When I think about what it takes to build trust with another person, my mind does not think of a formula. No formula with fixed numbers or a checklist of things you need to do equates to earning trust from your team. Instead, I think of the dozens of small things that either helps or hurts you in your endeavor to establish trusting relationships. After years of reading successful leaders’ ideas, I have seen some formulas that help focus on building trust.
The first formula I saw concerning trust was in the book The Trusted Advisor by David Maister et al. In the book, the authors define trust as follows:
Trust = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy/Self-orientation
Intimacy here is defined as how close you are to the person. How strong is your relationship with them? The denominator has only one component, your self-orientation. Self-orientation is defined as how much you make things about yourself versus making it about the other person. If everything you do is to help yourself, you will have a very high self-orientation. Instead, if you make your interactions more about the other person, you will have a low self-orientation. You can be as credible, reliable, and close as possible, but your trust quotient will be low if your self-orientation is high.
The second formula is from the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. This formula resonated with me because Ferrazzi is talking about networking and connecting with people. It speaks to a leader’s need to have the buy-in of the people they lead. Ferrazzi’s formula for trust is:
Trust = Generosity + Vulnerability + Accountability + Candor
The formula is fairly straightforward but has some interesting components.
Generosity is not something I normally think of when it comes to developing trust; however, as Ferrazzi proves, it is a key part of gaining trust. When you are generous, you are thinking of others, not yourself. Generous leaders give their time, resources, praise, and feedback freely to those they serve.
Vulnerability speaks to your willingness to be authentic, real, and genuine with others. You share your struggles as well as your strengths.
Accountability is about ownership and your ability to do what you say you are going to do. Candor tells others you are not hiding things or holding back necessary information. You talk straight and don’t avoid difficult conversations.
Is There More?
While those formulas are nice and have a lot to say about developing trust, there are other key words that can either help or hurt your trust-building efforts.
I think of words like:
#1 – Consistency – can I trust you in the good times and the bad to control your emotions? Are you the same person as circumstances change?
#2 – Listening – can I trust you to listen to me with a desire to truly understand me, or are you always telling me what you think?
#3 – Modeling Behavior – are you someone I look up to and hope to be like?
#4 – Humility – are you humble, teachable, and approachable?
#5 – Teammate – are you a great teammate and someone I can count on?
As I said earlier, building trust cannot be contained in a formula, although the formulas gave us a great starting point to evaluate our level of trustworthiness. To me, trust is a dozen small things done well, consistently, over time. It takes time to build trust and only a second to destroy it. Be intentional in your efforts to be worthy of the trust of others.
- Copyright 2020 by David Maister, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Galford. Free Press, Simon & Schuster
- Copyright 2005,2014 by Keith Ferrazzi. Crown Business, Crown Publishing Group, Random House, LLC
Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with the John Maxwell Company’s Corporate Solutions Group as well as a published author. He has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.