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Sizing Someone Up: A Holistic Look at the Trust Equation

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Can you believe that you’ve been exploring Trust with me for nearly ten weeks now? My decision to scrutinize this “small word with HUGE consequences” stems from the recognition that a Culture of Trust is the essential cornerstone of a 21st century workplace. It’s a pretty simple formula: No trust, no dice. This being stated, a recap is in order, as is the formation of the next logical steps toward achieving a trust utopia in your office.

Having joined in this exploration with me, you’re now equipped with all the different data that inform trust. Now is the moment to begin assessing others’ trustworthiness while determining how trustworthy you, yourself appear to be in the minds of those others. Like many things in life, one’s intention of how to “show up” is easier to theorize than to execute. Our subconscious minds so quickly become biased and even stressed that trying to come off toward coworkers as we do with family and friends poses a difficult challenge. It is this very challenge that I ask you to face, with a new and informed confidence. We’ll start by exploring the nuances of other people’s trustworthiness, and how adept you are at accurately interpreting them.

Get Yourself A Baseline

Due to circumstance, stress and orientation, we often don’t draw accurate conclusions about the person we’re assessing. This is where critical thinking needs to be applied. To adjust for context, begin by assigning a baseline sketch of how your colleagues show up. Try to observe them with perspective and curiosity without jumping to conclusions. Focus on one colleague specifically and superimpose that person against Maister’s Trust Equation. Then ask yourself the following questions:

  • On the day you met, what was your first impression of the person?
  • How has that impression evolved over time?
  • How does a stressful situation affect this person’s words and actions?
  • Do they typically do what they say they’re going to do?
  • Do they make you feel safe?
  • Can you consistently count on them?

Your answers to these questions are your best friend in a trustworthiness assessment. Having employed them, you’re now prepared to interact more carefully and deliberately with the individual in question. To illustrate this more deeply, let’s get specific in a way that might ring familiar.

Applying It to Joe

Let’s consider your hypothetical colleague Joe. You can establish that basically, Joe is a good guy who tends to exaggerate a bit in front of the boss. Despite talking an occasional big game, he typically follows through and does what he says he’s going to do. Unfortunately, Joe gets anxious in meetings, and has been triggered to breach the intraoffice trust arrangement under pressure. In a recent example, you had to call him out after he “borrowed” your idea and claimed it as his own during a leadership meeting. After bringing this to his attention, you noticed he was sincerely surprised. He expressed his apologies and now takes special care to acknowledge other people’s ideas.

This is where it becomes beneficial for you to scrutinize for yourself what happens when Joe gets triggered. Although you’ll need to continue examining Joe’s impulses and motives, you can now carry forth with the relationship, confident that Joe’s idiosyncrasies do not necessarily render him untrustworthy; it’s often just Joe being Joe.

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