Trust. A small word and yet, laden with so much opportunity and potential challenge.
Trust lies at the heart of pretty much everything we will do in life. The relationships we have with our nearest and dearest. The connection we feel to our colleagues. The faith we have in systems, processes and the ability to deliver on time. The confidence we have in ourselves.
At the heart of it all lies trust.
The Trust Equation
How do you define trust? There are numerous different ways that pschologists and sociologists have tried to quantify and understand this feeling of trust.
One of the simple ones that I appreciate in my own work and thinking in this area is the trust equation. This is one of my favourite representations on the Trust Equation from the sketchplanations.
In the trust equation the level of trust we feel is a factor of the Credibility that someone demonstrates. Knowing that someone has a skill or ability in the key area of focus helps build trust. Certainly a lack of credible knowledge or skill can cause us to mistrust.
Next we have reliability. Does the person do what they say they will. Are they on time? Is the quality to the level expected. Can you rely on them? The more that we can expect and outcome and then actually see this transpire in reality the greater our level of trust and faith in the other person.
Then we have intimacy. How much do I know about the other person. Not just their skills or knowledge (credibility) or their work performance (reliability) but them as a human being. Their character traits, their character flaws, the things they enjoy when not at work. Their family and their interests. Who they really are rather than the projection of themselves they would like the world to see. The more we know a person’s true self the greater feeling of confidence and trust we can have in how they might act in any given circumstance. This predictability helps us to feel safe.
Each of these factors builds on the last to create an ability to trust them.
Then we have the below the line activity of self orientation or self interest. if you have a sense that the person is more interested in their own needs and agenda than they are in you then this often undermines your ability to trust them fully. When another person engages in a way that you feel that they are only interested in what they can get from you the relationship becomes transactional. This negatively impacts trust and creates a doubt in the other person.
However, when a person shows that they are invested in your interests and they want to help you to grow, develop or meet your needs then you can relax and have faith that the actions are genuine. This creates a more engaged and balanced relationship.
Taking the lead in building trust
I was working with a senior leadership team this week and we were using the trust equation to help them understand their relationships as a team.
I asked them to look at each individual relationship and rather than assess the level of trust based on looking at the other person, to instead rate how much they had done to build trust with the other person.
So for the trust equation I asked them to evaluate how much they had shown they are credible to the other team members. How reliable had they been? How much had they taken time to get to know the other person, and indeed shared more about who they were. How vulnerable had they been with others?
Finally the kicker – how much could they honestly say that when dealing with others they had set aside their own needs and focussed more on the other person? How willing were they to invest in ensuring that the other person felt really heard, appreciated and like they mattered rather than it being all about themselves?
When you look at the equation this way you see that there are opportunities to really focus on what i can do in the relationship to build trust. It helps you to move from a place of blame to a space of shared investment in building trust.
What would this activity show you about how you are building trust with those around you?
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