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In his book, The Trusted Advisor, David Maister proposes a formula for building sustained partnership with others, he coined the phrase the trust equation:

David Maister trust equation

David Maister trust equation

According to Maister the equation’s importance to business is that is shows how the elements of trust are key to real leadership.  For practitioners the equation gives us a basis upon which to redefine our data gathering and then align our talent management plans.

C is credibility.

Leadership credibility has two components. The first is how much your team believes your words and actions. The second is to what degree you have the know-how, experience or background to know what you are talking about.

On the one hand it is objective — do you have the ‘qualifications’ to be a leader. On the other hand it’s an emotional response. Do I perceive you as being believable? Do your actions reflect truthfulness? Do you have truthful intent?

How many experiences have we all had over the past 18 months that made us question the truthfulness of those we considered leaders? What’s the lingering impact on our workplaces?

R is reliability.

People need to know they can count on leaders, that the leader will walk the walk and talk the talk. Leaders need to follow- through on promises and follow-up on commitments. There needs to be a sense of predictability and fairness in the way a leader approaches situations and people every single day. Otherwise, the relational bank account that funds trust goes into the red.

I is intimacy or the ability create a personal connection.

This does not mean that as a leader you need to share your private life or dwell on the private lives of your people. It means recognizing that work is a personal place and issues like career development, promotions, compensation, reorganizations, hiring and firing are intensely personal. As a leader, the willingness to have emotional honesty about these and other issues in the workplace increases the trust your team has in you and the commitment they have to your agenda.

Credibility, reliability and intimacy’s additive effect is mitigated by how much others perceive a leader is acting primarily out of self-concern.

If others believe a leader building a ‘relationship’ primarily to serve his or her own interests — i.e., to advance his or her career, to manipulate a situation for advantage without regard to the goals, needs and struggles of others, to push off responsibility and blame others– trust is destroyed, the relationship is seen as disingenuous and engagement and commitment plummet.

The question for all leaders is then, to what degree have you developed a relationship with your people?

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