Building Trust – The Formula

As we’re often told, trust takes a long time to build, but only a moment to lose.  And when you’ve lost it, you can sometimes never get it back.  Trust is a key component of any relationship – whether it be with your partner, friends or work colleagues.  The level of trust in business relationships, whether internal with employees or colleagues or external with clients and partners, is the greatest determinant of success.

So how do you build and measure trust?

Well fortunately for all of us, there’s a simple equation to help you do exactly that.  It’s called the Maister Trust Equation and was described by Charles H. Green back in 2000 in his book The Trusted Advisor.

The Trust Equation : four key variables;

CREDIBILITY

This has to do with the words we say and whether they carry any intellectual weight.  Do we have any real authority on that subject?  Why would people believe you?

RELIABILITY

This has to do with our actions – do we actually do what we say we’re going to do?  To we walk the talk?  Are we dependable?  Not just once, but every time.

INTIMACY

This doesn’t refer to the personal intimacy or love between partners, but refers to the safety and security you feel when you entrust someone with something.  It’s about how much you actually care and how much you show it.

SELF ORIENTATION

This refers to the focus of attention – whether that focus is primarily on himself or herself, or on the other person.  Are you primarily looking after yourself, or is your primary concern the other person?

So now you have the variables – how do you get the result?

The Trust Equation has one variable in the denominator and 3 in the numerator.  So to maximise trust you simply increase the numerators and decrease the denominator.

If each variable had a value between 1 and 10 (1 being low and 10 being high), then the maximum trust “value” would be 30.

Self-orientation, which sits alone in the denominator, is the most important variable in the equation.  You can develop your credibility, reliability and intimacy as much as you can, but if you still have your own interests at heart, you’ll find trust hard to come by.  For example, a salesman with low self-orientation is free to be completely honest and focus on the customer – not for his own sake or to maximize profit, but for the sake of the customer.  When was the last time you felt like that when you bought something?  If you did, it’s likely you went back!

It’s all about people.

The variables in the Trust Equation cover the most common elements of trust you encounter in business every day.  However, it’s important to remember that these are almost entirely personal, not institutional.

While you may describe a company as credible, or reliable, it’s the people inside those companies that make them what they are.  People rarely trust institutions, they trust people.

Living the four variables every day is the best way to increase your trustworthiness.  So the next time you want a successful interaction, think about how much trust plays in the outcome and the 4 variables in the Trust Equation.

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