Tech Manager—Being Trustworthy

I was in the Boy Scouts and loved it. I did not get to the highest ranks—I made First Class, but went no further. I was not an Eagle. I have fond memories of crafts and merit badges. Great stories about outings and campouts. I even went to a Jamboree. I remember observing and Order of the Arrow ceremonies. I recall learning the knots, how to properly handle a hatchet, how to wear my uniform in the right manner, and so much more. Anyone who was in the Scouts shares many of the same memories.

What has stayed with me the longest is the character building that happens through the scouting program. They not only work on skills and discipline, but also on building personal character.

The Scout Law: A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

That is the Scout Law. Those words are burned into my brain and I am still encouraged by them (and led by them). I still strive to be all that I can be (a military slogan). I still want to embody the things that scouting taught me.

I want to ponder the first trait in that list in this article—Trustworthy. You do not hear that term used much anymore. It seems so archaic. But it is so valued by every society on the planet. Being trustworthy is placed first in the Scout’s list and I think it is of premiere importance.

Why Be Trustworthy?

Steven Covey may have said it best in his book, The Speed of Trust:

“There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world – one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love.

On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life.  Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time.

That one thing is trust.”

Have you ever heard someone say, “Scout’s honor” when promising to do something? That is a common phrase use to invoke trust by others. The person is placing his or her honor on the line if the trust is broken.

In 1915, Arthur A. Carey wrote the following in a little book called The Scout Law in Practice: "A Scout's honor is to be trusted. If he were to violate his honor by telling a lie, or by cheating, or by not doing exactly a given task, when trusted on his honor to do so, he may be directed to hand over his scout badge."

When trust breaks down, all may be lost. Everything we do is based on trust. We trust that others will drive on the correct side of the road. We trust that the chair we sit on will carry our weight. Trust is our default mode. We only mistrust when we have a reason to be wary. We grant others trust that they will do what they say they will do. We need to prove that trust to others through consistent verification.

Building Trust

“If people like you, they'll listen to you, but if they trust you, they'll do business with you.” Zig Ziglar

Having trust at work is crucial to success. Those around you must know that they can trust you and you must invest in building trust. It cannot be demanded, it has to be earned and not lost. Usually people will grant you trust, but you have to secure what they have given to you by demonstrated behaviors that engender trust. Here are just a few areas to consider.

Be Honest

Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We typically do at least two of these all the time. But do you shave the completeness of your truth? Do you ever hold back the truth? I am not talking about just blurting out what an ugly dress she may be wearing, or what a stupid answer he just gave. We all hold those comments back to be polite. I am talking about telling people at work the whole story, including any mistakes you made along the way. If something does not work right, tell them what went wrong even if it means exposing a mistake you made. Most will pardon you for an occasional mistake.

Be Consistent

Oh, this one is tough. People trust those they can count on. And counting on someone is bolstered by them knowing how you will react. They know how you will react by watching your past behavior. If it is consistent, they can judge what you might do. If it is dependable, they can bank on it. If you are reliable, then they can trust you.

Keep Your Word

If you say you are going to do something, then make sure you do it. This is akin to being consistent, but is focused on aligning your actions to your words. What do you promise to do? What do you say you will not do? Keep your actions in line with your words. If you promise something by a deadline date, then deliver. If you say you will provide support, then give it. If you tell others you will not change your mind, then stick to your word. And if you cannot keep your word, then don’t give it.

Hold Confidence

The workplace has many conversations that are private, personal, or confidential. Some are related to personal family issues and should not be disclosed to others. If someone shares news with you (good or bad) make sure you do not pass it on without permission. It is their news, not yours. Some conversations are private and need to be held in confidence because they are not meant for wide audiences. Do not shout from the rooftop something that was shared in private.

Some discussions are confidential. They are management topics that impact the business and should not be widely spread throughout the firm. If you are a Tech Manager, you may hear rumblings about business disruption, impending downturns, client defections, contract disputes, or delays in project kickoffs. All of these are confidential until management shares them widely. You should keep a lid on this information. Leaders will notice that you can hold a confidence and will trust you with future discussions.

By focusing some effort on retaining or regaining trust, you can encourage others to rely on you and have confidence in your words. This will advance your career and increase your impact on your firm, friends, and family. When attacks come on your trustworthiness, you will “Be Prepared.” (I couldn’t resist one last Scout reference.)

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