The Trust Equation (A Two-Way Street)

I am pretty much logic-based, so when someone presents a formula or equation for something, I start to look for the proof. An equation, or an equality, is an assertion that the information shown on one side of the equal sign is fully the same as the information on the other side.

The Trust Equation (A Two-Way Street)

Doing algebra problems, there are one or more “unknowns” that we have to solve for so that equality can be made true. If faced with the equation (3*x) + 5 = 11, you would determine that the number 2 in place of “x” makes the equality true.

Someone once told me that the equation for trust looks like this:



Read out loud, this would be “Trust equals Truth over Time”.

Most of us trust employees from day one. Lowercase “t” trust. We start with some level of trust. We trust they will be on time. That they will follow the safety regulations we give them. That they will perform the duties of their role. That they will be “present” on the job. We trust they will follow policies. We trust that they will treat other employees with respect, expecting the same in return. If they give us reason to doubt that trust, we need to address it. Sometimes we reach the conclusion that the right level of trust cannot be built.

On the other hand, if they perform their duties well and we get to know them, then the opportunity to build trust begins. An employee becomes more and more known to you over time – their truth becomes part of your understanding of them. They ask you for more to do, they ask for more help when they don’t understand the work. We learn who they are bit by bit.

As they deliver what they said they would, as they consistently meet expectations and demonstrate that they are fully willing and able to commit themselves to their work, we are gradually trusting them more and more. Trust with a capital “T”. Truth, over time, builds trust.

There are two sides to an equation, and in the trust equation, that is doubly true. Because just as an employee shows their trustworthiness over time, so does their company. Your behavior as a leader must inspire trust in others if you want to be able to trust them. They have to trust that if they make a mistake, you will have their backs. They have to trust that you will provide the right training to do the job well. They trust that you are providing them a safe place to work.

If the equation as presented is true, it is true for all. If you want to trust your employees, you need to be trustworthy as an organization, with identifiable trust at the personal level of managers.

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