Leadership commentator and expert in HR communications, Kay Phelps, discusses how a model of trust may explain why some leaders struggle to gain and maintain trust.
Trust is critical for HR, leaders and our business climate.
Indeed, according to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, leaders have had a 14% increase in trust in the last 2 years, being rated as extremely or very credible as spokespeople. The global survey shows too, that job number one for leaders is to build trust, one point above making sure products and services are of high quality.
All good news and pointers for business and HR teams, but how do we improve on this? How do we tell if we shine trustworthiness, and that our teams do?
How can we tell if we are trustworthy?
A helpful connection recently sent me an extremely interesting article showing the analytical model behind trust.
I’d written before that there is no magic formula on communication and trust, but now I find, according to Trusted Advisor Associates, there is a formula for trust and although not magical, it’s an interesting steer.
It highlights four human variables that equate to trustworthiness – including one that can blow someone’s trust in you easily, quickly and possibly even before a relationship gets started.
The company’s Trust Equation uses ‘four objective variables to measure trustworthiness, best described as Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy and Self-Orientation’.
Four objective variables to measure trust
The firm tells us:
1. Credibility has to do with the words we speak. In a sentence, we might say ‘I can trust what she says about intellectual property; she’s very credible on the subject’.
2. Reliability has to do with actions. We might say, ‘if he says he’ll deliver the product tomorrow, I trust him, because he’s dependable’.
3. Intimacy refers to the safety or security that we feel when entrusting someone with something. We might say, ‘I can trust her with that information; she’s never violated my confidentiality before and she would never embarrass me’.
When these three – credibility, reliability and intimacy – are central to communications, these may show up in how you listen, recognise interesting and good work, what you say and how you respect others’ skills, time and differences. These are also about empowering teams with the ability to do what’s necessary, with key information and training, and trusting them to do the right thing for the business.
Self-Orientation, the fourth element, refers to a person’s focus, in particular whether it is primarily on him or herself, or on the other person. Trusted Advisers gave the example, ‘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’.
Why self-orientation has the highest variability
It’s this latter one that has the highest variability. Someone with low self-orientation is free to ‘completely and honestly focus on the audience’, while one with a high self-orientation will, I personally reckon, be showing their cards pretty clearly creating doubt, possibly even before they get started.
It’s where the audience – whether that’s one or many – is the central focus and their needs as human beings are fully considered. Intention should show that they are a primary focus, not that they’re part of any grand scheme.
Is this easy to do in business, though, when clearly there is an end game, goals of profitability, growth and general self-interest? Win-win is a common theme here, where what you’re doing creates great value and is done with great care so the audience (of one or many) has faith and enjoys coming along for the ride.
Frankly, it’s the one that made me take note. As a small business, specialising in HR communications and PR, it’s far easier to show my customers that they are central to everything I do. As my business grows, as I talk to more and more people, am I showing each that their needs are central?
I’ve always kept my business small – 25 years, next year (!) – so what I need to ensure, every day as I grow, is that every client, big or small, every colleague, every journalist always feels that they’re at the centre. That what we do, why we do it, what we say together and feeling secure are all part of the PR in HR parcel.