The Five C’s of Trust

Published on January 5, 2015

Matthew Larsen Morava-Performance Coach | Learning and Development

My favorite book on trust is John Gottman’s, “The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples.” Gottman is a world-renowned therapist who runs the Gottman Institute, an organization that is dedicated to understanding and supporting relationships. His work highlights the importance of empathy and emotional understanding in trust.

I also like Stephen Covey’s, “The Speed of Trust” which focuses on the importance of credibility and behavior in establishing and keeping trust.

Then there’s “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. This little book is full of wisdom in establishing character and developing sustaining relationships.

The Four Agreements

As Gottman points out, we enter relationships with questions around trust…

Questions of Trust in a Relationship

Can I trust you to be there and listen to me when I’m upset? Can I trust you to choose me over your mother, over your friends? Can I trust you to work for our family? To not take drugs? Can I trust you to not cheat on me and be sexually faithful? Can I trust you to respect me? To help with things in the house? To really be involved with our children?

I believe we enter work relationships with a similar set of questions.

Questions of Trust at Work

Can I trust that I’m physically and emotionally safe at work? Can I trust that leadership is fair and doesn’t play favorites? Can I trust that I’m paid fairly and on time? Can I trust that I’ll have the resources and support I need to be successful in my position? Can I trust that development opportunities will be made available so I can continue to grow as a professional? Can I trust that my work will be evaluated fairly? Can I trust that I’ll be recognized for my hard work?

Trust is critical in all phases of business…

…and yet there is so much betrayal.

We all have experienced some level of betrayal or breach of trust in our lifetime; in fact, there’s probably not a direction one could take in life and not experience some level of betrayal. It also seems like the higher up Maslow’s Hierarchy we go, the deeper and more complex the level of betrayal.

Jack R. Gibb wrote a book titled, “Trust and in it he explains that distrust and defensiveness in people are most likely to occur in organizations when:

I believe however that the most common forms of mistrust at work, like those listed above, come from toxic organizational cultures that are shame-based.

There have been over 30,000 non-fiction books written on trust in the last 25 years, clearly, it’s a topic we’re passionate about, but trust is a hard thing to define. Here is a model that I developed to help my students get their arms around the topic. It’s my best explanation for why people trust you or don’t and why you trust people or don’t.

Matt’s Five C’s of Trust

  1. Competence — The ability to perform a task or skill at a high level under duress and/or when inconvenient.
  2. Commitment — There is a difference between commitment and sincere commitment. Commitment is when we say yes to something: a job offer, a relationship, an invitation, etc. and our mouth has said “yes” but either our head, heart, gut or groin aren’t totally on board. Sincere commitment is a full-bodied commitment. We’re in it heart, body, and soul.
  3. Consistency — That you are consistent in behavior, attitude, and actions. I joke with my students that “Baseball players, babies, dogs and direct reports all want the same thing… consistency. Baseball players don’t care what the strike zone is as long as it stays the same.”
  4. Character — There are many kinds of character traits that cause a lack of trust, but none more so than self-centeredness. People who only look out for themselves and only put their needs first are always in a competitive style of conflict (Win/Lose) and so it’s a Zero-Sum Game with them. There are appropriate times for competition in a stable, long-term relationship where collaborations rules, however, those moments are very rare.
  5. Confidence — Confidence is one of the trickier qualities of trust in that people will follow highly confident people, even if they lack the other four characteristics of trust and, conversely, people won’t follow leaders who exhibit the other four but are missing confidence. Confidence is an important aspect of trust. Insecurity can be a career killer and maybe one of the most toxic leadership behaviors out there.

How important is trust in your organization?

It’s a question worth considering.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *