Trust: Defined as “a firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something” or “the acceptance of the truth of a statement without evidence or investigation”.
Trust is an evocative subject that conjures a lot of emotions, both positive and negative, about the work environment, colleagues and management. Cited in the top 5% of importance for a Senior PA or Executive Assistant in seeking a new role is to find ‘a boss who trusts me’ [evidenced from our own candidate data]. Yet trust is something that is not freely given in many places. It has to be earned, yet you must first decide if you are willing to give it before anyone can earn it from you. A paradox that fails many a successful businessperson.
We all know and understand that trust is fundamental to a successful relationship, whether that is personally, professionally or commercially rooted.
How trust is sought and gained often says more about the person doing (or not doing) the ‘trusting’ rather than the person being ‘trusted. Micromanagers encroach, for example, on areas of responsibility that are yours to make decisions, to manage and to achieve. In doing so they demonstrate a lack of trust in you.
Often this is due to their own shortcomings or lack of self-confidence; they may not be particularly competent in an area and so assume others to share their failing, or worse, believe themselves to be the only person who can do something to a good enough standard. Often they appear spread thinly, have chaotic desks and a hoppy-approach to tasks, parachuting in and meddling in a task before you’ve finished… how frustrating!
How many of us can recount experiences of working with someone like that I wonder! So, how can you build trust and persuade the unpersuadable that you are to be confidently relied upon?
Building trust requires two very basic components:
a) a person willing to trust
b) a person willing to prove they can be trusted
When one of these is lacking you must explore the other aspects open to you in order to get them to a place where they are willing to trust. Essentially making them believe you are trustworthy first.
In any role, but especially a PA role, this is built through consistency, detail and results. You may have put together the most fantastically whizzy PowerPoint presentation, but the real thought that goes into making sure your boss has the quiet room furthest from the elevator, seat 2A on the flight, a car ready and waiting at the airport with the number plate and driver’s mug shot on the itinerary… all of these things reduce anxiety and smooth the path for someone who is concentrating on other things and for whom these details are stressful and unnecessary distractions. By no means a definitive list, or absolute science, but you get the gist!
The little things build the trust.
Sometimes you can really do everything right but the lack of trust remains. Here you need to explore further to find out why. Perhaps a bad experience of being let down by a past PA? Perhaps a fear of letting their own boss down?… Their company failing?… That if they don’t do it, it won’t be done… Whatever it is that prevents someone from giving trust, holds them and their business back considerably. If you can find out why the trust just isn’t there, chances are you can change it.
Through talking to PAs who have successfully got through this, the key has of course been communication.
a) Regular meetings, phone or face to face, with key agenda points communicated, updated and progress shown. Proof of why you can be trusted.
b) Collaborating with colleagues on tasks to give yourself confidence that you are doing things right. This in turn is relayed to your boss providing social proof from others that you can be trusted.
c) Identifying the triggers – do they have particular niggles, no matter how insignificant they may sound to you, these same things may resonate strongly with your boss – recognising them will really help.
d) Sometimes it is key to realise that it is not you, it’s just how they are. While you can go a long way to building trust you can’t force them to trust you against their will!
Trust is important, how successful can you be without it?
Till next time,