Recently, I posted an article about Google’s research on optimal team performance.  The key ingredient was the leader’s ability to create a climate of psychological safety. Today’s article provides great advice for leaders on how to build trust.  Trust for the leader and among team members is an important ingredient for building a sense of psychological safety within a team.  While it may seem obvious that trust is a necessary (but not sufficient) ingredient for building psychological safety, many leaders don’t consider how their personal actions build or destroy trust with and among followers.  Fast Company’s Karissa Thanker recently provided a helpful article “The Three Habits of The Most Trustworthy Person in Your Office.”  She provided three great tips for leaders about how to build trust.  These are also great points for leaders to use when coaching team members on how to treat one another.  Read the article for further details, but in a nutshell her suggestions are:

  1.  Take time to consider how trustworthy you are, rather than primarily focusing on how trustworthy the other person is.
  2. Empathize with the other person.  Ask, listen, and understand the pressures that other person is under and consider their point of view.
  3. Help out in unexpected ways – even when you have nothing to gain from it.  I like to go into meetings with someone new with the goal of one tangible thing I can do to help that person out with no strings attached.

Thanker’s article reminds me of David Maister’s trust equation that I learned years ago.  Maister explains that TRUST is a function of Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy / Self-Interest. While Maister primarily meant the equation to be used in professional services, it can be generalized to other settings.

Thanker correctly assumes that each leader and team member brings credibility to the table.  Her points about focusing on others and empathy (#s 2 & 3 above) help to build intimacy.  Her third point speaks to establishing reliability and lowering perceptions of self-interest.  One must actually follow through on the help promised – with no expectation of repayment.