Trust is the cornerstone for all good business relationships. No deal will proceed in the absence of Trust, and nothing grows into a going concern without it: No hiring, no scale, no sales, no mergers, no fundraising, no increase in value. While most of us perceive or feel Trust, many of us have not figured out how to quantify or measure it in our colleagues; we can sense something feeling “off.” How can you systematically identify what element of Trust is missing?

I had a recent conversation with a client, which evolved into a discussion about Trust. Trust fuels and feeds all relationships, and while certain behaviors build Trust, others break Trust down. We discussed a formula he uses to identify and develop Trust in working relationships, which I thought to be very clever, and I decided to experiment with it. For the next two weeks, I would use this equation for all people I encountered to determine whether I could build a trusting relationship. Some of us think we know what to look for, such as a lack of transparency, facts not adding up, false timelines, body language, etc. These are not all readily quantifiable or consistently reliable determinants and do not fully cover how Trust is developed and measured in human relationships.

Let’s first take a look at all the elements of trustworthiness in humans. Credibility, reliability, ability to be vulnerable, and how oriented people are towards others.

Credibility is relatively straightforward and easy to identify in people – Is this person who they say they are? Are they forthright?

Reliability is based on capability plus willingness. Will this person do what they say they will do? Is this person able to do what they say they can do?

Intimacy is the person’s willingness and ability to be open to being emotionally vulnerable.

Does this person share their feelings openly with others?

Self-orientation or other orientation. Are they patient with others? Do they know the impact of their words and behaviors on others? The person needs to clearly communicate expectations and goals to others so that others are not guessing.

The trust equation looks like this:

Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy

Self Orientation

The higher the self-orientation, the lower the Trust, and the more other-oriented, the higher the Trust. The higher the credibility, reliability, and emotional intimacy, the higher the Trust.

When interviewing, we verify the work history and accomplishments to validate credibility and reliability. We look at emotional awareness and demonstration of certain character traits to determine how each candidate demonstrates leadership.

For example, when assessing a candidate, we think about a few questions – we do not directly ask all these questions. Instead, we use them to think through information after the interview.

Does this person demonstrate humility? How? What was their most significant failure or biggest lesson, and under what circumstances did they learn it?

Is this person curious? Will this person be gentle enough to ask questions nonthreateningly to get the best answers? Will this person look for what people are not telling them?

Trust is the cornerstone of fitness. I would be interested to hear how you determine Trust in your relationships, what has and has not worked for you, and your biggest lessons around developing and sustaining Trust.

Laura Raynak is an executive search consultant with over 20 years of experience helping companies hire the right management team. Her scope encompasses CEOs, Vice Presidents, candidates for life science, medical devices, and consumer health companies.