By Magda Voigt, ICF Coach
Trust: the ultimate root and source of our influence. Being influential is not only critical to leaders and managers, but to all of us, as we all interact with others. How can we be then perceived as trustworthy?
When we interact with others we want to know if other people pose a threat to us. We (mostly unconsciously!) ask ourselves these questions:
So, where do people who interact with you find answers to these questions?
They are highly tuned into two particular aspects of your character: your warmth and your competence.
According to Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy perceptions of warmth and competence are responsible for roughly 90% of whether you are perceived positively or negatively by others. So, the importance of learning to project warmth and competence - to come across as a valuable ally - cannot be overstated.
When people try to appear warm, they often do things like give compliments, perform favours, and show an interest in people’s thoughts and feelings. They try to display qualities like kindness,sincerity, empathy, and friendliness.
How can you project warmth?
Being able - through your skills and abilities - to act on your intentions is a key component of trust. Allies are only valuable when they can be trusted to be effective.
Much of the advice you hear about projecting competence is fairly obvious: highlight your accomplishments and experience, be self-assured, avoid defensiveness. And again, make eye contact.
Here are a few less obvious, but no less important, strategies you should be using to get your effectiveness across and be more trusted and influential.
You may notice that the patterns of behaviours we associate with warmth and competence often contradict one another. If you appear too warm, people may question your competence - and if you appear too competent, people may assume you are cold.
Moral character, rather than overall warmth, is really the best predictor of whether someone will act on his or her good intentions, and therefore is the better indicator of whom to trust.
You can project your good intentions and navigate the dangers of the trust lens by being someone the perceiver can always count on to do the right thing. After all, this is ultimately what trust is actually about.
Trust is obviously essential to good leadership. The problem, however, is that most people see leadership as being first and foremost about competence. Warmth is an afterthought.
So, are you a leader who projects warmth first - a leader whose top priority is making sure your team members feel they can trust you? If you suspect the answer might be no, start working on your warmth, because you will never be trusted without it.
Heidi Grant- Halvorson, No One Understands You and What to Do About It, Harvard Business Review Press (2015)
Amy J.C. Cuddy, Matthew Kohut, and John Neffinger, “Connect, Then Lead”, Harvard Business Review Magazine (July-August 2013)