“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently” Warren Buffett
In my last blog post, I talked about How to Clarify Your Personal Brand. And I made the key point that it’s the unique promise of value you want to make to the people who matter.
Having defined your personal brand, a key question is whether people see you the way you want them to. Is your reputation in line with the brand you wish to portray? Managing your personal brand and reputation relies on you building trust in everything you say and do. So, in this post, I want to focus on how to build trust through your personal brand.
When we think of trust and what it means, we realise it encompasses many things. We use the word “trust” to interpret what people say and to describe behaviours. We use it to decide if we’re comfortable sharing information, and to signal whether we believe other people have our interests at heart.
The Trust Equation
Charles H. Green has co-authored two books about how to build trust – The Trusted Advisor and Trust-Based Selling. In both books, he describes a model called ‘The Trust Equation, which he has built and evolved over many years. For the purposes of this post let’s not worry about the maths. Essentially, the concept is that there are four variables that contribute to trustworthiness. They are credibility, reliability, intimacy and self-orientation.
Credibility has to do with the words you say, your skills, your credentials and the way in which people experience you.
Reliability has to do with the actions you take, your predictability and the ways in which people can depend on you.
Intimacy refers to the safety or security that others feel when entrusting you with something. It’s the extent to which people feel they can confide in you and see you as discreet and empathetic.
Self-orientation refers to your focus. In particular, whether you focus mostly on yourself or on the other person. The more people feel you are focused on you rather than them, the less they trust you.
How to Build Trust
Unfortunately, you don’t have control over whether others trust you or not. But you can influence it by taking steps to make yourself more trustworthy. Most people put a premium on Credibility (credentials and skill mastery). But in reality, it is the least helpful variable in building trust. More skills training won’t build trusting relationships. Intimacy, on the other hand, can offer a good way forward for increasing trust in a relationship.
But the most important variable in the Trust Equation is Self-orientation. A person with low self-orientation is free to completely and honestly focus on the other person—not for his own sake, but for the sake of the other. Such a focus is rare; the truth is you develop better relationships when you stop trying to persuade people. When all your focus is on helping others, the more they trust you.
Online and Offline Interactions
These days our interactions come in many forms. There is the usual person-to-person experience that comes with working in an office, seeing people at meetings, and networking at events. But there’s also a host of online channels. So, if you want to develop your career beyond your current network and organisation, it’s important to think about these online opportunities.
Social media is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it fosters depersonalised, surface interactions that can erode trust. Yet the same breadth of interaction can promote your personal brand and build your reputation.
The lesson is not to avoid social media; you are nowhere in the future if you are not online. But beware of ‘best practices’ that are based on reach and volume.
The power of social media, for those willing to see it, lies in making the world more personal, not less. You do that by behaving in a trustworthy manner, online as everywhere else. Your reputation will rise in comparison to those that don’t do this.
Trust-based reputation—the only kind with staying power—comes from a consistent experience. If that experience is to be one of trust, then you need to focus on the other person. And you need to behave in ways that prove credibility, show reliability and develop intimacy.
Think of all the channels through which you interact online and offline. Reflect on ways you can influence the four key variables and build your trustworthiness.