|Photo: Debbie Buchanan Engle|
...what are the components of trust? How can they be planted and nurtured? What resources might help you to do that?
"Expert" voices from diverse disciplines tend to agree that (1) distrust is widespread; (2) over time, trust can be eroded by small blunders as surely as by major violations; and (3) the basic components of trust include integrity, competence, and caring.
A report from Robert Hurley, "The Decision to Trust," notes that half of all business managers do not trust their leaders. The reason? Surprisingly, it's usually not tied to some egregious wrongdoing. Rather, it's often tied to leaders' little half-truths—along with their secrecy, their failure to keep their word, their unfounded claims of competence, and their ultimate lack of "benevolent concern" for employees.
With these clues about what erodes trust, what have researchers concluded about the factors that build it? While they call them by different names, they consistently cite integrity, competence, and caring as the key factors of trust.
Cathleen McGrath and Deone Zell's study in MITSloan Management Review, "Profiles of Trust: Who to Turn To, and for What," defines "trust" as "the willingness to take risks or be vulnerable to another person when there is something of importance to be lost."
Naming the attributes of trust as "integrity, ability, and benevolence," McGrath and Zell portray eight kinds of "trustees," based on the varying degrees to which they demonstrate these attributes:
- Moral Compass—high integrity; shows strong sense of right and wrong;
- Star Player—high ability (or competence); is skilled and talented;
- Cheerleader—high benevolence (or caring); gives unconditional support;
- Harsh Truth-teller—high integrity and ability; demonstrates sharp clarity;
- Loyal Supporter—high integrity and benevolence; is honorable and supportive;
- Dealmaker—high ability and benevolence; wants what will "work" for all;
- Trustworthy Partner—high integrity, ability, and benevolence; most valued;
- Average Joe—middling but not very high integrity, ability, or benevolence.
Each type demonstrates admirable qualities, but trust can go down if one attribute consistently trumps another. The "cheerleaders" who compromise their integrity, or the "star players" who don't care for others, will lose trust sooner or later.
Perhaps you recognize yourself, your colleague, or an employee in one of these portraits. But you also recognize that each of you can move toward the "trustworthy partner" portrait by building and communicating integrity, competence, and caring.