If you were to ask yourself how much you or your organisation is trusted, would you know the answer? How would you even begin to be objective about that? Don’t despair; there is a way of taking a scientific approach to understanding how much we are trusted by those around us.

As we start to emerge from the pandemic, building trust-based, enduring relationships with customers and clients will be a key factor in building a profitable and sustainable future.

So, how do we establish the degree to which we’re trusted by another party? By taking what is arguably one of the most powerful tools discovered this century; the groundbreaking Trust Equation, developed by David Maister and two of his fellow professors from Harvard Business School. Realising that there were so many high-profile scandals in the nineties, both business and government, they set about bringing science and rigorous research to those overly used phrases that always seem to follow a public embarrassment; we’ve lost the trust of our stakeholders and we’re going to rebuild trust in our organisation. How often have we heard those statements and how on earth do we build or rebuild trust?

Maister, arguably the world’s leading thinker on professional services firms, established how we make judgements of trust in those around us. He concluded that trust is determined as follows:

T = C + R + I ÷ S

T = Trust

C = Credibility

R = Reliability

I = Intimacy
S = Self-interest

This is how we, as human beings, establish the degree to which we trust another person; it’s instinctive in each of us; we just know.

So how does it work in practice? Let’s begin by using an example to bring it to life. Think about the last person you met professionally. Starting with Credibility, how believable were they? How well did they know their subject matter? Were they sufficiently qualified and experienced to advise you?

Now let’s look at Reliability. How reliable is this person? Do they call you when they promise, do they deliver what was promised or implied? Do they go the extra mile to ensure they always deliver to your expectations?

How about their Intimacy? In this context, intimacy is how you feel about being around this person. Do they make you feel welcome, to what extent do they engage with you, show you how important you are to them? Would you feel comfortable sharing confidential information with them?

Now here’s the big test; determining their Self-interest. To what extent is this person on your side? Do they focus on your needs? How do they demonstrate that your agenda is their entire focus?

Let’s look at the maths; give each of C, R and I a rating out of 10 (where 10 = the best score, 1 the worst). This will give you their top line score. Now divide that number with their self-interest rating (1 = the best score, 10 the worst). The most obvious point of note is that the higher someone’s perceived self-interest, the less we trust them. The more they put our needs ahead of their own, the higher our feeling of trust in them.

So what now? How can you use it to your advantage? This is not just some theoretical model; this absolutely works in the real world. I can testify to its power personally, having used it in business leadership positions, as well as with countless clients across the UK and Continental Europe. One thing is for sure; those business with the highest levels of trust, are the ones with the brightest of futures.

by Nigel Jackson Executive Coach

Leading Coach Limited e mail : nigel@leadingcoach.co.uk