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Trust: A Mathematical Equation for Personal and Professional Success

In a world where relationships form the bedrock of personal and professional success, trust stands tall as the cornerstone. It's this invisible force that binds individuals, teams, and organizations together, fostering collaboration, innovation, and growth. Trust is a delicate yet powerful element that is cultivated through a combination of credibility, reliability, intimacy, and self-centeredness. In this blog, we will explore each of these elements and demonstrate how even the most meaningful efforts can be destroyed through perceptions of self-centeredness.

The Trust Equation is a concept that originated in the field of business and was introduced by Charles H. Green, a consultant and author, along with his co-authors David Maister and Robert M. Galford. They first presented this equation in their book titled "The Trusted Advisor," published in 2000 as a way to understand the elements that contribute to the development of trust in professional relationships. The equation is expressed as follows:

Trust = (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy) / Self-Orientation

Credibility:  Instills confidence in shared goals and fosters a trusting environment.

  • Believability and Expertise: Being perceived as knowledgeable and trustworthy.

  • Sincere Intent and Clear Purpose: Demonstrating sincerity in interactions, clarity in motives, and has a defined sense of purpose that aligns to those leading.

  • Consistent and Transparent Communication: Honest, transparent, aligns actions to words, and showcases competence over time.

  • How to Build Credibility:  Create an environment where team members feel secure sharing information without fear of repercussions or humiliation; sharing personal, relevant experiences to enhance the level of conversation. Demonstrate a commitment to active listening, especially when in disagreement, and be open to changing perspectives based on compelling arguments.


Reliability: Demonstrates dependability, fulfillment of commitments, and the assurance that actions align with words. Instills confidence in having shared objectives.

  • Dependable Performance:  Consistent actions with reliable outcomes, fulfilling commitments and promises.

  • Commitment to Accountability: Unwavering commitment to meeting expectations, demonstrating competence, and acting with integrity.

  • Loyalty: Having others’ backs in challenging times, foster reciprocity, and promotes open, strong relationships.

  • How to increase Reliaility:  Demonstrate an unwavering commitment to their success over personal interests by setting clear expectations aligned with their capabilities, avoiding overload with unimportant tasks, and steering clear of favoritism in assignments. Additionally, invest time in proactively addressing challenges during change management strategies, showcasing a genuine dedication to their well-being and success.

Intimacy: Fosters a deep emotional connection through open communication, vulnerability, and mutual understanding. Eliminates fear of judgement.

  • Emotional Connection: An interpersonal relationship between individuals, driven by empathy, vulnerability, and understanding.

  • Time and Genuine Commitment: Sincere commitment to understanding and connecting with team members from a professional and personal perspective.

  • Mutual Respect and Valued Relationships: An environment where individuals feel seen, heard, valued, and promotes mutual respect.

  • How to Influence Intimacy: Foster a strong team connection through active listening, sharing personal insights, and maintaining openness to learning from others, while demonstrating empathy and acknowledging team members' emotions. Regular one-on-one check-ins that allow the team member to get what they need, team-building activities, and support for personal development. Recognizing individual strengths, sharing vulnerabilities appropriately, and providing constructive feedback in a supportive manner all cultivate a collaborative culture and influence feelings of inclusivity.

Self-Orientation:  Represents the degree to which an individual prioritizes personal interests over the interests of others. Lower self-orientation correlates with higher trust.

  • A lower self-orientation score suggests the leader is NOT self-oriented and fosters an environment conducive to trust, focusing on the well-being and success of others.

  • A higher self-orientation score suggests a more self-centered approach, potentially undermining trust by neglecting the needs of others.

  • Minimizing self-orientation is essential to building trust, as it enables a sincere commitment to shared goals, reinforcing the foundation of trust within the interpersonal or group dynamic.

  • How to decrease self-orientation: Effective leadership involves prioritizing team goals, actively supporting members through assistance and commitment to collective success, and sharing credit for achievements, all while valuing team input and fostering professional growth. Embrace servant leadership by removing obstacles and promoting transparency, fairness, and accountability, creating positive relationships, a collaborative environment, and a culture that aligns personal and team goals while encouraging open communication.

In summary, much like the essential mortar between bricks, the consistent application of a leader's credibility, reliability, intimacy, and low self-orientation over time strengthens trust. This resilience allows a leader to navigate through mistakes without entirely eroding trust, emphasizing that the trust-building process is independent of one's title or position. The Trust Equation provides valuable insights into areas where a leader may fall short in building productive trust and highlights the critical impact of self-orientation, which can undermine trust even when great efforts are made to create a conducive environment.

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