To influence you must build trust. Here are some ideas on how you can assess the level of trust perceived by those you wish to influence.

My thanks to Didier Verstichel from Belgium for his reply to a recent blog of mine, where he gave me the trust formula he uses (he doesn’t remember the original author):

The trust formula I am more familiar with is from the book The Trusted Advisor by Maister, Green and Galford:

Above the line both formulas are saying similar things. You are perceived to be trustworthy if you have the requisite expertise and you are close or can become close to the person you wish to influence. Below the line they are saying similar things but with interesting distinctions I would like to draw out.

Maister’s equation is saying that the more the person detects you are there for yourself, rather than in service of them, the less trust you have. Certainly that would imply risk. However, as Didier’s equation just uses “risk” on the bottom line it has broader connotations. As Didier pointed out to me, a great example is a severe health issue: “One will go for the top expert with whom one does not have a lot of intimacy.” It has nothing to do with self-orientation, it has everything to do with the risk to life and limb from the “activity” (e.g. a high risk medical operation) that has to be undertaken.

What this infers is that no matter how much you are there for them, if the personal risk is high, don’t expect the trust levels to be as high in other circumstances. Tread more carefully and do more to build trust.

Can you think of a time you or someone else fell into this trap?


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Bryan Whitefield works with strategic leaders across all sectors to help organisations harness uncertainty – uncertainty is the strategic leader’s best friend. He is the author of DECIDE: How to Manage the Risk in Your Decision Making and Winning Conversations: How to turn red tape into blue ribbon. He is the designer of the Risk Culture: Build Your Tribe of Advocates Program for support functions and the Winning Conversations: How to Engage Program for internal advisors. Both can be booked individually or in-house. For more information about Bryan, please click here.


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