The trust equation

I was having a drink last night with a friend who mentioned the trust equation. We were talking about it in relation to doing consulting and collaborative work face to face and on-line. What we were both interested in was in the age of IBM Jams, Imaginatik collaborative software, and other forums for on-line crowdsourcing and/or problem solving. Do people need to meet face to face and if so when.

This question of face to face meetings is also pertinent to the questions I'm working on around teleworking. How often do managers need to meet with employees? What oils the wheels of relationships in the workplace? Do we need to suggest that teams meet face to face for social and business events at regular intervals? Are face to face meetings 'better' in the start up of a project or relationship than on-line, etc. etc.

Probably vast volumes of research exist on just this topic but since this was a social meeting we weren't about to get out our i-pads and take a look on who's written what on the topic.

So we were reliant on personal memory and experience. We started to talk about the necessary ingredient of relationships as being 'trust'. People had to feel confident that others they were working with could be trusted off-line and face to face. I suggested the Richard Sennett book which is not about trust but about respect The book by him that I was talking about is called Respect in an Age of Inequality but has a number of mentions on the necessity of trust.

My friend mentioned the trust equation. I'd not heard of this but wrote it on the napkin as he dictated it. Now I've looked it up I find an excellent explanation on the Trusted Advisor website in a downloadable pdf format.

Briefly, trust equals credibility, plus reliability, plus intimacy, divided by self-orientation. There follows a definition of each word and an explanation of how the equation works in practice. As follows:

Credibility has to do with the words we speak. In a sentence, we might say, "I can trust what she says about intellectual property; she is very credible on the subject.

By contrast, reliability has to do with actions. We might say, for example, "If he says he'll deliver the product tomorrow, I trust him, because he's dependable."

Intimacy refers to the safety or security that we feel when entrusting someone with something. We might say, "I can trust her with that information; she's never violated my confidentiality before, and she would never embarrass me."

Self-orientation refers to the focus of the person in question. In particular, whether the person's focus is primarily on himself or herself or on the other person. We might say, "I can't trust him on this deal-I don't think he cares enough about me, he's focused on what he gets out of the deal." Or-more commonly-"I don't trust him-I think he was too concerned about how he was appearing, so he wasn't really paying attention."

Increasing the value of the factors in the numerator increases the value of trust. Increasing the value of the denominator-that is, self-orientation-decreases the value of trust.

From the same website there's an ebook on the topic and a self diagnosis Trust Quotient Self Diagnosis test.

So something new learned over a face to face drink – now to find the answers to the question when is face to face needed in building successful working relationships versus when it is fine to start (and stick with) on-line.