Generating Trust

Generating Trust

How to build trust and gain confidence


  • Create trust in a team and organisation
  • Trusting and inspiring others to trust
  • Identify your leadership action levers to implement at the organisational level to gain trust at the individual and relational level.


Trusting others and developing trusting relationships is essential to the way we work and collaborate. Indeed, the level of trust in relationships at work, whether internal with employees or colleagues or external with customers and partners, is the single greatest determinant of success. While trust is built and earned over time, there are principles that will allow you to quickly create trusting relationships.

A prerequisite for trusting others is self-confidence. In order to relate to others, an essential aspect of leadership is knowing oneself and understanding others: behaviors, feelings, strengths and weaknesses, and how to address them. When a person knows himself and understands others, he can act."

In this sheet, we will introduce you to three models related to how to develop trust in relationships.

  1. The Trust Equation
  2. The Human Element by Will Schultz
  3. The 13 trusting behaviors - Stephen Covey

1. The Trust Equation

Do you know how long it takes to make a first impression on someone? 100,000 seconds, that's 27.5 hours! In 3 days, we form an opinion about our colleagues, managers, employees, customers...We ask ourselves the following questions about the person:

1- Can I trust him?

2- Can I respect him?

3- Is he/she reliable?

4- Does he have the skills?

This is why it is important to make a good impression, and the key is reliability. The challenge is to have a conceptual framework and an analytical way of assessing and understanding trust. Without this, there is no concrete way to improve our trustworthiness.

In 2000, Charles H. Green, author of three books on trust, highlighted the trust equation: a constructive and analytical model of trustworthiness that can be easily understood and used to help you and your organisation. Here is the equation:

The Trust Equation

  • Credibility is related to the words we say, we could say "I can trust what she says about intellectual property; she is very credible on the subject." Reliability is related to actions: "If he says he will deliver the product tomorrow, I trust him because he is reliable. "
  • Intimacy refers to the security we feel when we entrust something to someone. It is therefore the quality of the interpersonal relationship : "I can trust her with this information; she has never violated my confidentiality before and she would never embarrass me. " Self-orientation refers to the security we feel when we confide something to someone.
  • Self-orientation refers to the person's self-interest, focused on his or her own interest or the interest of others (collective interest). We might say: "I can't trust him on this deal, I don't feel he cares enough about me, he's focused on what he can get out of it for himself. "

When the value of the factors in the numerator (credibility, trustworthiness, intimacy) is high, the value of trust increases. A high value of the denominator (self-orientation), decreases the value of trust. Self-orientation is the most important variable in the trust equation. Indeed, to take the example of a sale, we will trust the salesperson more easily if we perceive that he/she is focused on our satisfaction. Good trust requires "good scores" on all four variables, i.e. high credibility, reliability and intimacy and low personal orientation.

The trust equation covers the most common meanings of trust. People rarely give up their trust in institutions, they trust others. While companies are often described as credible and trustworthy (the first two components of the trust equation), it is really the people within companies that make those companies what they are. And intimacy and self-orientation are almost entirely about the people.

2. Will Schultz's Human Element

The Leader has 6 levers at the organisational level to develop trust:

  1. Participation
  2. Accountability
  3. Transparency
  4. Recognition
  5. Reward
  6. Humanism

When the leader implements this climate, it acts on the deep feelings of individuals, and stimulates the psychological springs of trust.

Individuals** then develop attitudes and behaviors that are appropriate for trust with 6 levers at the individual level that respond to the 6 organisational levers put in place by the leader:

  1. Presence
  2. Personal determination
  3. Awareness
  4. Importance
  5. Competence
  6. Sympathy

The relationships are based on 6 relational levers favorable to trust and are marked by :

  1. Dynamism
  2. Maturity
  3. Honesty
  4. Valuation
  5. Cooperation
  6. Friendliness

So when confidence is high and fear is low, individuals function better because it allows them to achieve a positive sense of self-esteem. They can then:

  • Grow
  • Blossom
  • Perform

Here are more details in the table below.

When the leader develops a climate of trust…
So individuals develop attitudes and behaviors of…
And the relationships are marked by…
Partnering or doing things together
Be involved, be alive
Helps to energise people to achieve e the desired goal
Necessary to feel involved and collaborate
The individual invests his energy to fulfil his mission, and feel simplified and involved
Empowerment (responsibility)
Empowering individuals and teams by giving them final decision-making authority
Determined, responsible
Allows you to act in an mature manner in the relationship
Redistribution of power to individuals at all levels
The individual has the possibility to act and choose his own actions, and feels autonomous, free and responsible
Relationships without passivity, aggression or manipulation, but with interdependence
Need to train people to do this
Everyone is autonomous in his or her field and knows how to rely on others
Transparency - Openness
To have access to all information without any particular secret
Know your behaviors, feelings, strengths and weaknesses and how to overcome them
Take the initiative to open up to the other despite doubts about consequences
Create relationships where people feel less vulnerable and more honest
Understanding of others and one's relationships with others and the world
Knowing how to accept the other's reproaches
Exists when people feel that they exist in the eyes of others
Individual feels that he has value for others, that his presence is significant
Have relationships that enrich people who then enjoy working together and find the energy to achieve the team's goals
Showing signs of encouragement, appreciation and satisfaction
Individual feels important
Knowing each individual; taking the time to discuss with each one: relational quality of the leader. Knowing how to get together around a drink to celebrate an event
Reward (+ accountability)
Beyond the recognition, it is the reward given in exchange for the work
Feeling of knowing how to do it
When people seek to work together to find solutions to optimise each other's results
Can deal with situations, choose solutions to problems encountered
Consider the human being as the most important element
Sympathy towards himself
When people seek to work together to find solutions to optimise each other's results
Business and economy at the service of people
The individual feels appreciated for who he or she is as a human being (human and emotional dimension)
Individual as such that is and not only the professional aspect

Source: Humanis Performa © The Human Element by Will Schutz

Openness and transparency to others is the most important principle in developing trust. It is necessary to provide individuals with all the necessary information they need to work.

In order to speak truthfully with others, it is necessary to be truthful with oneself, to open up to oneself, that is, to know oneself, to understand oneself, to identify one's own deepest fears, and thus to grow.

3. The 13 Confidence Behaviors - Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey first specifies that credibility is a fundamental element in the development of self-confidence (which affects one's performance) and of the confidence granted by others. This credibility is based on points related to character (integrity, intention) and competence (ability, results).

It emphasises :

  • that what we do has far more impact than what we say in others' appreciation of who we are
  • and that these behaviors can be changed if there is a will to change.

He analyses the impact of 13 behaviors found in leaders we trust, 13 behaviors common to leaders and highly trusted people around the world.

The 13 behaviors require a combination of character and skill. The first five are initially derived from character, the second five from skill, and the last three from an almost equal mix of character and skill.

5 Behaviors related to character traits:

  1. Speak frankly. Be clear and direct.
  2. Show respect.
  3. Create transparency. Let them know why and what up front.
  4. Fix errors. Admit mistakes, do not justify them, make amends.
  5. Show loyalty. Let them have 100% trust, do not gossip.

5 behaviors related to competence:

6. Produce results. Do what you say you are going to do: always.

7. Improve. They will notice your improvements.

8. Face reality. You are the coach, not the buddy. Be honest.

9. Clarify expectations. Use exit contracts with new/veteran members.

10. Practice responsibility by being "accountable". This is a two-way street, not a one-way street.

3 behaviors related to character traits and competence:

11. Listen first. Use active listening. Get their perspective, not your own agenda.

12. Keep your promises. All your commitments. Learn and implement an organisational schedule.

13. Extend trust. Members make mistakes. Correct them, don't punish. Show them that you trust them, help them reclaim their power.


1. Practice on Will Schutz's Human Element **1.1 Self-assess on each of the levers

1.1 Self-assess each of the levers scale of 1 to 4 (1: poor command, 4: excellent command)

a. "leader's levers of action":

â–Ş What am I already doing that goes toward this lever?

â–Ş What could I do to develop this lever?

b. "Individual levers":

â–Ş What do I perceive from my employees that goes toward this lever? What am I doing that enables this?

â–Ş What do I perceive from my collaborators that does not go in the direction of this lever? What can I do to invite them to develop these attitudes and behaviors more

c. "relational levers”

▪ What do I perceive about the relationship that goes in the direction of this lever? What am I doing that enables this?

â–Ş What do I perceive about the relationship that is not moving in the direction of this lever? What can I do for a relationship that goes more in that direction?

1.2 During a meeting with your team or in an individual interview, make these self-diagnoses with your employees and take the opportunity to share your perceptions and co-construct an action plan

1.3 Action Plan

a) As a leader, how can you implement a climate that builds trust Complete the following sentences with 2,3 or 4 concrete actions:

  • I promote participation whenever...
  • I develop empowerment whenever...
  • I encourage transparency, openness whenever...
  • I promote recognition whenever...
  • I reward individuals whenever...
  • I encourage humanism whenever...

b) As a leader, how can you act on the individual levers of trust / to build the trust of your people? Complete the following sentences with 2,3 or 4 concrete actions:

  • People in my team feel involved every time...
  • People in my team feel responsible every time...
  • People in my team feel self-aware every time
  • People on my team feel important every time...
  • People on my team feel competent every time...
  • People on my team feel sympathetic every time...

c) As a leader, how can you act on the relational levers of trust / to improve relationships within the organisation?

Complete the following sentences with 2,3 or 4 concrete actions:

  • As a leader, I create dynamic relationships with others every time I...
  • As a leader, I create mature relationships with others every time I...
  • As a leader, I create honest relationships with others every time I...
  • As a leader, I create rewarding relationships with others every time I...
  • As a leader, I create cooperative relationships with others every time I...
  • As a leader, I create friendly relationships with others every time I...

2. Practice Stephen Covey's 13 behaviors


Take the 13 trust behaviors above and rank them on a scale from 1 (least mastered behaviour) to 13 (best mastered behaviour).

Then spend 1 week improving each behaviour starting with the behaviour rated 1 and ending with the one rated 13. You can share the exercise with one or more people around you for accelerated results, by "watching" each other!

Below is a more in-depth look at each of the 13 behaviors, with the identification of their 2 extremes (called "opposite/contrary" and "counterfeit"), extremes that do not contribute to building trust either.

Character-based behaviours :

1- Speak frankly: Communicate clearly so that you are not misunderstood. Preface your discussions by stating your intent, so there is no doubt about what you mean. Counterfeit behaviors include withholding information, flattery and spin. Be honest and call things as they are. Don't manipulate people to distort facts or leave false impressions.

2- Show respect: based on the principles of respect, fairness, kindness, love and civility. The opposite is usually experienced as disrespect, which is a huge problem, both at work and at home. The counterfeit is to feign respect or concern, or, most insidious of all, to show respect and concern only for those who can do something for you.

3- Create transparency: Be real and authentic and tell the truth in a way that people can verify. The opposite is obfuscation, and fakery is the illusion of pretending things are different from what they are. You can build trust quickly by being open and authentic, prioritising disclosure and having no hidden agenda.

4- Make amends: Make amends instead of excuses. The opposite is to deny or justify wrongs because of ego and pride, and the counterfeit is to cover up mistakes. Apologise promptly, take steps to make amends when possible, and show personal humility in doing so.

5- Be loyal: Give credit to others and speak of people as if they were present. The opposite is taking credit or not representing people fairly. The counterfeit is to appear to share credit, but then minimise the contribution of others when they are not present. To show trustworthy character, give credit freely, do not disparage people behind their backs, and do not divulge others' private information

Competency-based behaviors:

6- Providing results: way to convert cynics and build trust in a new relationship. Because it is often difficult to measure results, take the time to define results from the start. By taking stock, making the right things happen, staying on time and on budget, and not making excuses for not delivering, you quickly restore lost trust on the skills side.

7- Improve: continually improve by learning, growing and renewing yourself. Others will develop confidence in your ability to succeed in a rapidly changing environment. The opposite is entropy and deterioration, while the counterfeit is the eternal student - always learning, but never producing. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, but learn from them. Develop formal and informal feedback systems and respond.

8- Face reality: Take difficult problems head on. This affects speed and cost by facilitating open interaction and rapid completion and also allowing you to engage the creativity, capabilities and synergy of others to solve problems. When leaders engage in the opposite behaviour by ignoring problems, they pay a huge tax when people feel they are being dishonest. It is far better to address real issues and courageously lead discussions on uncomfortable topics.

9- Clarify expectations: Create a shared vision and agreement from the start. The opposite is to leave expectations undefined and the counterfeit is to be vague about the details. Consider that most circumstances encompass three variables - quality, speed and cost - but you can only have two. Always discuss and disclose expectations, and never assume they are clear or shared. Renegotiate if necessary, but don't violate expectations once they have been validated.

10- Exercise Accountability: Hold yourself and others accountable. Leaders who generate trust do both. The opposite is not taking responsibility, and the counterfeit is pointing fingers. Other people respond to accountability - especially performers. They want to be held accountable. Don't avoid or dodge responsibility, and be clear about how you will communicate progress.

Character AND skill-based behaviors:

11- Listen First: Genuinely understand another person's thoughts and feelings before trying to diagnose or advise. The opposite and counterfeit is to speak first and listen last, or not at all, and to pretend to listen while waiting for your own chance to speak. Use your eyes and instincts to listen as well as your ears, and don't assume you know what matters to others.

12- Keep your commitments: This is the fastest way to build trust in any relationship. The opposite is breaking commitments and the counterfeit is making vague and unreliable commitments, or never making them in the first place. Some cultures view commitments differently, and understanding the difference is essential. People tend to view family commitments as more flexible than work commitments, but they are just as important. Make keeping all your commitments a symbol of your honour.

13- Extend Trust: Move trust from a noun to a verb. While the other behaviors help you become a more trustworthy person or manager, this 13th behaviour helps you become a more confident leader. Extending trust creates reciprocity. The opposite is withholding trust. Counterfeiting extends false trust by giving people responsibility but no authority or resources to accomplish a task. There is also a false trust that looks like trust until you follow people and micro-manage. Depending on the situation, extend it conditionally to those who earn your trust, but extend it abundantly to those who have earned it.