Here are some of the questions we were recently asked by a virtual team in a global consulting company.
- How can I convince someone to trust me?
- Is trust purely subjective?
- Can trust be measured?
The client wanted training that would focus on building trust because they realised how crucial it is in virtual relationships. But they had challenges deciding what trust looked like on a daily basis, and how to demonstrate it to others. We decided to help them break down trust into easier-to-understand elements by introducing them to the Trust Equation (TE). In this post you will read how we did that and how the team addressed specific challenges they faced.
What is the Trust Equation?
The Trust Equation (David Maister, Charles Green & Robert Galford, 2004, The Trusted Advisor) breaks down trust (T) into an equation of 4 elements:
- C = Credibility – to what extent do people believe what we say?
- R = Reliability – how much to people believe we will do what we say we will do?
- I = Intimacy – how safe do other people feel sharing personal things with us?
- S = Self-Orientation – do people believe we care about them, or are we more focused on our own objectives?
You can see from the equation below that trust requires high scores in the first three elements (C, R, I) but a low score in the final one (S). In other words, the TE tells us that high self-orientation undermines the other elements that are essential for trust.
Why use it?
Trusted Advisor offers a free Trust Quotient Assessment which we highly recommend because the results include feedback on which elements are strengths and weaknesses for you. For the team we worked with, being able to break down trust into specific and easy-to-understand elements was a great first step to identifying how to demonstrate behaviours that can build it.
What do behaviours for building trust look like?
The TE is a measure of how other people perceive your trustworthiness. So, what can you do to increase those perceptions? Here are some suggestions for developing the different elements of the TE that we brainstormed with the team we worked with.
- use stories, metaphors and your body language to help others relate to what you are saying
- demonstrate the skills and abilities you have rather than just talk about them
- be comfortable saying ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’ when necessary
- be consistent in what you do, and ensure that people get what they expect from you
- keep your word, so that what you promise is enough for people to trust you
- if you aren’t able to meet a commitment you are open and honest about it
- help people to confide in you by being discreet and empathetic
- do not be afraid to risk opening up about your failings and mistakes
- be interested in the people you work with and actively build relationships with them
- achieve your goals through helping others achieve theirs
- show others that you have their best interests in mind when you make decisions
- show curiosity for other people’s concerns and priorities
How can we address common trust challenges?
After identifying behaviours that can build trust, we were now ready to address some specific trust challenges the team was facing. Here are 4 of those challenges, with brainstormed suggestions for how to address them.
- I am working in a virtual team with people I have never met before. How do I quickly establish my credibility in the team?
“It’s not who you are on the inside, it’s what you do that counts”. Proving your abilities by showing people what you can do is a quick way to establish credibility. Developing intimacy with your new team will also help, especially in a virtual environment. So make an effort to get to know your new team members as individuals.
- My colleagues think I am reliable but on occasions I can’t meet deadlines because things come up beyond my control. What can I do about this?
Don’t be afraid to say ‘I can’t do this after all’ if you have a good reason. It may seem counter-intuitive if we are talking about reliability, but reliability is not about being perfect; it’s about showing you care about the accountabilities you have. Being open and honest can also let others see your vulnerability, which is a good foundation for building intimacy too.
- I’m a German working with an Asian team. I have tried to build personal relationships by making small talk, but they seem reluctant to share personal things about themselves.
Intimacy is done differently in different cultures. While some cultures prioritise people and relationships in business it doesn’t mean that they feel comfortable talking about personal things. Perhaps a good idea here is for you to lead the way by sharing things about yourself and your life in your home country, encouraging other team members to follow your lead. This could at least get the ball rolling…
- In the Trust Quotient Assessment I scored quite high on Self-Orientation. What can I do about this?
Try listening more than talking, ask a lot of questions and summarise what you hear. When someone tells you something, avoid responding with a judgement or advice. Instead use three little magic words; “Tell me more”.
We hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you would like to know more about our experience of developing trust in teams, we trust you’ll contact us.
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