“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” – Stephen Covey. There’s no denying the centrality of trust in everything we do — from leadership, personal relationships, building businesses, or just collaborating on a project — trust will either bind people together or the lack of it will blow everything apart. Fortunately, there’s a model to help you understand and improve trust and trustworthiness. The Trust Equation states that trustworthiness is equal to the sum of credibility, reliability and intimacy divided by a person’s self-orientation. IMPROVING YOUR TRUSTWORTHINESS. Let’s break down each of the elements in the equation, including tips to improve them. ELEMENT AT A GLANCE DESCRIPTION TIPS TO IMPROVE TRUSTWORTHINESS Credibility Your words and how believable you seem. "I can trust what you say about..." How competent and capable you seem. About how much you know, your credentials and how much confidence you inspire in others. Build the experience, credentials and knowledge to walk the talk. Be transparent about what you know and what you don’t. Ask informed questions to help uncover needs and insights. Reliability Your actions and how dependable you seem. "I can trust you to..." Will you do what you say and do you have a consistent track record. Also, do you have a common frame of reference and shared understanding. Make and keep lots of small promises to build a track record. Don’t under promise and over deliver, just deliver exactly what you promise. Mirror your client’s language and terminology. Be on time and predictably deliver on your commitments. Intimacy Your emotions and how safe people feel sharing with you. "I feel safe discussing this with you..." The level of emotional security around you, including your level of empathy. Demonstrate vulnerability by admitting to fears and concerns. React to the emotions behind what’s being said. Express emotional candour, state “At the rise of…” and express yourself. Have the courage and curiosity to be human and seek out other people’s humanity in the process. Self- orientation Your motives and focus on self versus others. "I can trust you care about..." High self-orientation results in low trustworthiness. Obviously manifests as selfishness or self-obsession. Maintain your sense of self while being present to your client’s needs. Check-in with your client to see if your approach works for them. Think out loud to be transparent and engaging. Keep answers short, ideally to less than 90 seconds, to encourage conversations. THE 'HEART' WILL BEAT 'HEAD' FOR IMPACT. According to Trust Advisor, the consultancy behind this model, most people tend to rely on credibility and reliability to build trusting relationships. It's no coincidence that these elements are viewed as primarily 'rational', are more tangible, and easier to measure. Reliability is particularly appealing because it is relatively easy to shift by making and fulfilling a series of small promises. Unfortunately, the prioritisation of these two rational elements is generally misplaced, as they are the least impactful of the four elements. Instead, Trust Advisor points to the two emotional elements of intimacy and especially self-orientation as the most impactful factors to shift when wanting to improve trustworthiness. IN YOUR LATTICEWORK. Trusted Advisor generally position the Trust Equation in a business context of sales, consulting or partnering, thus the consistent reference to ‘clients’. That said, it’s a versatile model that can be applied in a range of industries and applications. Trust is a basic element of effective collaboration and the Trust Equation can be applied to Psychological Safety and models such as the 5 Stages of Teaming. The intimacy element of the Trust Equation might be assisted by Empathy Maps and is crucial to effectively apply Radical Candor and Bezos’ High-Velocity Decisions, as well as understanding how to build cohesive communities using Dunbar’s Number. It also underlies persuasion models such as Cialdini’s Six Principles of Influence, negotiation models such as BATNA, and helps shift from a vendor to an advisor relationship in a way that is very reminiscent of Challenger Sales. Finally, the lack of trust contributes to the Prisoner’s Dilemma and even to understand the forced bind of Mutually Assured Destruction.
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