How Trustable are You?

Trust is not something we tend to think about consciously on a daily basis but it doesn’t take much to bring it to the forefront of our mind and notice how often we unconsciously rate the trustability of others. So much so that I’m sure if we wanted to we could rate almost anyone in our lives on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of trustability.

“I’ll call you tomorrow.” How many times have you heard someone say that, or something similar to that, only to be let down the following day with no call? And it’s not only about phone calls but endless other commitments made by others which all too often are not fulfilled.

With some people, in time, I have just learned to either ignore or completely discount such promises, but it never fails to upset me in a new relationship when a promise like that is broken. It’s not always the beginning of a relationship with little or no trust, but often it is. Throw in showing up late to meetings and missing deadlines and someone’s “trustability” factor is soon at the low end of the scale. A trust rating is a function of the ratio of broken commitments/promises to fulfilled promises over time.

The other side of trustability is to what degree one trusts his or her own self. And once again, if you are honest with yourself, you can rate your self-trust on a scale of 1 to 10. Chances are, the rating others would give you is probably in line with the rating you would give yourself, assuming you can do so honestly. Because if you are not fulfilling commitments to others you are likely not coming through with promises to yourself.

“I will work out tomorrow” is a common broken promise, and although you haven’t broken a promise to anyone other than yourself, you have most certainly negatively impacted your self-trust. And with low self-trust there is no expectation that next time around it will be any different, just like the friend or colleague who is always late to an appointment.

The most successful people I’ve known and worked for over the years, millionaires and billionaires alike, have without fail been people to whom I would assign very high trust ratings. They show up to meetings on time (or give sufficient notice of being late), pay their bills and employees on time, and make good on even the smallest of seemingly “throw away” commitments.

Years ago, the big-boss from HQ was visiting my office in Kazakhstan and we took my staff out for dinner followed by some late-night dancing and drinks. After more than a few rounds and a fun evening, when it came time to settle the bill my boss was a bit short on cash and asked if he could borrow $100. I gave him the cash assuming he’d be too busy or too distracted with other much more important things to bother with paying me back, especially as I was a relatively well-paid manager. That, or he would simply not remember, in spite of the implicit promise he gave to repay the $100. So I was more than a little surprised when, a few weeks later through inter-company mail, I received a small envelope with a $100 bill inside, and a small personal note of thanks for helping him to settle the bill that night at the bar.

I now know that fulfilling commitments, even small ones, is part of his character and, I firmly believe, is a key part of what helped him succeed in business over the years. He sets out to achieve something and then fulfills commitments, to himself and to others.

LinkedIn allows members to add “skills” to their profiles and then their connections can endorse them for having those skills. The endorsements are not anonymous and, at least in my own experience, many of the endorsements given are from friends, current or former employees, or those trying, even in some small way, to curry favor (I’ve been guilty of that I must admit). These factors probably mean the endorsements should be taken with a grain of salt, but the skills listed do serve to paint a picture of the kind of person someone wants to be shown as.

I have not updated my skills in years, nor do I remember giving any substantive thought to the kind of skills I wanted to showcase to the world but as part of writing this piece I’ve now had a closer look. Interestlngly, my supposed “top skill” is Mergers & Acquisitions, and while I’ve had some exposure to a few deals over the years, I would never consider myself to be an M&A expert. When I looked further through my list of skills, pretty much every “skill” listed was something to do with accounting or investing. Not surprising given my career to date, but is there not a way for me to be endorsed for being more than a capable bean-counter?

So for the first time in years I decided to update my skills profile and have added “Trust” as a top skill. I will see how many endorsements I get for that, but in the meantime I guess I will continue to be seen on LinkedIn as a self-declared and well-endorsed M&A guru.

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