When a Trend is Trustworthy, and When It Isn’t

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7 Ways to Prove You’re Trustworthy as an Entrepreneur

Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox

Trust is the foundation of strong business relationships, both personal and professional. And healthy relationships are the key factor to happiness.

Besides being happier, entrepreneurs with high levels of trust are more successful at retaining their employees. They may even earn more money.

So, how do you build trust? The answer is that you make it a priority. Here are steps entrepreneurs can take to do just that.

1. Show competence.

The first step in becoming a trustworthy entrepreneur is to master a skill. Before associates will do business with you, you have to prove to them that you know what you’re doing.

Once you’re competent, you’ll produce results and demonstrate your knowledge to others.

Tip: Before you sign up for a coding bootcamp, take a few moments to reflect on what you’re already good at, then double down on those skills. These could be anything from cold calling to accounting.

2. Keep your promises.

When building trust, reliability is ground zero. Even if you lack the skills, knowledge or connections to fall back on, you can always do what you say.

Being reliable simply means doing what you said you would. So, build trust with small gestures, such as launching a product on time and following up with customers.

Tip: Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Keeping five small promises is far better than keeping four and breaking one.

3. Speak confidently.

Want to build trust? Speak confidently. In today’s economy, there’s little room for shyness. This holds true whether you’re blogging or speaking in public.

Admittedly, when I started my first business, I felt pretty timid. But I slowly learned to speak with confidence in a boardroom, on a stage and on my blog.

Speaking confidently and being extroverted are not the same, though. Many great leaders are introverts, embracing the power of quiet and using it to command attention.

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Tip: Understand that speaking or writing confidently is a skillset. Like any other skill, it can be broken down and learned. Dissect it piece by piece and work on improving one part of your speech at a time.

4. Actually listen.

Being a confident speaker and a good listener are two completely different things. From childhood, we learn to communicate our thoughts and needs. Rarely are we taught how to listen.

Our first instinct is to be understood by others, and in doing so we communicate our point but ignore theirs. When you’re doing all the talking, you may miss the entire meaning of the conversation.

Author Steven Covey explained why this happens, saying that “Most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. [thus, filtering everything your hear through your own frame of reference].”

Tip: Covey offers a simple solution: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. By seeking to understand first, we drop our filter and instead look for the meaning and emotion behind the words.

5. Show empathy.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley. There’s something I learned about the place: Silicon Valley has an empathy problem.

Young tech entrepreneurs are making crazy sums of money without having gone through real hardship. The result: They totally lack in empathy.

To build trust, you need to understand people, whether they be customers, investors or employees. You won’t get far without empathy, and neither will your business. In fact, recent research from Google shows that empathy, not technology, drives innovation.

Tip: Developing empathy is a lifelong practice, not something that happens overnight. But you can get started today. To build trust through empathy, use statements of empathy, such as:

  • “What this means to you is . . .”
  • “You and I share a common goal.”
  • “Like you, I care about this topic because . . . “

Even if you don’t feel empathy inside, these phrases give other people a sense that you understand them.

6. Be vulnerable.

When some entrepreneurs hear “vulnerability,” they pawn it off as emotional nonsense.

But vulnerability is not a character weakness or a security flaw. To the contrary, vulnerability in this context means having the courage to be yourself. It means expressing your true thoughts and desires openly, thus exposing yourself to risk.

Being vulnerable at work yields huge rewards, and rewards other than just feeling better about yourself. When we’re vulnerable and authentic, our employees trust us more. And, trust in a leader improves employee happiness and productivity.

Tip: Open up to your employees, colleagues and audience, and they will reciprocate, sharing problems and advice. Instead of feeling like cogs in a machine, your employees will share a mutual respect for you and the company. To be more vulnerable, you might:

  • Call someone up who’s suffered a loss, express your grief and ask how he or she is doing.
  • Ask someone for help.
  • Admit when you were wrong. (See how Ray Dalio handles criticism.)

7. Be truthful.

Telling the truth isn’t always easy, nor is hearing it. It’s uncomfortable and can hurt feelings. As entrepreneurs, however, we have a responsibility to do what’s right, even when it’s uncomfortable. This means telling the truth about how we see things even when someone disagrees.

In an interview, startup founder Rebekah Campbell warned against the dangers of small lies: “[T]elling lies is the No. 1 reason entrepreneurs fail,” she said. “Not because telling lies makes you a bad person, but because the act of lying plucks you from the present, preventing you from facing what is really going on in your world.”

Tip: If an employee or partner does something you disagree with, voice that disagreement. When you do, things may get heated, but your listeners will trust you more in the long run knowing that you’re honest.


The most trustworthy people I know commit to building trust in their relationships. They use different ways to prove their trustworthiness to others.

The strategies on this list work. Trust me.

Uncovering the Secrets of a Trustworthy Face

Explaining our sense of who is reliable with the power of expectations

  • By Michael Slepian on August 8, 2020
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We tend to trust the people around us. We trust cab drivers and doctors with our lives, we trust chefs handling our food, and we trust strangers to watch our belongings while we step away. But trust is not like candy on Halloween, we do not just give it to anyone who knocks on our door. Psychologists have long been interested in understanding what leads people to trust others, and the face has long been at the center of this research. Some people just look trustworthy. Faces that look happy even when not smiling and those that have feminine and even baby-like features tend to be trusted more. Yet, just because a face looks trustworthy does not mean that the person with that face has trustworthy intentions.

A recent paper suggests that it isn’t easy to accurately detect another’s trustworthiness from just the face, but a few things can help. We can more accurately judge trustworthiness if we get a chance to interact with the person, or at least observe a video of the person. Some research finds that even from observing photographs of faces, judgments of trustworthiness can have a glimmer of accuracy, but other research casts doubt on this idea.

At Columbia Business School, my colleague and I were taken by this question, but felt that something had been missing. Many studies had asked whether people can accurately detect trustworthiness from the face, but not a single study had ever asked what the person with the face thought about all of this.

We wondered whether people who look trustworthy are aware that other people expect them to be trustworthy from their appearance. In essence, we turned the question around, and held it up to a mirror, asking: Does the person with a trustworthy or untrustworthy looking face think that they will be trusted or distrusted by others? If this were the case, it could explain how people can sometimes accurately judge another’s trustworthiness from the face. And so, we tested this new idea.

In a recent paper, we asked people to play a new economic game we developed. In most economic games, to trust the other player requires that you also cooperate with them. For example, in one classic economic game, a player receives money, which they can send to another player, and whatever is sent triples in value. To cooperate and send them money implies you hope you can trust them to send some back. Our game, however, had a unique feature where both players had to decide whether or not to tell the truth, and both players had to decide whether or not to trust the other player. This allows one player to lie to the other player, but still trust them. In other words, our game separated cooperating from being trustworthy. After explaining the game to the participants, we asked them to guess how often they thought other people would trust them in the game. They then played the game 10 times, with 10 unique people, and there were cash prizes for the winners.

It turns out that the more a person’s face looks trustworthy (as rated by a separate group of people), the more the person with that face predicted that other people would trust them. People have a sense of how trustworthy they look. And here’s where things get even more interesting. In our game, being trusted while lying was by far the most profitable outcome. And yet, the very people who look trustworthy do not want to exploit that trust for monetary gain, and so they told the truth the most. People want to live up to other people’s expectations.

A recent study conducted in China on children’s faces replicated our effects and took them one step further. The researchers had people judge how trustworthy 8-12 year-old’s faces appeared to be, and found that the more trustworthy the children looked, the more their peers accepted them, and the more, in turn, the children behaved in a kind, trustworthy manner. When children looked trustworthy, other children expected them to be kind, and therefore treated them kindly, which even a year later predicted how trustworthy those children, in turn, acted in class.

When people can accurately judge another person’s trustworthiness, they are helped, in part, by the person with that face. That person knows they look trustworthy (and that others expect them to be trustworthy) and doesn’t want to let other people down. Unfortunately, the flipside of this is that for those with less than trustworthy-looking faces, if they think that other people won’t trust them, they might feel more inclined to bend the truth. People tend to live up to the best, and the worst, of what is expected of them. And so, recognize the power of your own expectations. If you give people a positive expectation to live up to, you have a better chance of bringing out the best in them.

When Trust is Down, the Trustworthy Get Going

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. So goes the old adage, and it’s worth remembering in a time of widespread distrust. Trust has not been devalued—it’s just harder to find.

What’s Up with Trust?

Not much, it would seem. No matter where you turn, there is another reminder of the low state of trust in today’s society. For example:

    Pew Research tells us that, in the U.S., distrust in media has increased

Serious news indeed for all of us concerned with the state of society—or with the state of our own employment, for that matter.

In such times, it seems only natural that we should become less trusting in our own business and personal lives. After all: if everyone is becoming less trustworthy, shouldn’t we have to watch out more for Number One? And so we are more wary of strangers, demand more collateral, look for tighter legal contracts, and generally take less risks.

The Cost of Following the Low-Trust Herd

The temptation to “follow the market” in times of declining trust turns out to be ill-conceived, and even ill-advised. First, consider the simple distinction between trusting someone—and being trusted by someone. Most of the perceived risk related to trust lies on the trusting side; it isn’t very risky to be considered trustworthy.

In fact, being seen as trustworthy is not only low risk; it is precisely the scarce resource in ti

mes of low trust. What’s it worth to be known as the one bank, the only politician, the sole salesperson you can trust—when everyone else is going down in flames around you? It’s worth more precisely in times of low trust.

It’s in times like these that the personal trust virtues become even more important. Strive to be known for telling the truth and being transparent; for meeting your promises without blame-throwing; for keeping confidences; and for focusing on other people rather than on yourself.

The Paradox of Trust

But just being trustworthy doesn’t exhaust the possibilities. Perhaps you’ve heard another old proverb: the best way to make someone trustworthy is to trust them. When someone trusted you—to do the right thing, to get the job done—what was your response? Most likely, you rose to the occasion. Most people do.

Times of low trust don’t come just from declines in trustworthiness; they also come from a decline in the willingness to trust others. And here, paradoxically, there may be even more upside for a right-thinking person or business.

What’s it worth to be known as the bank who’d take a risk on you when times were tough? To be known as the person who’d give you the benefit of the doubt when no one else would? To believe in you when it seemed like nobody else did?

Living in low-trust times doesn’t just mean you can’t trust others—it means you can’t find others who’ll trust you. In such times, being trustworthy is worth a premium—and being the one willing to trust is arguably worth even more.

How can you become more trustworthy, so that others can more easily trust you? Better yet: who do you know who could benefit from your trusting them?

What’s stopping you? In the land of the untrusting, even a partially trust-based person or company is king.

I’m an author, consultant-advisor, and business founder. I co-authored the foundational The Trusted Advisor and its follow-up The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley 2020).…

I’m an author, consultant-advisor, and business founder. I co-authored the foundational The Trusted Advisor and its follow-up The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley 2020). I also wrote the book Trust-based Selling. I’m CEO of Trusted Advisor Associates. My whole focus is trusted business relationships. I speak regularly on the subject, explaining concepts I helped develop, like the trust equation, trust temperaments, trust-based selling, and organizational trust principles. I advise individuals and companies on how to increase both trustworthiness and to create trust-infused organizations. I’m a social media enthusiast and love to get my hands on any new technology and tool out there.

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@anildash spoke some truth today about tech and its antiblackness. Maybe if us black folk in tech #CallInBlack tomorrow they’ll notice. — Megan Anctil (@megsa_) July 7, 2020

[tweet_quote display=\”What will you do? Use the hashtag #breakthefuture to share what you’re doing to create systems change.\”]What will you do? Use the hashtag #breakthefuture to share what you’re doing to create systems change.[/tweet_quote]”,”description”:”

Anna was frustrated and discouraged that her boss had a clear favorite in the department and it wasn’t her. It seemed not only unfair, but unjustified to Anna. There are no private offices in the financial services firm where Anna works and the entire team shares an open space with their boss. He sits next to his “favorite” and laughs and carries on private conversations during the day. There is no question that this person is in favor despite the fact she is not the top performer on the team.\r\n\r\n (Photo courtesy of Pexels)\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nWe know that favoritism is part of human nature. We want to work with those individuals that we like and with whom we feel comfortable. We choose certain friends based on commonality and chemistry and this plays out in the workplace every day. Senior executives are not immune to this behavior.\r\n\r\nApparently, favoritism is also a reality in the C-suite. A survey on this topic by Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business polled senior executives at large U.S. corporations found that 92% have recognized favoritism at play in employee promotions. 84% have seen it at their companies and 23% said they have practiced favoritism themselves. What’s particularly troubling is that 56% said that when considering candidates for promotion, they knew before any deliberations who they wanted to promote and 96% said they promoted the pre-selected individual. 29% said that they only considered one candidate in their most recent promotion.\r\n\r\nSo how do you overcome the reality that your boss has a favorite and it’s not you?\r\n\r\nIn above mentioned situation, Anna contacted me because she realized that her frustration was affecting her performance. I coached her that her best approach was to improve her own relationship with her boss, build a supportive network, as well as maintain her excellent performance.\r\n\r\nHere are 5 things to do when you’re not the boss’s favorite.\r\n\r\nUnderstand your value proposition and how your work contributes to positive business outcomes. It’s important for you to know how you add value to the organization and how you can potentially help your boss succeed. This helps you build influence and credibility not only with your boss but with the entire organization.\r\n\r\nFigure out how you can help your boss succeed. What’s important to them? What are their goals? Do they currently have initiatives that need support? How are they incentivized? What are their business objectives? If you don’t already have this information, do your homework and ask. Offering to help based on the value you add is a powerful way to strengthen a relationship and supersedes a “favorite” relationship that’s not based on performance. You can vastly improve your relationship this way.\r\n \r\nBuild a network of people who have power and influence in the organization. Who are the people who have influence over your career? How are decisions made? Who is in your boss’s circle of influence? You should build relationships with all these people. They need to know how you add value to the business and how you can help the organization move forward.\r\n\r\nFind allies and champions. Who can advocate for you in your department and in your company? Look for people who can give you information about the politics, open doors for new opportunities, and provide access to resources that will lead to your improved performance. Find out what they want and need and build mutually beneficial relationships. They will stand up and speak up for you when appropriate.\r\n\r\nCreate visibility across the organization. Use your value proposition to communicate and demonstrate to others how you can contribute to business objectives. Maybe your recent success on a project has some valuable information that will help others. Perhaps you tried a new methodology that was effective. Sharing this information not only gives you visibility but the credibility you need to establish yourself as a valued contributor.\r\n\r\nIn summary, your boss’s favoritism is a clear sign that there isn’t a level playing field and that your performance alone may not trump his or her affinity for another team member. Therefore, it becomes your responsibility to nurture a relationship with your boss on a different level. Communicating how you can help your boss achieve his/her goals and business objectives creates a strong bond. Understanding what other key stakeholders want and need to be successful and offering to assist them gives you the opportunity to build the visibility and credibility across the organization. That visibility enables you to establish relationships allies and champions at all levels. These are the people who will speak for you and support you and help you circumvent obvious favoritism.\r\n\r\nThis approach worked well for Anna. She now has a very strong relationship with her manager and he is fully aware of how Anna can help him and the organization move forward. She is well positioned for a promotion despite the fact she’s not the “favorite”.\r\n\r\nWant to learn more about how to advance your career? Check out my book, The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead (Wiley 2020) and my website for additional resources including an online course based on the book.

There’s a chance you’re sitting here, reading this while holding a giant bag of Cheetos, and you’re thinking– what the heck is she talking about? But the reality is, you know how you should treat your body, regardless of if you’re doing it or not. My suggestion to you, dear ladies, is that we approach our businesses in the exact same way.\r\n\r\n1. You Are What You Eat\r\n\r\nI’ve worked with a nutritionist for four years now, and I truly credit her for reshaping my thoughts around food. I’ve learned to view food as fuel and have taken steps to ensure that my fuel is the kind that will let the engine that is my body run at its optimum capacity. For me, that’s lots of organic protein, vegetables, and some fruit/healthy fats. As I got healthier, I did really start to see a correlation between what I ate and how I felt. When I ate garbage, I felt like crap. Even if it was totally psychosomatic, that correlation helped shift my thinking towards a more long-game view of wellness. I began to realize that it was the exact same thing with my company. When I hired great people, I got great results. When I held on to people who I liked, and made me feel comfortable, but didn’t produce results, the entire company suffered. I saw this correlation with vendors, with clients, even with ideas that I thought were great but simply weren’t. I began to optimize my company the way I optimized my food intake. Things that I knew were good for the business, I did more of. Luxuries that felt good, but were temporary and not working towards the long term health of the org, I killed quickly. And soon, my business became healthier and happier too.\r\n\r\n Photo courtesy of iStock\r\n\r\n2. Push Yourself Forward\r\n\r\nI’ve always enjoyed spin classes and definitely used that to help get in shape. But it was only when I started using a personal trainer that I understood the correlation between fitness and business. My trainer talks about pushing my muscles to the point of total fatigue and almost failure– and all about the energy, increased metabolism, and benefits that come from muscle regeneration. She pushes me to my limit, every week– to the point where I look at her and say, without fail, each and every time, \”I can’t\”. Of course, she reassures me that I can, and I do. And then, I rest and regenerate, and push even farther the next time. As an entrepreneur, I do this every single day. I have pushed myself beyond the point of comprehension– taking risks I never thought I would, pitching business I never thought I could, putting myself out there in ways maybe I never should. I have pushed myself to almost failure many times. And sometimes, I do fail. But almost always, I become better as a result of the pushing.\r\n\r\n3. Be Responsible\r\n\r\nI’ve been using birth control for over 20 years now, and it makes me mad. We, as women, endure menstruation, pregnancy, and childbirth. And because of this, we are generally responsible for birth control. Why? Because if we don’t want to get pregnant, it’s on us. The buck stops here. Only we can truly be responsible for ensuring that we only get pregnant when we want to. And that’s frustrating– it would be easier to push it to the man, and say \”you deal with it\”. It’s the same thing as a CEO. Ultimately, the buck stops with you, and you’re responsible. As a woman, I must ensure that I’m protecting my body. As an entrepreneur, I must ensure that we have enough resources to execute on our promises that we make to our employees and customers. In both avenues, it is a good idea to think about protecting yourself– are you taking steps to ensure you have enough capital to run your business? Because at the end of the day– it comes back to you as a leader to solve that problem.\r\n\r\nYour body and its ability to move is one of the greatest gifts you’ll ever have. Your business and its ability to help you create the life you want is also one of the greatest gifts you’ll ever have. Cherish them both, be grateful for them both, and treat them well.

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