Being Trustworthy: Does Your Team Trust You?

Are you trustworthy?

When I am working with a group of leaders, quite often the topic of trust comes up. It usually stems around an employee or colleague that the leader no longer trusts. It is fascinating because most people will say that they have lost their trust in someone.  They do not discuss whether the person trusted them, as if that was a given. I ask leaders to turn this around and look at whether they have been trustworthy.

What I find useful in these cases is demonstrating the Trust Equation. In their book, The Trusted Advisor, (Maister, Green and Galford), discuss the elements of trust, in an equation to determine your trustworthiness. That is, the level of trust between you, the trustee, and the truster, your employee (client, customer, vendor, etc.) is defined by the sum of credibility, reliability and intimacy divided by your self-orientation.


Let’s look at this closer starting with credibility. You are credible if you have a body of knowledge and you are able to communicate it well. Credibility relies on your ability to demonstrate to staff that you are someone they can count to lead them in the right direction. You are truthful, knowledgeable, and have their best interests at heart. They believe in you.

Reliability is about action. Do you follow through? Do you deliver on projects, promises and tasks? Granted, it can take time to demonstrate reliability. As a leader, reliability hinges on your ability to deliver on what you say you will; you punctual and you take responsibility for issues when they are not going well—always.

Intimacy is the ability to build relationships. Intimacy requires us to be compassionate, empathetic and to have a decent amount of emotional intelligence. Intimacy in the workplace is about getting to know people, making relationships and truly caring about others. We create intimacy when we provide frank and honest feedback.

“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” –Theodore Roosevelt

Self-Orientation is how much you focus on yourself rather than others. As leaders, we ought to put others before us, be able to see issues from their perspective, be curious about things rather than pushing for answers and work on the periphery of issues to learn what is possible. A high self-orientation does not allow us to see the options; we are self-focused.

The equation works on a scale of 1 to 5. For each element in the numerator, 1 is low and 5 is high.  In the denominator, it is the same, but a score of five is not a good thing. Numerator divided by the denominator is your score.

Score yourself right now_________________.  Would others agree?

What area do you need to work on?  Now you have an opportunity for growth. Is there a gap in one of the elements where you would like to improve?

What steps are you willing to take in the next several days to improve one score?

Whatever you do, being more trustworthy will increase your influence.  When you are influential, you can make a difference. In doing so, you demonstrate to others that they can also grow and develop their skills.

“Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.” –Stephen R. Covey

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