Trust is the cornerstone for all good business relationships. No deal will proceed in the absence of Trust, and nothing grows 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; all we can sense is 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 diminish Trust. We discussed a formula he uses to identify and develop Trust in working relationships, which I thought to be very clever and decided to experiment with it. For the next two weeks, I would use this equation for all people I encountered to determine whether or not I could build a Trust 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 other-oriented people behave.

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

Reliability is based upon 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 emotionally open to being emotionally vulnerable. Does this person share their feelings openly with others?

Self-orientation or other orientation. Is this person patient with others? Do they have an awareness of the impact of their words and behaviors on others? Does this person 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 choose 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? Do I believe that this person will be gentle enough to ask questions in a nonthreatening way to get the best answers? Will this person look for what people are not telling them?

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