Chapter 5

Five Trust Skills

There are five skills of trustworthiness that underpin everyday actions: the abilities to listen, partner, improvise, risk, and know yourself. They improve with focus and practice, and yield greater rewards as you get better at them; over time, they become natural and instinctive behaviors. We refer back to these skills in the specific strategies and best practices for leading with trust throughout the rest of this book.

Aristotle suggested that excellence is but a habit. He meant that excellence is not something we are born with, or inherit, or are given. Excellence consists in doing the excellent thing time after time, until it becomes ingrained in your behavior. And then people call you excellent.

Trust skills, likewise, are not fixed at birth, though your upbringing may have had some influence. And they are not fixed later in life: you can improve at them—or choose not to. Leading with trust is largely a matter of doing the trustworthy thing time after time, until it becomes ingrained in your behavior, at which point people consider you a trusted advisor. See Figure 5.1.

The five trust skills share several characteristics:

  • They can appear elementary. You might dismiss them as being too apparent to merit your attention. (“I’ve been in sales for twenty years—I know how to listen by now!”) Breathing is basic too, but we shouldn’t take it for granted.
  • You can practice them, and you should, over and over. They are what scales are to a concert pianist. ...

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