What matters for trust?

Here’s a trust recipe. (Although, it’s key to remember that trust is contingent and dynamic).

What matters for trust?

Here are four models I’ve shared recently. All of them resonate with me for different reasons.

? The Trust Triangle

? David Maister’s Trust Equation

? Extreme Trust

? The Trifecta of Trust

If you stand back, you can identify some common ingredients. Here’s a “Trust Recipe”:

  1. Communication: Sharing information, providing clear expectations, and listening actively
  2. Consistency: In actions, policies, and decision-making processes
  3. Integrity: Acting with honesty and fairness, and following clear values, even when it’s difficult (especially when it’s difficult).
  4. Competence: Demonstrating the ability to perform job responsibilities effectively and efficiently
  5. Reliability: Following through on commitments and promises
  6. Supportiveness: Offering help and support to people and being receptive to their ideas and concerns
  7. Respect: Showing consideration for the feelings, values, and ideas of others
  8. Fairness: Applying rules and policies impartially and justly
  9. Recognition: Acknowledging and appreciating people’s contributions
  10. Confidentiality: Respecting privacy and handling sensitive information with discretion
  11. Empathy: Understanding and sharing the feelings of others
  12. Vulnerability: Leaders who are willing to show their own vulnerability, admitting mistakes and limitations, can create an environment where trust thrives
  13. Empowerment: Giving employees autonomy and trust in their decision-making can empower them and build reciprocal trust
  14. Psychological Safety: Making sure people can speak up, that they can disagree, that they can take risks and admit mistakes
  15. Constructive Feedback: Providing helpful, non-judgmental feedback at the right time and in the right place.

There are a few other key points I’d make about any recipe for trust. Trust is hard to define because it is contingent (it always depends on the context) and dynamic (it changes based on the nature of a relationship). You need to keep in mind that:

  • Trust is a process, meaning there are phases and episodes through which trust is formed and eroded. As such, trust is cumulative, the sum of personal experience and recurring exchanges. There are key moments when trust is tested by critical incidents. And there are conditions that lead to trusted relationships being more likely to form at those key moments.
  • For example, trustors need to have a propensity to trust and a degree of vulnerability, which is the partly a result of personal characteristics, norms and also incentives.
  • In addition, trustees need to have earned some degree of trustworthiness, which is the result of an assessment of their competence, integrity and benevolence.
  • Because an assessment is required, trust is cognitive. In other words, it is based on what I know. Once I have relevant knowledge of your character, your competence, your reliability, then my knowledge constitutes my degree of trust or distrust. In this way, transparency and openness, as well as misinformation and bias, can influence trust. For Russell Hardin, at the heart of a trusted relationship is the knowledge of encapsulated interests. By this he means: “I know you have an interest in fulfilling my trust in you (you encapsulate my interest in your own)”.
  • Trust is also a form of social capital within a group or a community. It depends on reciprocity and exchange. Francis Fukayma emphasises the importance of what he calls “spontaneous sociability”. For Fukuyama, “trust is the expectation that arises within a community of regular, honest, and cooperative behaviour based on commonly shared norms, on the part of other members of that community.”

Given all of the above, Mayer et al provide an integrative model of trust which pulls together these different strands. They define trust as “the willingness of a party to be vulnerable to the actions of another party based on the expectation that the other will perform a particular action important to the trustor, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control that other party”.


Hardin, Russell. Trust. Cambridge: Polity, 2006.

Fukuyama, Francis. Trust: The social virtues and the creation of prosperity. Free Press Paperbacks, 1995.

Schoorman, F. David, Roger C. Mayer, and James H. Davis. “An integrative model of organizational trust: Past, present, and future.” Academy of Management Review 32.2 (2007): 344–354.

#Trust #EmployeeEngagement #EmployeeExperience

How can you approach a topic like wellbeing holistically?

How can you approach a topic like wellbeing holistically?

This is our framework.

=> Employee wellbeing is more than programmes or initiatives.

=> It’s a shared mindset with aligned behaviours, enabled through leaders and managers.

=> Employee wellbeing becomes part of the culture when it is:

** Embedded in the employee experience

** Reflects organizational values

We think about 4 dimensions of wellbeing:

– Physical

– Emotional

– Financial

– Social

Our research reveals that organizations with higher levels of wellbeing achieve:

– Better business outcomes

– Higher levels of employee engagement

– Improved revenue

– Greater customer satisfaction

– Fewer safety incidents

Where can you start when you want to improve wellbeing?:

1. The first step is to really understand your current state by seeking insights from leaders, managers and employees. [I do lots of work here, including surveys and analytics]

2. The second step is to develop and design a strategy that is “fit for purpose” for your organization through analysis of gaps, priorities and opportunities.

#Leadership #WellBeing #EmployeeExperience #OrganizationalCulture #EmployeeEngagement #TotalRewards #Benefits #HR #FutureOfWork

What really matters for trust?

Joseph Folkman in his book “The Trifecta of Trust” came up with these three pillars after looking at masses of leadership feedback data. The point of a trifecta is that these pillars have an order to them.

1. The first pillar is Expertise:

=> “This is the extent to which you are well informed and knowledgeable. It includes your understanding of the technical aspects of the work, as well as your depth of experience.”

=> Expertise is demonstrated by good judgement in making decisions.

2. Once you have achieved a level of expertise, you must demonstrate Consistency:

=> This means walking the talk and doing what you say you will do

=> You are a good role model for others

=> You keep your promises.

3. The final pillar is Fostering Positive Relationships:

=> You stay in touch with the issues and concerns of others (empathy)

=> You balance results with concern for others

=> Your relationships generate cooperation

=> You give “honest feedback in a helpful way”

=> You build an inclusive climate.

I also like his discussion of the “humble expert”, the link between trust and engagement, and trust and confidence:

=> “Confidence can magnify trust, but only when a person’s confidence matches up with their competence. Assuming you are much more effective than you really are causes others to lose trust in you.”

That rings very true!

Reference: Folkman, Joseph R.. The Trifecta of Trust: The Proven Formula for Building and Restoring Trust. United States: River Grove Books, 2022.

#Leadership #Trust #PsychologicalSafety #EmployeeEngagement #FutureOfWork #EmployeeExperience #HR #Inclusion #BehavioralScience #BestThingsAlwaysComeInThrees

How do job demands and resources impact engagement or burnout at work?

This is a great review of more than 10 years’ research into Job Demands–Resources Theory. One thing I especially like is the evidence for “trickle-down effects” (or “multi-level” and “nested” thinking) when it comes to engagement or burnout.

How might that work?

– One study mentioned in the review found that transformational leadership resulted in fewer job demands and more job resources and indirectly contributed to more positive work attitudes and better job performance.

– Another showed that proactive leaders who empowered their followers (through consulting, delegating, enabling, and informing) stimulated job crafting which impacts work challenge and engagement.

– Another showed how a climate of psychological safety had positive cross-level effects on perceptions of job design, which also indirectly reduced job strain (exhaustion).

As someone who likes systems thinking, I appreciate this visual too.

I also appreciate the discussion of “gain cycles” in the paper when it comes to engagement and performance (i.e. non linear thinking).

Here’s the link:


Citation: Bakker, Arnold B. and Demerouti, Evangelia and Sanz-Vergel, Ana, Job Demands–Resources Theory: Ten Years Later (January 2023). Annual Review of Organizational Psychology & Organizational Behavior, Vol. 10, Issue 1, pp. 25-53, 2023.

#Leadership #EmployeeEngagement #EmployeeExperience #WellBeing #Burnout #BehavioralScience #IOPsychology #PsychologicalSafety

What’s the secret to great teams?

This is interesting new research from the CIPD, which reviews lots of studies into high performing teams and identifies the group-level factors influencing team effectiveness.

Two aspects stand out as being especially important:

=> Psychological safety

=> “Cognitive Consensus” (how team members define and think about issues)

Some of the report’s conclusions:

=> Diverse teams can be high-performing teams

=> Different personalities can be team players

=> Team dynamics are vital for performance, such as:

– Trust between team members

– Psychological safety

– Team cohesion

=> Team dynamics are especially important for virtual work

=> Organising team knowledge improves performance

=> Well-planned interventions can increase team effectiveness.

Here’s the link:


#PsychologicalSafety #Teamwork #Leadership #HR #EmployeeExperience #PeopleAnalytics #BehavioralScience #Trust #EmployeeEngagement #Inclusion

How can you measure sense of purpose?

Sense of purpose is a key aspect of employee experience, so how can you measure it?

This paper by Anna Jasinenko and Josephina Steuber tries to answer that question by reviewing the literature and constructing a measure of “perceived organizational purpose”.

Their measure (shown here) includes four factors:

=> Contribution

=> Authenticity

=> Guidance

=> Inspiration

They also look at the link with:

=> Meaningful work

=> Wellbeing

=> What they call “work-life conflict”

=> Job satisfaction

Here’s the link to the paper:


I like this advice: “]Leaders] should not only ask themselves how their organization can contribute positively to society but also whether this potential contribution can be authentically incorporated into daily actions.”

in our High-Peformance Employee Experience framework Purpose is one of four core dimensions (along with People, Work, and Total Rewards) and we have a similar approach to measuring how it is perceived by employees.

I love measurement challenges like this – taking a big idea and grounding it so you can explore and unpack it.

#Leadership #Purpose #EmployeeExperience #EX #EmployeeEngagement #PeopleAnalytics #Wellbeing #MeaningfulWork #BehavioralScience #FutureOfWork

How does trust grow?

When I started my career in consulting, I was handed a well-thumbed copy of the book “The Trusted Advisor” and recommended to read it. Which I proceeded to do, and then in time handed it on to the next person. That copy became more and more worn over the years. The book is full of great advice. Here’s one thing I’ve always remembered: the trust equation.

Here are some of the book’s insights on trust:

=> It grows rather than just appears

=> Is both rational and emotional

=> Presumes a two-way relationship

=> Is intrinsically about perceived risk

=> Is personal

Another section in the book that I’ve always likes deals with “mindsets”:

=> The ability to focus on the other person

=> Self confidence

=> Curiosity

=> Inclusivity

This kind of advice is more applicable than ever.

Maister, David H., Robert Galford, and Charles Green. 2001. “The Trusted Advisor.” Simon & Schuster.

#Leadership #Trust #EmployeeEngagement #ProfessionalServices

#Mindsets #BusinessManagement #Consulting #Motivation

Emotions and Performance

How can you understand emotions in the workplace, and the link to performance?

This is a hot topic: Companies are doing more ongoing sensing, using new technologies to track sentiment, in part because there’s a growing concern over wellbeing & anxiety, plus there is an awful lot of change happening, which always stirs up emotions.

This multi-level model of emotions in organisations was developed by Neal Mashkanasy and Ronald Humphrey.

What does it tell you? (Apart from things are complicated):

– Senior leaders need to understand that employees’ attitudes and behaviors are partly the result of an accumulation of affective events (shown here in Level 1)

– In this framework, level 2 highlights the importance of individual variability in personality and emotional intelligence

– Level 3 covers the role of emotions in interpersonal relationships, e.g., trust

– In group situations managers need to understand how the transmission of emotions impacts teamwork (Level 4)

– At level 5, the focus may fall on “emotional climate” and the impact on organisational performance.

It’s a useful picture to keep in mind when you come across simple displays of “emotions at work”.

There’s a lot to unpack, including effects across levels.

You can find the paper here:


It’s a fun read as the authors talk about leaders as “mood managers” and the potential damage caused by “emotional contagion”.

#Leadership #EmotionalIntelligence #OrganisationalCulture #PeopleAnalytics #BehavioralScience #Teamwork #HighPerformance

High performance requires a combination of discipline AND entrepreneurship

I’ve always liked this picture, which comes from Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great”. It’s something that we also see in our research into EX leadership. This combination is difficult to get right, but it is key for great performance, not just at an organisational level, but at a team level too. Of course, navigating the “tension” here depends on trust and psychological safety.

Jim Collins talks about the importance of:

=> Hiring and developing self-disciplined people (so leaders can “manage the system” rather than individuals).

=> Disciplined thought, as in: “Confronting the brutal facts of reality, while retaining faith that you can create a path to success.”

=> Disciplined action (the ability to focus on the most critical things). In my experience, many organsiations fall down here with too many priorities and too much complicatedness.

And he highlights the need to build a culture around “the idea of freedom and responsibility within a framework”.

Where would you put your own team or organisation in a matrix like this?

#Leadership #OrganizationalCulture #EmployeeExperience #Creativity

#BehavioralScience #Trust #PsychologicalSafety #Innovation


Five Keys for Engagement

Here are five keys for improving employee engagement, based on research into what effective leaders actually do:

=> Really know the people who work for you – understand their experiences, motivations and interests

=> Have an interest in helping people learn to do new things in new and better ways (this isn’t about formal training, it’s about a coaching mindset and encouragement)

=> Inspire people; not through slogans and posters on the wall, but in practical ways that provide a sense of purpose (e.g. customer interaction and feedback)

=> Involve people through building line of sight and business literacy, and by providing access to fresh information (transparency)

=> Recognising people’s contribution: a “Sincere Well-Informed Timely Thank You” is a powerful thing (but many managers struggle with this).

The list comes from the book “Closing the Engagement Gap: How Great Companies Unlock Employee Potential for Superior Results” by Julie Gebauer and Don Lowman.

When I do manager training, it’s depressing to see how many team leaders fall down on “Know people”. I start easy, like, “What are the names of people in your team?” You’d be amazed. This step is really about empathy – or maybe simply caring a bit.

The best managers in my experience, do all these five things and more. What would you add to the list?

#EmployeeEngagement #Leadership #EmployeeExperience #Empathy #HR #PeopleManagement #EmotionalIntelligence #Trust #BadManagersSuck #IMadeAnInfographic