In the ongoing book summary of Integrity by Henry Cloud he lists six characteristics essential to being a person of character, that is, to be able to meet the demands of reality. The first of these traits is the ability to establish trust. He names three ways that we can do this:

a) Build Trust Through Connection

Trust is built when people feel that you have a genuine interest in knowing them, knowing about them, and believing that what they know matters. People know when you are detached versus when you are connected, that is, invested in them.

When you truly connect with people you release an energy that fuels drive, passion and accomplishment. What builds connection is entering into another person’s reality, validating it and treating it with respect — in a word, empathy.

Empathy is the ability to enter into another person’s experience and connect with it in such a way that you actually experience it in some degree. Empathy is possible when:

· You are in touch with your own feeling capacities.

· You have good boundaries — you realize that this is their experience and not yours.

· You listen in a way that communicates understanding.

To empathize and validate what someone is experiencing doesn’t mean you agree or think the person is right. You are accepting that this is true for that person.

One way to understand a different perspective when there is conflict is to describe a day in the life of… or what it is like when…

b) Build Trust Through Extending Favour

There is a level of trust that goes beyond just meeting the letter of the law. It is a kind of trust that looks out for your interests as well as their own. This is without falling into the trap of being patronizing.

When two parties let down their guard with each other the result is openness and willingness to take risks. They learn from each other and create leverage for and with each other.

People’s ability to trust and be trustworthy can be divided into three categories:

1. Paranoid — don’t see trust as an option. Their attitude is “I’ll get screwed in the end,” and “No good turn goes unpunished.”

They feel easily threatened and so at the slightest hint of things not going well they bring out the heavy artillery.

You are not safe as even when things are going well it could turn nasty very quickly.

2. Desire trust and good relationships and treat people well as long as they are being treated well. These people give as long as they are receiving and things are mutual.

They work on the principle, “You treat me well and I will treat you well.”

The problem is we inevitably don’t do everything we’re supposed to do as and how we should. Knowing that one mistake or error in judgment or wrong step means trust is destroyed, puts us into a state of fear and self-protection.

3. True trust is not dependent on the other but is integral to who that person is.

With these people there is no fear. If I mess up you will be there for me. You are going to do well by me even if I am not watching.

This doesn’t mean that my failures or poor performance are not addressed. But even then you will have my interests in mind. So I trust you will help me through.

People of grace leave others better off than how they found them. They help people reach the standard required. Leaders without grace set the demand and do nothing to help people meet it.

c) Build Trust Through Vulnerability

Cloud says, “For trust to work, there is a tricky power component.” That is, we don’t trust weak, incompetent leaders but in those that are strong we have to see some crack in their armour so that we feel the other person is real.

Not enough power and we can’t entrust things of value to this person. Too much power and we can’t feel that they could ever understand or relate to our own vulnerability.

When people display this balance of strength and vulnerability they transfer to others a sense of courage. Through their words and actions they convey that life is tough; they too have struggled and failed, but they keep going, persevering, overcoming and succeeding. They provide a model strong enough to depend on but vulnerable enough to identify with.

The characteristics of the kind of person who builds this kind of trust are:

1. They possess strength, that is, competent performance rather than dominance.

2. They possess ‘likeness’ to the ones following them, that is, people can identify with them.

3. They are warm, that is, they are approachable, positive and kind.

4. They are imperfect, coping models rather than perfect, that is, they don’t always get it right, but they face difficulties head on, deal with them and overcome them.

Being vulnerable does not mean that the leader depends on their team for support in a needy kind of way. That must come from elsewhere.

Engendering trust and being trustworthy is core to integrity. I will come back to the other five characteristics in the next article or two.