Trustworthy Talks: Building Confidence in Myself, My Work and The World 

By Phyllis Smith

Margot Bloomstein, author of Trustworthy, joined the March Women Inspiring Women (WIW) call to guide us in an exploration of trustworthiness as a concept. Her thesis around being trustworthy is defined by three terms: Voice, Volume and Vulnerability. She provided case studies of successful brands working in their spheres to create a culture of trust through what they say (Voice), how much they say and how they say it (Volume) and how the brand navigates transparency and fosters confidence (Vulnerability). As a group we shared our own takes on how we perceive trustworthiness when we make purchase decisions but also in our lives. We talked about experiences we have had both with brands we trust and those who which have let us down. Margot talked about how brands who have erred worked to regain consumers’ confidence. Loss of confidence can cause cynicism which we all agreed is too common right now. The discussion on the WIW call inspired me to consider how I can demonstrate trustworthiness in my day-to-day life. 

As I am navigating my search for a new livelihood and a new way of earning money, I am finding that I need to define myself clearly and succinctly. I imagine myself crafting the classic elevator pitch. Why would you want to work with me? You don’t know me but here goes. We have about 2 minutes as we travel between the lobby and our designated floor. A commentary similar to the elevator pitch comes into use when I navigate the impersonal world of online job searching. I try to look at the image I present as I send my application to some ethereal inbox. What about the tone I use, the exact words I use, the tone of the content, the personality I am projecting, would make you, as the recipient of these impressions, want to engage with me? How can I inspire trust with my efforts? If you are hiring me or adding me to your volunteer roster, you will want to know if I am trustworthy. Just like when you make any other purchasing decision, your dollar or the time you spend on me should be valued.  

Language matters

Trustworthiness comes across when you define who you are clearly and honestly. I would describe myself as funny, intelligent and calm. Margot calls the words a brand uses its Voice. I think about the words I use as I build out the bullets in my resume. Can I convey a sense that I collaborated with my team rather than simply told them what to do and then micromanaged the outcome? What words can I choose to make an impression that I am timely and considerate when I meet deadlines? For new roles outside of the typical listings on my resume, I model the content of my query to match the job description so that it does not seem like I would use the job as a stepping stone to something else.  

Working hard or hardly working

As a software engineer, I found it easy to work from home. My team was all remote; I had a fast internet connection and not too many distractions in my house. I had good discipline and didn’t do a lot of extracurricular activities during the day—like napping! I found that being available, especially during core business hours, to respond to an IM or jump into a meeting at short notice, made my colleagues and my managers trust me more. My online status in Slack meant that I was actually there to respond and if I wasn’t it meant I would be back soon. This is the element of consistency. It is sort of theit’s 10AM. Do you know where Phyllis is?” A sense of stability and reliability are qualities we look for in the brands we engage with and want to spend time with. I strive to establish that same reliability in my work so as to build trust in me for my team. How you demonstrate your brand to the world represents the Volume Margot referenced on the call. 

Building a culture of trust

When I would join a new team, I would want to demonstrate my trustworthiness. I would start by having each interaction—say our first team meeting—have a clear agenda, with durations for each item and actionable outcomes. If I took on an action item from the meeting, I would make sure to close it out as quickly and efficiently as I could. This embodies my principle of “Do what you say you are going to do.” 

The inverse of this is when I would take on an action item and then either be unable to complete it or encounter a delay. The key to this situation to build trustworthiness is to own up to the fact that my action item needs a new due date or a workaround. Margot called this trait Vulnerability—the ability to admit to making a mistake. I would also add to this the ability to admit where I needed help. In my career, I have become very good at saying, “I don’t know, but I can find out.” And “I can do that but I will need help from someone who has knowledge about this particular topic.” Margot reminded us that being vulnerable is the cost of being transparent. When I say I am going to do something and am unable to do it, I have to admit it with honesty. Being honest and having integrity firmly establishes that I am someone you can trust. 

The five ways I am going to make my own personal brand more trustworthy

As an outcome of this latest WIW call, I developed my answer to the question: How do I demonstrate that I am trustworthy: 

  • Do what I say I am going to do – when I sign up to do something, even within my volunteer roles, make sure I complete the task on time and with high quality. 
  • Demonstrate consistency – figure out who I want to be in the world and stay the course. 
  • Act with integrity – be honest in my interactions. 
  • Be human and be vulnerable – do not be afraid to admit I made a mistake and own up to not understanding something. 
  • Build and empower my community – work within my communities to inspire trust and build up trustworthiness in others. Give back to my world through keeping up an honest and reliable outlook 

There is a saying that trust is earned but what I learned from the latest call of the WIW Series was that trust has to be consciously built and demonstrated. Being trustworthy is a personal goal and also something I want to encourage in others as we navigate this complex world.  

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