We are now in the pre-election period, so called purdah, as the UK prepares to decide who will lead and populate its 56th parliament. All the familiar signs are there – daily policy announcements, breathless political reporting and a British public already worn down by the whole business.

And, of course, trust is back on the lips of the commentators. Every candidate wants to be trusted by the electorate but does ‘Trust me, I’m a politician’ invite anything more than a sneer in 2015? Indeed, is trust in many of the traditional authority figures truly bust? Bankers need not reply.

Let’s hope not because trust is the currency of successful human interaction and, to quote a banker (Nigel Gilbert, chief marketing and communications officer at TSB Bank), in the April issue of Marketing magazine: “Once the dust settles on this period (if it ever does), the ‘winners’ will be those who focus on building long-lasting relationships with customers, based on service, value and values”. In other words, however sophisticated our digitally enabled world becomes, we will still want to be with, to do business with and to be led by people we believe we know and can trust.

How do we gain and maintain trust? As a consultant in business relationship management, here are my top ten tips:

  1. Do what you say you’ll do. If you can rely on someone, you are already a long way down the road to trusting them. Delivering on an undertaking with observable behaviour is hugely more powerful than a positive attitude or fine words, however charming you are
  2. Be really clear. Politicians endlessly assert that they are ‘being perfectly clear’ when they are in fact ‘being partially clear’. Clarity comes without shadows and includes not only what you have done and plan to do but what you haven’t done and can’t do
  3. Never sacrifice your integrity. As is often said, ‘integrity isn’t important, it’s everything’. Be honest, sincere, consistent and true to yourself. Lack of integrity kills trust at a stroke
  4. Spend time in other people’s shoes. Do your homework. What makes them tick personally and professionally? What’s in their best interests as well as yours? Learn to subjugate your ego and see the world, from time to time, through the eyes of others
  5. Listen. As the late educator Stephen Covey wrote in his best-selling book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. Or, more colloquially, ‘Use your ears (two) in proportion to your mouth (one)’
  6. Tackle issues early. Unlike fine wine, issues do not improve with age. More often than not it is possible to navigate around an iceberg when it is out in the high seas, rarely so when you’re right on top of it. The chances are it won’t have melted
  7. Continually improve your knowledge and competence. Simply being cheery, honest and reliable is not enough to generate and sustain trust. Demonstrate your commitment to lifelong learning. Know your business, what you’re doing and take pride in it
  8. Be human. You can impress with your IQ but it’s also important to empathise with your EQ, your emotional intelligence.  Unleashing your emotions, even occasionally revealing flaws, can create rapport and the opportunity to establish common ground
  9. Small acts of kindness. This will not save you if you are screwing up on the big stuff but, assuming you’re not, a small, thoughtful, spontaneous gesture can punch well above its weight in demonstrating that you really are prioritising a relationship
  10. Give trust to receive trust. If you want to be trusted by someone, it helps if they believe that you trust them. Assume good intentions in others and, subject to proof to the contrary, you’ll be on the right, upward track. Distrust creates a downward spiral

So come on Cameron, Miliband, Clegg et al, break the mould, earn our trust and make this election special. You have five weeks, starting now. And if you need any help…