things without expectations of results.

Let’s look at each of these as business owners.

Build trust with integrity

This is likely the least surprising of the three components.  Integrity and trust go hand in hand.  Integrity is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness”.

I guess it is possible to be trustworthy without being a person of integrity.  I can think of a few people who are essentially trustworthy, but I don’t see them as people who are “morally upright”.

When I think of “morally upright”, I think of a higher level of social responsibility and personal integrity.  These are the people that you would trust your kids, your business, your possessions….   Morally upright seems to be a standard far above “average”.

I believe integrity is the same way.  I can trust someone before I know they are a person of integrity.  But if I know they are a person of integrity, I will certainly trust them.

I believe this is what the researchers were getting to.  Integrity is fundamental for establishing unquestionable trust.

Build trust based on your capability

The second aspect of trust is the expectation that you CAN do what you say you are going to do.  You are far more likely to trust someone who you know has the capability to get the job done.

Let’s look at a practical example.  You just bought a brand new Tesla.  You’ve been looking forward to getting this car for years.  You now have a business trip to go on, and you don’t want to leave your Tesla at the airport.  So you need someone to drive you there.  Your friend says he can, but his car is with his mechanic, so he can drive yours!  You have to ask yourself, do I trust him as a driver?  Is he capable?   Have your ridden with him?  Does he have a good driving record?  How long ago was his last accident?

Capability comes squarely into the picture when you are thinking about trusting someone with your brand new Tesla.

The same can be true in trusting someone with a business decision, doing a project for you, or even hiring them to be an employee.  You have to feel comfortable that they are capable of doing the job in a quality manner.  If you can answer that in the affirmative, you are more likely to have trust in them.

Build trust based on benevolence

This is most likely the least expected of the three components.  The idea is that people will develop trust in you if they feel you are doing things for unselfish purposes.

While I had not thought of this, I do believe it’s true.  If you know me, you know that I am passionate about the idea of servant leadership.  This is a very servant leader concept.

If you put others first and do things simply because they are the right things to do.  Others will develop a trust in you that you won’t get elsewhere.

This type of trust doesn’t happen overnight.  This level of trust takes time to build.  Let’s face it.  When someone is offering to do something for the good of doing it, I am initially suspicious.  Only when I see results do I begin to realize that they are sincerely just trying to help.  When I see that, I begin to trust them more.

The great part about this type of trust is that it is probably the hardest to be broken.  Once you have developed this level of trust with someone, you should have a long-term relationship.

Start today to build trust for a lifetime

Building a reputation and developing trusting relationships is not something that happens overnight.  Building trust takes time and effort.  But it can pay huge dividends as you develop the type of relationships that last a lifetime.

If you would like to get some additional insight into how to build trust with your clients, schedule time with me on my calendar at