Building trust with others is the most important thing a leader can do. Today, Perry and Chris look at some formulas for trust and discuss what it really takes to establish trust with those in your circle of influence.

Want to enhance your organization’s leadership culture? Learn more about our 5 Levels of Leadership private workshops HERE – Offered virtually and on-site to meet your organization’s health guidelines.

Download our Learning Guide for this podcast!

Read the Transcript:

Perry Holley:    Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede:     And I’m Chris Goede, Vice President of The John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining. Please take a moment and visit where you can read the blog that Perry wrote to go along with today’s lesson. You can also download a learner’s guide and follow along with us. Also, if you’re interested in The 5 Levels of Leadership or the 360° Leader in regards to coaching or training and facilitating, you can leave your information there and we will be happy to get back in touch with you.

Well, today’s topic is titled Is There a Formula for Building Trust with Your Team? And if there is, I can’t wait to talk about it today. But developing trust is really not something I think about when it comes to formula. And we’ll talk about this as we go through it today, but so what were you thinking about in regards to formula and trust?

Perry Holley:    I actually agree with you. I’m not much on formulas for things as complex as developing trust with another individual, especially one on your team. But I’ve read several sources lately where the author does give a formula for trust. And I thought I just would bring that and say let’s talk about really the object here is how do you develop trust? Is probably not a formula. I think it’s dangerous to develop trust that way. It’s really 100 small things you do every day consistently so. Give me some characteristics you think of with people that really have a high trust quotient with you?

Chris Goede:     Yeah. And let me say this too, I think you’re right. And I can hear it as your kind of talking about, “Yeah, there’s no formula for it, there’s 100 things.” But I also want to say this, I believe as leaders and this is kind of my DNA being in John’s world for so long, that trust is really given. It’s really not earned. However, there are things that you continue to do, 100 different things that continue to keep that trust level there with me, or to lose that trust level. And then we’ll talk a little bit about that today. And that’s just kind of the DNA that I have in regards to trust.

But I also want to say this is that we’ve also said in the past that authenticity is a trust accelerator. And so, man, we want to encourage you to lead right where you’re at and how you’re designed to lead. Be authentic. And don’t get caught up in a formula, which I think Perry and I both probably failed algebra growing up and I’m not even sure I had it in college. If I did, I probably didn’t attend the class. So it’s not going to come into that type of formula, but just the things we’re going to talk about I think are important in regards to trust.

And so when I think about this, I think about what are of the attributes, characteristics of people that I’ve worked with that, man, that trust meter just continues to ping at the highest level for me is I love consistency in people. I love people that are humble and people that I can depend upon where it’s like, “Hey, you and I had a conversation. We’re going to spend some time recording some of our podcasts, two o’clock on Wednesday. Great. I know Perry is going to show up, right?” There’s dependability. And then just honesty. For me, I think that making sure you communicate with honesty and live out your life, those are just a couple of things that come to mind in regards to trust.

Perry Holley:    So the first formula I saw concerning trust was about 20 years ago in a book called Trusted Advisor by David Maister. Kind of simple. I’ve actually shared this with a lot of people. But he says it’s like a division problem that says, “Credibility plus reliability, plus intimacy, divided by your self-orientation is what equals trust with people.” And so I should define that intimacy really talks about how close you are with a person, your relationship with them. And the self-orientation was how much is it about you? He defined it as versus being about the other person.

So if you just put some numbers on that, credibility on a scale of one to 10, you’re a 10, reliability you’re a 10, intimacy you’re a 10, that would be 30 on the top. On the self-orientation, if it’s all about you, so your self-orientation is high like a 10, that 30 divided by 10 would be a three. But if your self-orientation was a one, it wasn’t about you. It’s about the team. It’s about other people. Then that 30 divided by one is 30. So his point is that you need to have these three things on top, but your self-orientation is kind of going to be the driver on that. So what are your thoughts on that one?

To be a Successful Leader, You Need Feedback on Your Leadership.

We’re excited to announce our new and improved Organizational Effectiveness Survey (OES). The OES gathers feedback from employees to give leaders and management the knowledge and action plans needed to develop a more effective and productive work environment. Our new version measures 4 areas of your business: Leadership, People, Strategy, and Performance. 

Chris Goede:     Well, so, okay. There’s some merit here, right? When you look at some of these words that go into this formula for me. And I think the biggest one was, hey, what we’re dividing it over, which is the self-orientation, which then takes a very self-aware person to be able to truly understand their self-orientation, which will then drive that trust factor. And so I thought what I do is just dive into a couple of these. I want to relate them to what we talk about a lot in regards to The 5 Levels of Leadership, kind of where this falls in. Because remember, ultimately what we’re trying to do is give you tips and ideas and just things that we hear everyday in organizations to help you increase your influence with people.

So, all right, so let’s talk about credibility, right? I look at this as a level three kind of attribute in this trust quotient where, how competent are you in that role, right? The role that they’re looking at. If you are not credible, then it will be near impossible to develop a deep level of trust. And so we talk about level three is where your credibility shows up as a leader. So how credible are you?

Reliability, I also put this under level three influence, right? If people can’t count on you, I used the word dependable a little bit earlier, they’re probably not going to trust you. And so I can see how that can kind of fit in that. When you talk about this intimacy and closeness, I put this under level two influence where we connect with people, we build relationships where if we don’t have a certain level of connectedness, it’s going to be hard to develop trust.

Think about people that maybe you’ve worked with for a long time, but you were never able to kind of connect with them. Do you really trust them? That’s probably very, very accurate in this formula. And then the self-orientation kind of tells the whole story, which I put under level one influence as we begin to think about what is the type of leader that we want to be? What is my self-awareness? Where am I in regards to what that looks like? And I think if people perceive you as doing what you’re doing to help yourself, then you’re absolutely done on the trust scale.

I think about people that I know, remember, let me go back to this. We talk a lot about the fact that there’s a very fine line between influence and manipulation, and it’s really behind the motive. And I think about this when it comes to the self-orientation here. And so I think you got to really make sure that you’re checking your motive. That happens with self-awareness. So I believe there’s more to it than this, but there’s something here. There’s something here.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. And that formula’s in the learner guide too, so if you want to review that yourself. The next formula I saw was in a more recent book called Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. And it resonated with me because Ferrazzi is talking about networking, how you connect with people. And we teach that a lot that we want people to buy into us to buy into you before they buy into whatever you’re doing.

So Ferrazzi said and here’s his formula that, “Trust equals generosity, plus vulnerability, plus accountability, plus candor” is really how you get there. So I like all of these components, but I had not considered some of them when it comes to trust with people in my circle of influence. And so just to start with, what does generosity have to do with developing trust? That’s really what my first question was.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, that’s another interesting formula. And I think there’s something with each one of these attributes that we’re talking about that is in the formula. When I think about generosity for me, the first thing that comes to mind is that they’re generous with their resources. And what I mean by that is their time, their talents, what does that look like in a leader? And then does that lead me to trust them more? I don’t know, right? To your point, like it’s interesting conversation.

When I think about the opposite though of generosity, what comes to mind I think about somebody that’s very selfish, very stingy. And if that’s the case with their time, resources, maybe even some of their feedback, then there’s no doubt about it, it will close the door on me establishing or continuing to give trust to that individual.

Perry Holley:    Right. You know we talk about abundance versus scarcity mindset. I wonder if you have somebody around that has a scarcity mindset, you’re not really going to connect or-

Chris Goede:     Yes. So that’s probably a great word, right? We’re not trying to build our own formula because we already agreed you and I don’t do formulas very well. Yeah. But yeah, I think you’re right. I think that from generosity maybe it’s even just an abundance. It’s like a mindset versus the word generous but.

Perry Holley:    What about vulnerability? Where does that come in?

Chris Goede:     Yeah, I was going to say let’s talk about these other words here. And again, just like I did on the other formula, to me I immediately go into this common leadership language that we have. And I think about vulnerability is increasing your influence at level two. And I think this is an interesting add. We talked at the kickoff that authenticity is a trust accelerator. And I think for you to be authentic, you’re naturally going to be vulnerable to your people. You’re real, you’re genuine. On a previous podcast, you and I talk about our mess ups and our failures and we’re like, “I walked into the team and that’s on me.”

I was like, “Look, I’m just going to be vulnerable here. I completely messed up that simple little communication thing.” And so I think that’s right on. With accountability, for me, again, this is a level three influence kind of competence that we’re talking about. And it’s really about, “Man, listen, you do what you say and you follow through and you take ownership.” Any thoughts on that one that come to mind with you?

Perry Holley:    Accountability to me is always about ownership. It’s not about blaming someone, but that you can count on me. You think about saying generosity. So you’re giving your abundance mindset, you’re vulnerable. You share about your own ups and downs, your failures, your struggles, and you own it. You own the outcomes, you own what’s going on. I love where this is going with the idea of connecting with people is that I’m not going to be really trusting of someone who doesn’t hold themselves accountable to own what they’ve committed to.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, yeah. And the final one is candor.

Perry Holley:    Yeah.

Chris Goede:     Level four here. And the reason I put it at level four for me is this is really I think when you get this and the trust is there, this is where that mentorship begins to happen, this development of people where you can have these candid conversations to make each other better. And so I look at this as kind of a level four influence in this formula of increasing trust.

And all along, remember the trust with your team and those around you will continue to grow as your influence grows with them. And if you can be able to kind of have, we mentioned on a previous episode about having this courageous candor if you can be able to kind of talk about it, be direct, and you can increase not only the effectiveness of the team, but I think your relationship and your trust with them.

Perry Holley:    Yeah, that’s interesting. So while the formulas are nice, I think there’s some other words that keep popping up that I think we could add to help with the level of trust that we have with others. I’m going to kind of fire word association with you. I’ll fire the word at you. I wasn’t really going to bring it up, but there are five words that I’m going to add there too.

Chris Goede:     I love it.

Perry Holley:    I know you love that.

Chris Goede:     I do.

Perry Holley:    So first word is I think the most underestimated word of all leadership and it’s the word consistency.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. I think consistency compounds is what comes to mind. When we talk about trust, you and I and probably many of our listeners have worked for leaders in the past where you just don’t know what type of leader you’re going to get that day. And we’ve shared an example of an executive assistant, a publicly traded company is the most influential individual in that organization because they put out a red coffee mug on certain days and a green, which is not today if you don’t want to come in. So yeah, I think, man, when you’re consistent day in and day out, it increases trust for me.

Perry Holley:    The second word is listening.

Chris Goede:     We all love to hear our own voice and to be able to talk. And I think that when you’re truly listening to people, you connect with people and you’re asking questions. And so leaders in my past that have listened to me and even currently, man, my trust level with them goes up drastically.

Perry Holley:    Number three is modeling behavior.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. You lose a lot of trust with me when you say this when you’re not modeling the behavior, what you’re asking or expecting. We’ve heard that saying which is do as I say, not as I do. And so if that’s going on inside the culture of the organization I’m working for, there is going to be a trust issue.

Perry Holley:    Number four probably should’ve been number one, humility.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I just, for me, this is big. Man, those that are going around telling me how good they are, I don’t trust that they’re that good.

Perry Holley:    And this one, number five, there’s some surprise on the list, but I thought about it a lot with teammate.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. This is actually one of my top five values, teamwork. And for me teams working together is a huge part of culture and a huge part of leadership. And when I see individuals that are good teammates, then, man, I see a lot of trust happening between myself, that individual, and also that individual on the team. And so being a great teammate I think drives trust to a higher level.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. Well, there’s a lot that goes into building trust for sure. More than formulas, but.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. And we started with consistency, right? And so let me just come back to that because I think it takes a lot of time and a lot of consistency to build that trust. It takes just a second to destroy that. We could go through a couple of examples and share it with people. And maybe you even are thinking about individuals where in seconds they’ve lost all of their trust and all of their credibility that has been built from years.

Remember, this is just something that happens over time. So maybe we should address what leaders can do if trust has been broken with their team. We started off by saying, “Hey, I believe that it’s given, not earned,” but it can’t be broken. And how do we begin looking at rebuilding that? And something that maybe we can help leaders with as they think about this.

Perry Holley:    Yeah, the first thing that comes to my mind when we talk about self-awareness, but just awareness, being aware that trust is broken. I think a lot of times leaders are tempted to assume, “Hey, we’re good. We can’t figure out why engagement level are down, but we must be good.” I think you’ve always got to be monitoring trust levels with your team.

And I think if there’s a problem, you need to come clean, admit the mistake, that vulnerability piece that we talk about. If you’re not sure what the mistake was, then tell the team or tell the person you feel there’s a problem and ask them are they willing to share how they see things? But this is really where the vulnerability part came in that formula earlier I think.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, yeah. I think also to begin this healing process to add on to that vulnerability is doing what you say you will do.

Perry Holley:    Yeah.

Chris Goede:     This is sometimes, maybe most of the time unintentionally done in leaders where you make commitments and maybe you just don’t follow through, or you make some promises you don’t follow through. And so I would just encourage you to make sure that as you’re beginning to rebuild that trust, know it’s going to take some time, give the team some time, but just continually daily doing what you say you’re going to do. What’s that statement of what you do speaks so loudly I can’t even hear what you say?

And so I could sit there and tell the individuals or the teammate, “I want to start building your trust again.” None of that’s going to matter. It’s going to show up in your actions. And so maintain that vulnerability by continuing to check in with the team periodically with them. Ask for feedback, listen to the feedback. Don’t get defensive about that feedback. And go back and look at the words that we just spoke about and evaluate yourself on those. The five that Perry brought to us, how are you doing on those? Talk about self-awareness.

Maybe you even put those five in front of some of your team and have a conversation. Maybe one-on-one not in a team environment so you don’t get berated all at one time. And Perry put in the learner’s guide, which hopefully you’ve downloaded that, the formulas in there, but he also put it in there, the trustworthy checklist. So you can check that out there. By no means is a complete list. It’s just to start for something that you to begin to look at and do a little bit of a self-evaluation on.

Perry Holley:    While you’re talking, I think about my son when he was young was studying something. They were doing a character qualities something study somewhere at church or school, but it was about being trustworthy. And he said, “Dad, how do you be trustworthy?” And I thought about that and I said, “Well, you’ve got to be worthy of trust.” And that generated a lot of conversation. What do you do to be worthy of someone’s trust? It really opened those doors.

I also about John teaching every follower in your world and your circle of influence is asking three questions about you. And we talk about this a lot, but it is can you help me, do you care about me, and can I trust you? And I just noticed when I was thinking about that, that you can build a lot of trust by helping and caring. The first two questions kind of feed into the third. But it also requires I think a lot of intentional effort to do these other things that we’re talking about to maintain a high level of trust over the long run of your life. So why don’t you wrap it up for us?

Chris Goede:     Yeah. Without trust you cannot have a healthy leadership culture, period. It starts with trust. There’s lots of books out there, lots of content on trust. And so I want you just to step back from saying, “Yes, I want trust. Yes, we have trust” in order to have a great leadership culture high-performing team, whatever it might be and I want you to go into the checklist that Perry provided for us. And I want you to really kind of be vulnerable with yourself and go through there and say, “Where am I at?” Go through that and have self-awareness.

And then I would encourage you to go to maybe two or three others on your team and ask them to speak into that, or even just speaking to the trust level that they may have with you or what they perceive the other team members have. Man, being curious, you love this word. Being curious about things even of what is the trust level inside my team will generate a lot of great conversations.

I know if I were to go to a couple of teammates and say, “Hey, where’s the trust level between me and you? What does that look like?” Because people don’t want to follow people they don’t trust. And if you can begin that conversation, that would be a great first step in number one, identifying. But number two, if it is broken in the healing process. So use the resources Perry’s provided for us with this great content and in the learner guide, and begin to go through that self-awareness.

Perry Holley:    Fantastic. Great input. And just a reminder, if you want to see that learner’s guide or leave us a question or a comment, learn about the 5 Levels, you can do all of that at We love hearing from you and we love your questions and statements.

So if you want to reach us, do that there at We’re grateful that you would spend this time with us today. That’s all today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

Thank you for listening to our Podcasts!

Chris and Perry discuss how managing your own power dynamics can help create a healthier team.

Chris Goede and Perry Holley discuss if quiet quitting is an employee problem or if it's a leadership problem.

It can be easy for a leader to try to do the right thing for others yet shortcut their own integrity when leading themselves.

If you are not intentional about how you communicate culture, adding new people can dilute and derail the culture of your business.

As a leader, you should look for and promote these skills and attributes as you look at developing the next generation of leaders.

Whether coaching a performance challenge or a career discussion, utilizing the GROW model can be a simple yet effective way to help the people on your team grow and improve.

After 200 podcast episodes, Chris and Perry share 5 lesson they have learned that apply to every leader.

Today, Chris and Perry talk about different types behaviour problems that diminishes the capabilities of their team.

Today, Chris and Perry talk about how to identify or what does the potential of your team members look like.

Today, Chris and Perry talk about shifting from pleasing to challenging people is the Relational Shift