3 questions with FBI's Robin Dreeke: How to build trust and rapport with anyone

Robin Dreeke is a counterintelligence expert who spent decades as a senior FBI agent. Here's what he had to say about building trust in relationships.

Anna Jasinski

Anna Jasinski was a content marketing strategist at WSB. ...

Robin Dreeke wasn't born a natural leader. But, throughout his life and career, he was placed in situations where he had to choose to lead.

Dreeke is a counterintelligence expert who spent decades as a senior FBI agent, working in behavioral analysis and the recruitment (and thwarting off) of spies.

In his line of work, he's learned a thing or two about building trust. He even wrote a book about it.

"I’ve had to think not only in terms of convincing someone to do something, but inspiring them to want to do it," he says. "Luckily for me, I was surrounded by some great Jedi masters of interpersonal communication and leadership." 

We spoke with Dreeke about his book, The Code of Trust. Here's what he had to say about leading and succeeding by fostering healthy relationships — without deception.

1. Tell us about your book, The Code of Trust. What sparked the idea and techniques involved?

The book came about from the editor of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. Back in 2013, he asked me to write an article on counterintelligence for the magazine. I decided to write on what I actually do when I conduct a behavioral assessment on counterintelligence cases. It was truly the first time I took an objective step back and examined what I do. I realized very quickly that all I was ever doing was strategizing trust.

The 30-second elevator pitch is simple. It's not about how you make people feel about you  it's how you make them feel about themselves. Human beings crave affiliation, and to be valued by others. It's part of our ancient tribal drive for survival to want to belong to meaningful groups and organizations.

The techniques are constantly being honed. And what they currently are, I live everyday, and not just for myself. I share these strategies with all my friends, family, colleagues  anyone who is open and desiring of establishing open honest communication, healthy relationships built on trust, and making themselves an available resource for the prosperity of others without expectation of reciprocity. 

See below for a video with Dreeke that covers all steps in his Code of Trust.

2. What's the biggest mistake people make in trying to build trust at work and at home?

Trying to build trust with anyone at home or at work, while hoping to achieve something personally. It will collapse at some point.

This is really simple to state, but a much greater challenge to pursue. The key in leadership, and in healthy relationships, is to be a resource for the prosperity of those you lead, serve, and support  without expectation of what they can do for you. People are smart. If they start detecting a selfish reason (or ego-driven reason) for the actions you are taking, seemingly on their behalf, they will immediately become skeptical of you, question your motives, dub you a manipulator — and you are done.

Living the Code of Trust is very powerful. It fosters deep, trusting, healthy relationships that do indeed bring about amazing results. But let go of your expectations of those and focus on serving others. The rest will come if it's meant to.

3. How has your experience in the FBI, and working with spies, informed your approach to leadership?

It's made me hyper-aware that titles and position mean little-to-nothing to another person. Someone will more readily follow and trust you based on how you treat them, rather than your rank and title. Make it all about them, speak in terms of their priorities, be a resource for those priorities  and their actions become very predictable.

Connect directly with Robin Dreeke here for your next event. And stay tuned for his next book, coming in 2019. 

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