The Trust Factor: Can You Really Measure It?

Building Trust Model Illustration DesignIf you’re a leader working in any organization you know how fragile trust can be, and how essential it is for getting others to fully engage to give their best work. Can you actually measure your trustworthiness? And, more important, what specific actions can you take to improve how trustworthy you are?

Trust is the foundation for executive presence. Earlier this week I shared with you the Trust Equation, from the book The Trusted Advisor by Maister, Green and Galford (New York: First Touchstone, 2000.)

Trust = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy

How do we define these components that contribute to trust? If we can fully understand what makes us more trustworthy, we can make sure we take certain actions and articulate each component. The equation works by assigning a score, on a scale of 1 to 10, regarding a particular relationship.

The Trust Factors

1. Credibility: This is the realm of words. Most of us have it. It’s our expertise and presentation of our knowledge. When we study facts and do analytical research, we’re building up our credibility.

2. Reliability: This is the realm of actions. Do we do what we promise we’ll do? Do we deliver what we say we intend? Reliability is built over time but can be destroyed in a second.

3. Intimacy: This is the realm of emotions. While credibility and reliability are predictable, intimacy in the workplace can be tricky. While it’s easy to feel comfortable keeping a safe professional distance in our interactions, the person who is “all-business” rarely gets ahead. We need and seek trusted relationships at work. We have to be able to open up and encourage others to do so, otherwise the real issues will never surface.

The problem with intimacy is that the word carries a connotation of closeness that isn’t appropriate at work. In reality, however, the word has to do with how willing you are to share appropriate discussions about the things that truly matter. Can you speak with candor?

4. Self-Orientation is in the realm of motives. Without doubt, at work we are all self-motivated to a degree. We know that and assume it’s true for others. But some of the time, we can also want the best for others, or for the company, or the team. Someone who always speaks of themselves, or of what they want, would garner a high score in self-orientation. Another person may be more oriented toward finding win-win solutions for everyone.

When leaders are overly fixated on the company, they show up as highly self-oriented, wanting to push their agenda, so they win at any cost. When trust breaks down, it’s almost always because of too much self-orientation.

The good news is that you can do something to moderate each of these factors. Try scribbling down some measures on a particular relationship you struggle with, then do another measure of a relationship that works well. Look at the differences to see where you can improve.

Then let me know what you think. You can contact me here and on LinkedIn.

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