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When I look at public leadership, the view is dismal.

I’m reminded of it as I flip through Jay Cost’s essay in the Wall Street Journal, The Politics of Distrust (10/17/15). I am reminded of it as I watch politicians lobby for a vote. I watch, I listen, and I do a gut check:

Can I trust you?

I think about you and me. Our spheres of influence. Our everyday interactions with folks. Colleagues, clients, friends. Our laboratory for everyday leadership.

Can they trust us?

Let’s assume competence, for a moment. Let’s assume we honor our commitments.

Beyond the 2 c’s, it boils down to consistent behaviors that embody our character, doesn’t it? Behaviors that unambiguously signal that we can be trusted. These signals are transmitted in nanoseconds. The specific behaviors can be learned. They will, however, always inhibit trust the moment they become rehearsed.

Here are 4 of those signals. I think of them as Everyday Trust Builders.

  • You speak the truth.You have your own bullshit meter. You keep your own crap in check.  The platitudes. The easy responses. Yeah, they often sound good. And folks can tell when you’re on automatic pilot.When there are things you can’t divulge, you don’t pretend to be transparent. You acknowledge that there are things you can’t talk about. You stay real even when you have to be strategic. That is speaking your truth.
  • You shut up.You invite conversation. In conversation, you let others talk. You listen to the words they say. To the deeper meaning behind the words. You don’t fake-agree. You don’t fake-listen. You give evidence that you have listened AND understood. If you don’t understand, you ask for clarification. You engage with sincere curiosity.
  • You appreciate.You appreciate folks at every organizational level. The attendant in the parking garage. The receptionist. The new hire. The accountant who is retiring after 30 years of service. The Head of the Board. Your competitor.Your appreciation doesn’t hide in your thoughts, it is actively expressed. It is expressed not with clichés and platitudes. Your every word and action explicitly show that you have noticed, and that your appreciation is heartfelt.
  • You show up.That means you show up on time. Show up mentally prepared. Show up with heart and mind intact. Yes, you show up undiminished, as the whole person that you truly are, beyond the confines of your job function.

We don’t remember our Everyday Trust Builders only on a good day. We remember them on a tiring day, on a frustrating day, on the occasional day from hell.

Yes, every day.

The more we remember, the sweeter our interactions become.

The day from hell becomes a sweeter day from hell.

The shift happens nanosecond by nanosecond.

We just need to remember.

Trust follows.