Leadership Skills: The 3 Keys to a Trustworthy Reputation

In my last post I wrote about the only two ways trust goes wrong. So how do you know if you have a trustworthy reputation?

I — and participants in our leadership development programs — have found these three questions to be a simple, straight-forward test we can apply to our behavior if we want to be trustworthy in the eyes of another:

  • Do I tell the truth (my authentic truth)?

  • Do I keep my agreements (yes, even the small ones)?
  • Do I stand by others under pressure (or do I defect on colleagues in need)?

The Importance of Telling the Truth

What is it about truthfulness? Why do we not trust somebody when we suspect they’re not telling us the truth?

Seems obvious, but let’s break it down. Here’s my simple analysis: The reason we don’t trust someone we think is not truthful is that they must have good reason to mislead us! So if they were telling us their authentic truth (“Hey, I’m planning to take advantage of you and leave you holding the bag”), we very likely would choose not to work or socialize with them!

That’s why I don’t trust someone I think isn’t telling the truth. They’ve got some good reason, and that good reason is called keeping me engaged so they can take advantage of me.

The Importance of Keeping Agreements

Trust can also be called confidence. We don’t have confidence in a person who doesn’t keep agreements. We realize they are not able to do what they say they will do.

One of the things I look for is someone’s ability to predict their own behavior into the future. When they say “I will do that tomorrow” I mark their words. If they follow through I notice. And if they do not follow through I notice that too.

When you make an agreement, that’s a brand new thing that didn’t exist before, and you’re actually creating it out of thin air. Are you able to predict your own ability to follow through and keep that agreement, or are you going to forget about it or blow it off when something better comes along?

Or when life happens and keeps you from keeping that agreement, are you willing to own that and clean it up?

The Importance of Standing by Others Under Pressure

This is about integrity. One of my rules is that once I lend my loyalty and support to somebody, I never withdraw it. I may end up disagreeing with that person and get in their face about who they’re being, but that’s maintaining my support and loyalty, not withdrawing it.

So if a colleague is in trouble, I never defect on them. Instead I move closer to support them in their time of need.

Get Started With These Tips

Of the three tests, on which one do you most want to improve for a more trustworthy reputation? Vow to yourself to improve just 1% per day to be

  • more truthful and authentic,
  • better at making and keeping agreements, and/or
  • being there for colleagues under pressure.

When you fail any of these tests, forgive yourself for being human, pick yourself up, and renew your 1% improvement vow. You will have a rock solid reputation in short order.

Keeping these simple tips in mind will help you have a trustworthy reputation. What additional thoughts do you have? Share them in a comment.


Attention CXO’s and supporting partners — Do you seek proven exceptional solutions for leadership development and culture-shaping? See Partnerwerks approach to sustainable change with measurable results enterprise-wide.

Christopher Avery, PhD, CEO, Partnerwerks Inc., is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

Posted in Leadership, Responsibility on 05/12/2014 02:49 pm
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