Strong leaders aren’t naïve. They know when to put their trust in others—and when to back away.
Deciding whether to trust an employee, contractor or partner, start from a position of unbiased clarity and don’t rely on one’s sterling reputation. An individual with a history of fair, honest dealings won’t always act in a fair, honest manner.
Research shows that 90% of people—most of whom view themselves as morally upstanding—will compromise their morals by acting dishonestly if they think they won’t get caught. To lay the groundwork for trusting business relationships:
• Show generosity. Before you decide to trust someone, give that person a reason to feel grateful to you. For example, help solve a problem or make a small sacrifice that produces some benefit.
Instilling a feeling of gratitude in someone increases the odds that you’ll establish two-way trust. It’s harder for a grateful recipient of your generosity to betray you.
• Highlight similarities. When we think we’re similar to someone else, we tend to feel a stronger positive connection. And that makes us less likely to act in an untrustworthy manner.
Look for opportunities to showcase how you’re similar to your counterpart. Emphasize shared interests and common experiences..
• Avoid punishments. Signaling that you’ll punish someone for acting a certain way is actually counterproductive.
Threats of punishment leave others feeling less cooperative. If they sense that you’ll reprimand them for any infraction, they may quietly turn against you.
— Adapted from “Who Can You Trust?,” David DeSteno, Harvard Business Review.