To help you foster strong relationships with stakeholders, we reached out to nine conscious business leaders for their best tips on building trust. From life coaches to CEOs, these experts share their insights, starting with the importance of honesty in communication and ending with cultivating self-trust and a mastery mindset.
- Maintain Honest Communication
- Engage and Show Stakeholders Action
- Build Trust with Transparency
- Practice Active Listening
- Seek to Understand
- Deliver on Small Promises
- Follow Powerful Steps
- Keep Consistency in Actions and Words
- Cultivate Self-Trust and a Mastery Mindset
Maintain Honest Communication
It is important that you are honest about how long a project may take to complete. Guessing can be frustrating if you must change your answer several times. If you tell people what they want to hear, they will regret that you did that if you must keep moving the date out again and again.
Document all the milestones that must be addressed for the project to be completed successfully. Always add some cushion to the timeline for unplanned issues that may occur. This approach will tell your stakeholders that you have thought of all the areas for the project to complete it successfully. Honest communication makes you a star, fudging dates makes you unreliable and a risk.
Engage and Show Stakeholders Action
Durable trust grows as you listen to stakeholders and visibly adopt what you learn.
Routinely find ways to engage by reading their letters, sending surveys, and meeting with them. Since you won’t implement every suggestion, frame your questions carefully to avoid setting false expectations.
Then close the loop by telling them what you heard and how you integrated their feedback. Don’t fear that some of your decisions will contradict their wishes; it fosters trust to acknowledge it and explain why. “I understand why some of you want X, but currently we need to prioritize this alternative direction for (outcome/reason).” This way they feel heard and respected, and more amenable to your direction.
In my consulting work, this cycle never fails to increase both trust and loyalty.
Patty Knap Tucker, Communications and Brand Strategist, Treehouse Counsel
Build Trust with Transparency
There are few better ways to build trust with your stakeholders than to let them see your motivations. People trust what they understand, so if they can’t know where you’re coming from, why should they trust you?
I wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to my business, both for my internal team and my external stakeholders, because trust is easy to come by when everyone knows exactly what you stand for.
Practice Active Listening
Listening is the first order of business to build trust. Active listening helps identify ways to add value to the relationship. Listen for values, priorities, challenges, and opportunities; then you’ll be able to deliver results that enforce credibility and build trust.
Seek to Understand
One of the best ways to build trust with stakeholders is to approach every interaction from a place of seeking to understand rather than seeking to be understood.
When you truly understand what your stakeholders’ needs are, what they value as a company, and what their goals and priorities are, then the nature of your conversations and dynamics shift.
You’ll find conversations flow more easily and that your stakeholders will begin to open up more. This is because they trust that you are a person who really listens to their needs and provides results that reflect that.
Deliver on Small Promises
One of the easiest and most effective things you can do is deliver on a small promise early in the stakeholder relationship. They may ask you something that you don’t know how to answer at that time, or that you have a resource for which isn’t available at that moment.
Promise to get back to them within a set time, make a note or calendar alert, and then follow through. Getting the relationship off to a solid start by delivering on an easy promise builds trust for bigger things later.
Follow Powerful Steps
As in any relationship, you want to make a good first impression. I follow these continuous steps to ensure that I build and earn trust from our stakeholders:
Listen – to their story.
Learn – about their journey and where they are on it.
Cultivate – a meaningful relationship by providing space for open and authentic conversation that leads to ideation.
Support – their journey with realistic ways that provide shared value.
Connect – in person, if and when the opportunity arises. There is something different about being able to converse in person versus over the phone or Zoom.
Keep Consistency in Actions and Words
Follow through on the commitments and promises made to your stakeholders. If you’ve agreed to send a stakeholder a briefing after a meeting or to email them twice a month, then make sure you do just that.
To foster trust, it’s not enough to simply say you’ll do something; your actions and words must be consistent with your promises.
Cultivate Self-Trust and a Mastery Mindset
Building trust with stakeholders starts with trusting yourself. When you start from the inside out and believe you have everything it takes to be successful, it will shine through as you work to create value in your work.
The best way to trust yourself is to approach situations with a mastery attitude rather than a performance orientation. A mastery mindset is about learning, growing, and getting better every day. This builds self-awareness and helps you find ways to add value and create a positive impact.
Listen to your own inner voice and take small action steps every day. Ask yourself, what is one thing I can do today to add value or create an impact? Over time, you will start to see the results, and others will as well. You will feel more confident in the leadership you bring to the world.