Posted on Leadership at Work: May 15, 2008 12:30 PM
Trust is essential to leadership. A truism indeed. But how trustworthy are we? Is there a way to find out? And can trust be measured? Those are questions that David Maister, Charles M. Green and Rob Galford explored in their book, Trusted Advisor. Now Green has taken the endeavor one step further with the development of an online self assessment that measures an individual's "Trust Quotient."
Trust may sometimes be perceived as a something a leader has or does not have. That's partly true, but what Green has done is define trust as a being composed of four attributes: credibility, reliability, intimacy and self orientation.
By quantifying trust, the assessment makes evaluating it more accessible as well as improving more practical. "Just taking the test forces people to conceive of trust in different ways," says Green. "In particular, the idea of trust as being hurt by the level of one's own self-orientation, and the formulation of that in equation format, is thought-provoking."
Green, a principal and founder of Trusted Advisor Associates, says this assessment helps individuals come to a better understanding of themselves. Let's examine the four characteristics of trust as defined by the TQ assessment. The first three improve trustworthiness.
Credibility rates "what you say and how believable you are to others." In other words, you must be credible if you are asking others to follow your lead.
Reliability measures "actions, and how dependable you appear." Can you be counted on? People need to know that their leaders will come through for them.
Intimacy considers "how safe people sharing with you." So often leaders do keep their emotional distance from their followers, but when you are presented with confidential information, you need to keep it so.
The fourth characteristic, self orientation, refers to personal focus, e.g. yourself or others. Too much self focus will lower your degree of trustworthiness. It is important to demonstrate a strong ego but if your power is all about you, then few will follow.
Assessing your own trustworthiness is subjective. Done in the proper spirit of self-improvement, it can be an illuminating experience. For example, it may serves as a check on those of us who may think we are trustworthy, but perhaps may not be credible or reliable. Or we may be too self-absorbed to notice our deficiency.
"Lowering self-orientation" can improve trustworthiness, says Green. For example, Green suggests, "Practice limiting your talking with others to 60-120 seconds," " practice thinking out loud," and "don't think less of yourself—just think of yourself less."
Trust is essential to developing relationships with individuals. Leaders who cannot inspire trust cannot lead; there will be no followership. So it is something not simply to value, but to practice. Every day!
For those who want to assess their trustworthiness, visit http://trustedadvisor.com/trustQuotient/dm. The self-assessment includes 20 questions, takes about five minutes, and is free. The TQ assessment provides tips on how you can improve your trustworthiness in each of four characteristics.