Can trust be calculated?

Relationships with people play a big part in the success of a product owner. They usually get better in time, but not always. Investigating some recent issues, I bumped into a trust equation. Yes, a formula that helps calculate trust.

Here it is:

Trust = (C + R + I) / S

C stands for Credibility. In other words ‘do you know what you are doing?’. If your colleagues or stakeholders don’t think you are an expert in your field, they might trust you less than you would like. So the question here is – how can you demonstrate your skills? Is there something you could teach your colleagues? How transparent are you with what you do, how and why? I.e. do your stakeholders know about the case studies that influenced your decision or do they think it was a gut feeling?

R stands for Reliability. Can your colleagues and stakeholders count on you? The answer usually comes with time and it’s based on past experiences. The question to ask is – have you always delivered as expected? Agile and its small batches of deliverables might be a great help here – deliver often and you will appear more reliable.

I stands for Intimacy (as strange as it sounds in the business context!) The question is – do they like you? It’s been proven that familiarity increase liking, so if this is your struggle – think of what do you have in common with your colleagues. Some common barriers here are – remote locations and the cultural differences. Sometimes, an email written by a non-native English speaker might sound harsh to English people, even though it was not the intention. My advice here would be to increase face to face time, even if it can only be done via a video call.

S stands for Self Orientation. In other words – do you really care about the stakeholder and the business or do you have a hidden agenda and only care about your own progression? As this is the denominator in the equation, it might quickly suppress all the other factors, so it’s important to simply be genuine. Check your ego at the door and stay as transparent as you can. If people don’t know reasons for your behaviour, they will assume some (not always fair!) and in time they will treat it as a fact.

All of the factors influence each other and should not be looked at in isolation. A great starting point would be to identify the weakest factor and start from there. We recently used a scale 1-5 for each of the factors and did the calculation. The result was not great (I call it an opportunity) so we agreed some actions to take and in 3 months time we are going to calculate it again.

Here are the book and a short summary video.

Are there any more ingredients of trust? Probably. I am going to explore the equation as it is first and see what happens. I’ll let you know if I discover a missing part.

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