Coach's Corner

Building Trust

Developing Trust: A look into building relationships through introspection.

Trust – assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.

How do you develop trust? Think through all your relationships – be they romantic, professional, friendships, or business-focused, all of them require a particular type of trust to flourish. The catch to building trust is that you can establish it through specific dynamics. As you read through this article, consider what helps you deepen trust with anyone and think through how that same person may have a different way of fortifying it with you. We may all use the same word, but that doesn’t mean we define it the same way.

Trust starts with the desire to build a relationship. Professionally speaking, you develop trust with coworkers because of shared experiences and alignment of values. Trust tends to falter in the workplace when communication or information becomes misrepresented. In client-focused industries such as law, relationships between a legal team and a client develop through similar methods: shared experiences and the alignment of goals. Simply put, the two groups each share the same desired outcome, so they are automatically united in wanting to build trust with one another. The break in the relationship often comes from a misunderstanding of why both groups are looking to achieve the same goal. Generally, the “why” for each side is different. The desire for success on a server’s side is founded on the desire to achieve financial growth, recognition, or some form of promotional value. The client’s “why” is often focused on defeating a difficulty and overcoming a dilemma (mitigation). Both want to win, but each has a unique perspective on why winning is important.

The goal of establishing a more profound professional trust starts with an alignment and understanding, not of the vision for success, but of why success is essential. Consider any time you’ve had to communicate something to a client and noticed a lack of reply or enthusiasm for your communication. While this might seem frustrating and sometimes hurtful, try to take a step back and examine if you have established trust with this client. You might want to say yes automatically, but just like romantic relationships, building trust takes different times for each participant in that relationship. So how do you establish when you have built trust with a client? Simple. Ask yourself the following questions:

Why does my client want to achieve our collective goal?

The trick to this question is to avoid assuming. Do not allow yourself to claim you know this answer. Odds are, you don’t know the answer because you don’t know what your client needs to achieve professional success. What expectations do they have? What quotas/goals might they need to accomplish? What do they consider a good professionally appropriate and connected outcome?

How can I provide a product for my client that addresses their why along with their needs?

Pushing forward that appeal might feel like exactly what your client wants to see in a case. It gives you a chance to show conviction, looks good to your bosses, and helps the client understand that you won’t give up. Have you considered that the time the appeal will take might not align with your client’s goals for closing out a case? This isn’t to say you shouldn’t file appeals, but rather, think deeper at its intention. Again, the principal purpose of this question is not to assume. You can only connect to the client’s professional needs when you truly know what they are.

Have I maintained and shown integrity throughout every conversation?

This is another one of those questions that you might instantly want to respond with “yes.” Once again, take a step back and think through your calls, e-mails, and actions. Are you taking actions because they’re simply the next steps, or are you connecting to strategy and building into the vision of success you both have established? Expressing deeper meaning to why you are taking actions and the outcomes you are strategizing to achieve helps show integrity and connection. Communication isn’t just conveying information; it’s also bridging it to the goals of those you serve to help.

These three questions are also carriers for every type of relationship. Each express one of the tenements of trust: Alignment, Connection, and Communication. The more you align, connect, and communicate with those you want to build a relationship, the deeper trust is forged. All of these virtues go far beyond surface-level actions, though – they each require the understanding that two sides build unified success, not just one.

Leaders often attempt to build trust through seven different methods as well:

  1. Sharing the mission, vision, and values overall and for every project.
  2. Encouraging vulnerability to help strengthen perceived weaknesses.
  3. Empowering individuals to help show their impact towards the mission, vision, and values.
  4. Maintaining fairness and integrity to show positive intent.
  5. Fostering relationships so that professional bonds can be nourished.
  6. Recognizing work done well and with proper alignment/intention.
  7. Engaging so that “I” isn’t the norm and instead replaced with “we.”

As in the questions above, these seven concepts for building trust in leadership come down to alignment, connection, and communication. Consider these same seven principles in any relationship you may want to grow. Following the same leadership mindset along with asking the same three questions will likely build a deeper trust with whoever you are working with to find growth.

Trust takes time, but it is never a one-way street. All relationships require it. On a professional level, and in all industries, particularly law, trust requires stepping back and removing assumptions. Only when you are willing to take a clean look through the eyes of the other can you find ways to build together.

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