Which Comes First, Credibility or Trust?

When it comes to being an effective Project Manager, one of your greatest assets in leading your project teams is trust. People must trust you if they are going to commit to you as their leader, and subsequently to your project and its goals.

When trust is present, we gain an indispensable ally in our quest to create successful, sustainable project teams. If your team doesn’t trust you (or each other), then your chances for a successful outcome are next to nil. Trust is essential to productivity.

“You can have all the facts and figures, all the supporting evidence, all the endorsement that you want, but if you don’t command trust, you won’t get anywhere.” – Naill Fitzgerald, Former Chairman, Unilever

I think many times in speaking about trust, we tend to use the word interchangeably with others such as integrity, credibility, and honesty. Even though they are related, they are not necessarily the same thing, and I’m not just talking about the Webster’s Dictionary definitions.

But which one comes first?

Trust? Credibility? Integrity? And how do we know? It can be a tricky question, and ultimately there are many different ways to answer it. I have my own opinions on it, of course, and I’m going to share them here.

If trust is built over time, then it requires us to act consistently with our stated beliefs about who we are and how we work. That is integrity. And consistency can only be displayed over an extended period of time.

Integrity requires consistency. Say what you do, and do what you say, even when no one is watching.

Consistency builds credibility. I’ll believe you, when you consistently show me. You have credibility with me.

Credibility builds trust. I’ve seen you’re a person of your word. I trust you.

And believe me, people are watching…

“The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything he does becomes tainted.” – Mahatma Ghandi

So, why is it so hard to gain trust?

A disturbing trend: trust in organizations in on a steady decline. Of course, with the current economic challenges being faced, people are being asked to do more with less, and even then their jobs are not secure.

In his bestselling book, “The Speed of Trust,” Stephen M.R. Covey points to some rather disturbing trends when it comes to trust:

  • Only 51% of employees have trust and confidence in their senior management
  • Only 36% of employees believe their leaders act with honesty and integrity
  • The number one reason people leave their jobs is a bad relationship with their boss

Let’s look at another possible reason.

Do you trust yourself? You may be thinking, “What kind of question is that?” Think about it for just a moment. Have you ever set a goal or made a promise to yourself that you later didn’t keep?

If you have difficulty acting with integrity toward yourself, which leads to eroding personal trust, how can you trust someone else who almost certainly doesn’t have your best interests at heart?

Begin with small, repeatable steps.

If you want to build trust (or in some cases, restore it) there are ways to do it. Begin by creating consistency in your interactions – with peers, coworkers, team members, and yourself.

Consistency in your words and actions will establish you as a person of integrity. Being a person of integrity and credibility will allow you to establish trust. And that, my friends, is going to help lead you and your teams to higher productivity and greater success.

What comes first? In the end, it doesn’t really matter, as long as you are working toward creating an atmosphere of trust.


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