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MANAGEMENT TOOLS Five Rules for Building Trusted Relationships

Strong work relationships are built on trust. Here's how to cultivate it within your team.


1014-Cover.jpgAlthough rarely taught in business school, the tactics for building trust and mutual respect are required for economic success. If you want to grow your career, keep your job, or successfully manage people, follow these five basic rules to build trusted relationships.

Rule #1:Speak last.

When you meet people, don’t start the conversation by talking about yourself. Always ask others about themselves and their work first. It’s easy to babble on about what you do, who you are, and what you want. This immediately sends a message that the meeting you’re having is all about you. Trust requires getting to know the other person and showing him that you believe he is important, so ask him about himself first. Get his story before you share your own. (By the way, you will also have the advantage of making a stronger connection once you know more about him.)

Rule #2:Get an A+ in listening.

Most people consider speaking the most important communication tool, but that’s not true when it comes to building trust. Listening is #1, and most people fail at it. Active listening means giving 100 percent of your attention to the person talking. That means no interrupting and no jumping in to share your opinion or common experience. Give the other person the stage until she’s had her say. When you listen carefully to her, you will be able to engage her in authentic conversation. Follow-up by asking her questions that help you to understand her vision and goals. Nothing builds trust faster than showing this kind of respect.

Rule #3:Only have eyes for them.

Don’t let technology or other people interrupt your conversation. Do you glance at your phone or your watch at meetings? Do you take a call, respond to a text or jump up to talk to a colleague? If you do, you have broken the cardinal rule of trust-building. You have communicated that other things are more important than the person you are talking to. That’s sure to put the kibosh on present or future opportunities.

Rule # 4:Offer to help.

While you are listening, stop thinking about how you are going to impress the person you’re talking to with your next response. Instead, consider who you might know who could help him achieve his goals. While your mind is silently going through your mental contact list, consider whether that person would also welcome such an introduction. If the answer is ”‘yes,” then you have an opportunity to connect two people who may benefit from knowing each other. Connections and collaborations make the world go round! That’s how people and companies reach their goals. Doing it for others builds trust between them and you.

Rule #5:Just do it.

Follow Nike’s advice and just do it. When you suggest a connection or introduction or offer to support people in some way, be sure you follow-through on your promise and do it soon. Always do what you say you are going to do. That’s called accountability. If you can’t get to it right away because you are too busy, then let the person know what the hold up is. Remember to get back in touch to inform him or her when you are taking action. Accountability is one of the most valued traits of leaders and having it is a critical step in building trust.

Leslie Grossman is the chair of Vistage International and author of LINK OUT: How to Turn Your Network into a Chain of Lasting Connections (Wiley, 2013). She can be reached at and


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