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How to build trust: The Trust Equation in practice

How to build trust: The Trust Equation in practice

The trust equation or trust formula in practice: "Hard to build, easy to destroy"

Thats the type of response I often get when working with managers or leaders and exploring the concept of trust. It seems to me that trust, real trust, in people in positions of authority is a rapidly diminishing thing and that blame and suspicion are, perhaps with justification, default positions for many who feel let down by organisations and people in whom they have invested their trust.
I have to admit that I haven really defined trustworthiness in a simple, accessible way that gives my learners a real sense of the behaviours that can be adopted to build trust. However, working in Poland this week I was introduced to Charles H. Greens Trust Equation (how come I've missed this?) which immediately gives me a way of thinking about building trust in terms of simple, behavioural changes. The equation is very easy in theory:

Trustworthiness = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy ÷ Self-Orientation.

Credibility is related to what people say: the extent to which they demonstrate knowledge and understanding about their subject, speak with conviction and make us feel confident that they are in command of their subject matter and competent in applying their expertise.

Reliability is related to what people do: the extent to which they follow through on promises, meet deadlines, deliver against targets, achieve agreed quality standards and go the extra mile to ensure that they have completed their undertakings.

Intimacy is related to the safety and security we feel in a relationship: the extent to which confidentiality is maintained, the confidence we have in opening up more personal aspects of ourselves and our emotional concerns and the belief that our values will be respected.

Self-orientation (the single denominator in this equation) refers to the person’s focus. In particular, whether the person’s focus is primarily on him or herself, or on the other person. We might say, “I can’t trust her on this deal — I don’t think she cares enough about me, she’s focused on what she gets out of it.” Or more commonly, “I don’t trust him — I think he’s too concerned about how he’s appearing, so he’s not really paying attention”.  Increasing the other three elements (C+R+I) will increase perceived trustworthiness, but increasing the size of the single denominator reduces the trustworthiness immediately. In order to increase trustworthiness, self-orientation needs to be reduced. We see this happen when, for example, a teacher focuses entirely on the needs of a learner, rather than the teachers desire to teach a specific lesson. We see it when the supplier really listens to what a client wants, empathises and offers a solution that is based on what the client has asked for. Low self-orientation allows focus on another, making the other person feel valued and cared for, which increases the levels of your demonstrated trustworthiness and therefore a persons willingness to place their trust in you.

The Trust Equation offers a memorable way of thinking about the behaviours needed to bring about trust. Each element is easy to understand. People trust other people. They tend not to trust organisations or businesses or hierarchies: they might trust their manager whilst being sceptical of management in general. If you feel trust is lacking in any of your relationships, have a look at each of the 4 elements of the equation and ask yourself which of them you need to work on most!

For more information about physical and virtual experiential learning exercises in which elements of trust can be explored and rehearsed in practice, see below:

Learning Support Relationships Module
This module focuses on helping individuals become more effective at building and using strong relationships that help them learn successfully.

Building relationships between teams engaged on the same task but working at a distance from each other (time and space).

Build trust through understanding that others can have different perspectives and insights based on viewing the same situation.

Use this activity to help uncover any trust issues that prevent collaboration and achieving a successful outcome.

Emergency Delivery
Use this virtual experiential learning activity to raise the importance of trust in being able to make decisions at pace and build high performance teams.

Learning Squared
Use either Broken Squares or Hollow Square to build trust through shared experience in these timeless and extremely popular group problem solving activities

For more information on the Trust Equation, CLICK HERE


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