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What Your TQ Score Really Says About You

I’m Kristin Abele, head of Trust Diagnostics at Trusted Advisor Associates.  I want to share some findings with you based on my eight years working with the TQ Trust Quotient Assessment tool.

The TQ (like IQ, and EQ, in case you didn’t catch that already), is based on the Trust Equation. The Trust Equation is a four-factor statement of the components of trustworthiness, first laid out in the book The Trusted Advisor. Here’s a brief video explaining the elements of the equation.

The TQ gives you a chance to self-assess your trustworthiness in a 20-question online format. It takes only a few minutes, and you get instant online feedback.  The basic test is free; there is a paid option for advanced results.

Go ahead, give it a go.  I’ll wait.

The assessment gives you a few key insights and numbers: your TQ score (a numerical score that says where you fall on a graph of trustworthiness), your strongest trust factor, your biggest area for opportunity, and your Trust Temperament (TM).

Let me help you interpret a few of the results.

What’s in a Number?

Your actual TQ score ranges from 0 – 15. The average score from the 70,000+ people who have taken the TQ to date, is  7.1 on the scale. So, what’s that mean? Is 7.1 the basis for deciding if you’re trustworthy? Is any score below that not-trustworthy? Is any score above that ranking among the Gods of Trust?

It’s tempting to be hard on yourself if your score is below 7.1 (or celebrate if it’s above); tempting, but not necessarily right. Your absolute score can be influenced by your tendency to be hard (or easy) on yourself.

But that’s not the end of the story. Breaking down the TQ score tells you quite a bit.

It’s All About the Factors

The big take-aways from your TQ report are your strengths, your areas for opportunity and your Trust Temperament.

Trustworthiness is made up of four key components: Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy, and Self-Orientation. After completing the TQ, you’ll be shown which factor is your greatest strength, which could use more of your attention, and a little bit about your personality when it comes to trust (your Temperament).

These results are what speak volumes about you – and your overall trustworthiness. Are you highly credible but avoid building any intimacy with your colleagues and clients? Does everyone know just how reliable your are but you tend to always put yourself before your peers?

This is what speaks volumes about the ways in which you are trustworthy – and how you are building trust with co-workers and clients.

 

 

 

Can Trust Be Taught?

Let’s not mince words. The answer, pretty much, is yes.

The exception is what the academics call social trust—a generalized inclination to think well or ill of the intentions of strangers in the aggregate. That kind of trust ends up being inherited from your Scandinavian grandparents (or not, from your Italian grandparents).

The rest, let’s break it down. First, enough talk about “trust.” Trust takes two to tango. One to trust, another to be trusted. They are not the same thing.

So let’s start by asking which we want to teach: to trust, or to be trustworthy?

Trusting someone is, paradoxically, often the fastest way to make that other person trustworthy—thereby creating a relationship of trust.  People tend to live up, or down, to others’ expectations. So if you can muster the ability to trust another, you’re both likely to reap big returns quickly from the resultant trust.

However: trusting can also be a high risk proposition. The vast majority of business people, on hearing “trust,” will say “that’s too risky.” In other words, they hear “trust” as meaning “trusting,” and they turn off.

On the other hand, there is being trustworthy. If you consistently behave in a trustworthy manner, others will come to trust you, and voila, you have that trusting relationship. Being trustworthy tends to take longer than trusting, but the results are just as good. And, it’s very low risk.

Let me say that again: becoming trustworthy is a low risk, high payoff proposition. This is not a hard concept for people to get, if explained right.

What does it mean to be trustworthy? The trust equation explains it: it’s a combination of credibility, reliability, intimacy, and a low level of self-orientation. You can take a self-assessment test of your own TQ, or Trust Quotient, based on the trust equation.

So the question is: can people be taught to become more credible? More reliable? More capable of emotional connectedness? More other-oriented and less self-oriented?

The answer is yes. Big picture, there are two ways to teach these things. One is to recall Aristotle’s maxim: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”

People can be taught truth-telling, reliability, even other-orientation to some extent by showing them the behaviors—particularly the language–of trustworthy people.

But the deeper, more powerful approach to building trustworthy people starts the other way around: by working on thoughts to drive action. As the Burnham Rosen group articulates this point  “thought drives actions which result in outcomes.”

Many disciplines outside of business know the truth and power of this approach: psychology, acting, public speaking, to name a few. Business doesn’t appreciate it enough. But commonsense does.

Trust can be taught: either by teaching trusting, or trustworthiness. The latter is lower risk, hence the most attractive approach for many in business.  And trustworthiness can be taught via a mix of skillsets and mindsets

It makes sense.

Ian Brodie Takes the Trust Quotient Test: Video Interview

Ian Brodie is a sales and marketing consultant to professionals. Based in Cheshire, England, Ian’s low-key, self-effacing style belies some deep content mastery.

Ian and I crossed paths years ago at Gemini Consulting, and have gotten back in touch in recent years.  As part of our promotion for The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, Ian agreed to be a guinea pig and take the TQ (Trust Quotient) Self-Assessment test.

Not only that, but he agreed to share the results – on video! – with TrustMatters readers.

If you’ve been curious about the TQ test, have a look at what Ian (and his wife!) gleaned from it in this YouTube video.

Andrea and I thank Ian for his participation. If you’re interested in the TQ test, you can find out more about it here.

And as long as you’re onsite, have a look at The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

Is Trustworthiness a Moral Value?

Every day, I’m a little blessed by the interest and thoughtfulness of our readers. Here’s an excerpted email I received this week that got me thinking.

The Email

Dear Charlie,

I took your free Trust Quotient (TQ) assessment. As I read it, the survey is presented as an evaluation of individual trustworthiness based on, among other things, credentials and one’s certitude in advancing a position based on one’s special knowledge.

To me, that’s not a measure of trustworthiness, but of perceived self-worth as measured by credentials and salesmanship.

I think of trustworthiness as a moral value.  I sense the value being measured in this test is not trustworthiness per se, but how deeply we identify with the importance of expertise and credentials, and how well we convince others of our personal trustworthiness by those same tokens.

Reader X

My Response (partial)

Dear Reader X,

Thanks so much for taking the time to express your thoughts. I suspect you and I are in complete agreement about trustworthiness as a moral virtue.

However, I think you misunderstand the TQ in a couple of ways―regarding the use of the quiz and regarding the idea of credibility.

Trusting the TQ

The TQ is first and foremost a self-assessment. If the results were used by third parties, for example for hiring or aptitude testing, it would render them useless, because it’s simple to skew the answers so that others would see it in a way the test-taker wanted to be seen.

However, if no one else sees it, then test-takers would only be fooling themselves and destroying a chance to build self-awareness.

Salesmanship Does Not Drive Trust

You suggest that the TQ assessment is “not a measure of trustworthiness, but of perceived self-worth as measured by credentials and salesmanship.”

A look at any recent survey shows trust has gone down. I suspect you might agree, however, that what passes for “salesmanship” has probably gone up. That, I suggest, is prima facie evidence that people perfectly well know the difference.

Does excessive “salesmanship” drive down trust? Of course it does.  You can see it in every factor of the Trust Equation, the theoretical model underlying the Trust Quotient.

When you run into a hustler or con artist:

with respect to Credibility―

    •     you don’t believe his words
    •     you don’t believe his sincerity
    •     you doubt his expertise and credentials

with respect to Reliability―

    •     you want to see outside verification: “Show me the CarFax!”
    •     you require legal contracts
    •     you examine track records

with respect to Intimacy―

    •     you hesitate to trust him with your private information
    •     you suspect his motives in trying to get close to you

with respect to Self-Orientation―

    •     you suspect he’s entirely in it for himself
    •     you see that when he pretends to be focused on you, he’s faking it.

Every part of the Trust Equation works in that case to show precisely how we do NOT trust such a person. This equation doesn’t suggest untrustworthy behavior—on the contrary, it provides the diagnostic tool to describe and identify such behavior.

Trustworthiness and Morals

I don’t think you can have morals without relationships. And just as the least trustworthy people are those who violate relationships by lying, bullying, and trying to hustle people for their own ends, so likewise are the most trustworthy people those who honor the Other in their relationships.

That means those who:

  • are honest about what they know and about what they don’t know
  • put their knowledge in service to the Other rather than to just looking good
  • can keep confidences
  • play in the long-run relationships game, not in the short-run transactions game.

Your comments fascinated and engaged me. I thank you for your passion, and hope you’ll forgive my reacting passionately as well.

Charlie

This particular reader chose to opt out after the free portion of the TQ because she felt it was contrary to her view of trustworthiness and morals. Too bad, because I think if anything, the opposite is probably true. As a result she missed out on the really cool stuff about the TQ:

  • The Trust Temperaments—the six psychological categories that describe how you go about being trusted
  • Most importantly, very practical, extensive suggestions about how you can improve your trustworthiness.

So let me ask the rest of you—how could we have written the free portion of the TQ test more attractively so that Reader X would have stuck around to find out the Good Stuff? Your suggestions are welcome.

Are You a Connector? A Catalyst? A Steward?

Are you an ENTJ?  An ISFP?  An Aries or a Pisces?  You may know your Myers Briggs Type Indicator, and you no doubt know your birthday–but what about your Trust Temperament™?  How do you go about building a trustworthy relationship with another person?

Our research has identified six different Trust Temperaments™, or preferences, describing how different people go about building trust.

You Might Be a Redneck If…

To borrow from Jeff Foxworthy’s famous comedy routines (though on a more serious subject), we’d like to offer you a little self-assessment opportunity.  Here are the six Trust Temperaments™ based on the Trust Quotient to check out below.  Each one represents two strengths from the Trust Equation.

What’s Your Trust Temperament?

If you like being the smartest person in the room, if you solve the hard problems, if you care about what other people think of your work, or if you’ve ever said “Lead, follow or get out of the way–”

You might be an Expert.

If you’re organized, dependable, sincere, if you’re the PTA president or Little League coach, if you’ve ever been called a kindly (or not-so-kindly) drill sergeant–

–You might be a Doer.

If you love ideas and framing the big picture, how things are connected, collaborating and brainstorming, and if you like to play by your own rules–

–You might be a Catalyst.

If you’re magnetic and caring, if you accomplish things through others, and if people come to you to find out what’ really going on around here–

–You might be a Connector.

If you care about the group and the mission, if you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, if the phrase ‘servant leader’ has a positive ring for you–

–You might be a Steward.

And if you love the subject matter of your work (maybe more than you love people?), if you get sidetracked by insights but never by ego, if anyone has ever said to you: “Hello, we’re over here–”

–You might be a Professor.

Where do you see yourself?  To find out your type, take the Trust Quotient test.

But Enough About You–Let’s Talk About Us!

As we’ve said, these are natural styles, or tendencies, which draw on different strengths in becoming trustworthy.  Over the coming weeks some of us from Trusted Advisor Associates LLC are going to share our personal perspectives on what it’s like to be a…

Stay tuned.

Why Hard Trust is Gained from Soft Skills

I was in Toronto. Barely glancing at a $10 bill, I thought, “Ha—they misspelled the word ‘dollar,’ those silly Canadians.”

An instant later, I realized the fault was mine, not Canada’s. But before that realization happened–I had made a judgment. And much trust works that same way.

Think hard data causes trust? Think again. Hard trust is gained from soft skills.

The Myth of Rational Trust

Based on 14,000 takers of the Trust Quotient self-assessment test, we can confidently say most businesspeople overrate the importance of credibility in establishing trust. In practice if not in theory, they believe they can induce trust through PowerPoint. The fact is, more expertise ≠ more trust.

Most also believe that trust takes a long time to build and only a moment to destroy. In fact, trust takes about as long to destroy as it took to build—the time for each is a function of the depth of trust involved.

Both these beliefs—over-stating credibility and misunderstanding the speed of trust—are part of what I’ll call the Myth of Rational Trust. Simply stated, the myth says:

“The decision to trust is a conscious and cognitive process of weighing risks and returns, seeking the option most suited to increase the present value benefits of the one potentially doing the trusting.”

And monkeys fly.

How People Really Trust

People make decisions to trust, or not to trust, well before cognition can show up on the scene. Consider my immediate judgment that the Royal Canadian Mint had neglected to use spellcheck on its currency.

We make many trust decisions not on the basis of analytical criteria, but on the more autonomic instincts of whether something accords with deeply ingrained habits. Is he frowning or smiling? Is he holding out his hand to shake mine? Is ‘dollar’ spelled with one L or two?

Who was I to believe—my spelling instincts, honed since elementary school, or the Canadian government, with whom I have far less experience?  It was, pardon the pun, a no-brainer. I’m a very good speller; and I trust my instincts. Just like you do.  And if that meant Canadians couldn’t spell, I was for an instant willing to conclude that must be the case.

That is how the brain comes to trust.  In the case of currencies, the rational mind can quickly step in and say, “Wait a minute, are you kidding–how likely is that!? Does not compute. Hey, lying eyes, go take another look at that loonie bill.”

Easy enough when it comes to currencies.  But what happens when it comes to more complex phenomena? How do we come to trust in nurses, in salespeople—in politicians and institutions?

Lessons for Trusting

I recently saw an online comment to an economist’s article.  It started out, “I am open-minded, but when I got to your second sentence about the Bush tax cuts I quit reading—you are obviously a fool.”

Not open-minded at all—but neither are most of us.  We all have opinions on the issues du jour, and we dangerously tend to read only those who agree with us.

Which suggests that very few people’s minds are changed by confrontation with disconfirming data.

Instead, they are changed by the deeply-ingrained instincts we have come to rely on.

Personal Trust

In the personal-trust arena, our TQ research shows that the “intimacy” factor is the strongest of the four in the trust equation. Whether someone feels safe and secure sharing information with you is more powerful than your hard-won credentials, fancy slides and long list of past clients.  The saying, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care” is not some idle sales line; it is deeply grounded in psychology.

A recent Wired story (Why Brains Get Creeped Out by Androids) suggests that we may trust robots doing people tasks, and we may trust people doing people tasks, but we get deeply suspicious if we see robots who look like people doing people tasks.  It has nothing to do with robots or tasks, but simply to an incongruity (“Wait, they’re not supposed to look like that, what’s going on here!?”)

How to be trusted? It lies in connection, focus, good will, hand shakes, empathy, listening, caring, bedside manner.  The road to hard trust is paved with soft skills.

Social Trust

How can Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation regain trust? Not by hiring a PR firm.  How can the US Congress recover from the debacle of its recent circular firing squad exercise? Not by more speeches.

The decision to trust often happens in an instant.  But that instant is just the reaction to a lifetime of conditioning experience.  If we are conditioned to think that all politicians are self-dealing bloviators, we didn’t get there overnight.

Trust takes as long to lose as to gain; and as long again to get it back. The answer to low trust in our companies and our institutions will not be found in quick hits, PR campaigns, new ideologies, changed incentives or new leadership.

It will come about as a natural result of sustained, across-the-board changes in beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. Companies actually have to behave responsibly; Congress actually has to make things work; advisors actually have to have their clients’ best interests at heart.  There is no quick fix. There is no reason to trust someone if they have created a history of being in it for themselves and untrustworthy.

But it can be done. Institutions used to be more trusted than they are now. We un-did that work, we can re-do it again.  And if we do, the instinct to trust can work as quickly as the instinct not to.

Does This Make My “S” Look Big? True Customer Focus

I’ve led dozens of learning programs on being a Trusted Advisor.  One thing I’ve learned: without a doubt, the most popular element of the Trust Equation is Self-Orientation.

By “popular,” I mean it’s the one most people identify as a huge opportunity for improvement. Which makes sense, since it’s deliberately placed in the denominator to highlight its ubiquitousness.

Simply defined, self-orientation is about focus. If someone says about you, “I trust that she cares about _______” and fills in the blank with something that relates to them, then your “S” is little. And that’s good.  (“I trust that she cares about how this project will impact my career”; “I trust that she cares about what’s best for the team”; “I trust that she cares about our reputation.”)

Alternatively, if the words that complete the sentence relate to you in any way shape, or form, then you’ve officially got a Big “S.” And that’s bad. 

We all know the stereotypical used car salesman – a classic “Big S” caricature. He’s disingenuous, in it for himself, armed and ready with manipulative tactics to get you to do what he wants. As I’ve come to better understand what “S” is all about, I’ve come to appreciate its subtlety. In reality, self-orientation sneaks into our interactions with others in more insidious ways. This means keeping it small can be challenging.

Think of self-orientation as referring to two levels of focus: results and needs.

High Self-Orientation Level 1: Results

Most of us are pretty clear about the results dimension–the more obvious of the two. We generally know what we should be doing to be other-focused in this regard. “Little S” strategies include:

asking lots and lots of questions from a place of curiosity to figure out what success really looks like

negotiating for true win-win,

doing the right thing, even if you’re incented otherwise. The latter includes the provocative notion of referring a client to a competitor if the competitor could do better for the customer.

“Big S” results behaviors (the bad ones, remember) include rushing to a solution, making a bad first deal, or “hoarding”—time, resources, ideas. “Gigantic S” equals stereotypical used car guy.

High Self-Orientation Level 2: Needs 

The other dimension of self-orientation is needs.The question here is whether or not you’re focused on your needs–or on theirs.

For example:

–          Are you focused on your need to look smart (and so you invoke Death by PowerPoint … or simply talk a lot) or are you focused on their need to be heard (therefore you listen without distraction, even when it’s uncomfortable to be silent for what feels like a long time)?

–          Are you focused on your need to be liked (hence you avoid confrontation—sometimes or always) or their need to have all the data required to make good decisions (meaning you’re consistently willing to speak a hard truth if it’s necessary, even when it feels awkward to do it)?

–          Are you focused on your need to be the hero (so you subtly compete for attention or recognition) or are you focused on their need to feel confident (meaning you check your ego at the door and give them the credit)?

I chose these three examples because they’re the ones I struggle with the most. Even though my “S” scores on the Trust Quotient are actually pretty low, I’m well aware of my own quirks and foibles and I work every day to manage them—sometimes with greater success than others.

What Makes My “S” Look Big? Being Human

Self-orientation rears its ugly head most often when we feel some sort of fear—fear of looking bad, fear of rejection, fear of loss. All of these fears fall into the category of perfectly normal. And they’re what make your “S” look big.

What makes a difference is having the ego strength to see it, acknowledge it, to “get off your ‘S’,” and move on.   After all, obsessing about “Big S” mistakes is just more … “Big S.”

Ah, the joys of being human.

Old Faithful and Reliability

Old Faithful is a geyser located in Yellowstone National Park, USA. It gets its name because it regularly shoots steam and water to great heights. In fact, with a margin of error of 10 minutes, Old Faithful will erupt either every 65 or every 91 minutes, depending on the length of the previous eruption. It’s been doing this since 1870.

While most of us who endeavor to be Trusted Advisors would probably prefer not to be associated with a “geyser” (myself included), there’s something we can all learn from this phenomenon of nature.

Reliability: The Good News/Bad News

Of the 12,000+ people who have completed our online Trust Quotient™ survey to date, Reliability comes out 16 percentage points higher than any of the other three elements of the Trust Equation. This isn’t really surprising, given that Reliability is the easiest to grasp and execute. Reliability is logical, concrete, and action-oriented.

The bad news is we’re not as good as we think.

Case in point: I’m always interested to see how participants in our programs handle the pre-work assignment we send via email a couple of weeks before the program begins. Responses are due to be emailed back within a week. It takes 10 – 20 minutes to complete the work. People generally fall into one of three categories:

  • Turn it in late with no acknowledgement (slightly more than half)
  • Never turn it in (some)
  • Turn it in on time (very few)

So while Reliability seems like a “slam dunk” in the world of trustworthiness, there’s room for us all to improve. (And by the way, I am no exception, witness how I’ve been doing lately on my goal of writing one blog post per week.)

The Road to Being More Reliably Reliable

Generally, people experience you as reliable when:

  •  You feel familiar to them. They’re at ease with you. They have a good sense of who you are and feel they know you. You use their terminology and templates. You establish routines in your relationships (regular meetings, emails, etc.). You dress appropriately.
  • You are consistent and predictable. People know what to expect from you, and they get it. You set expectations up front and report on them regularly. You are rigorous about using good business practices, such as meeting agenda and notes. You make lots of small promises and consistently follow through. They can count on you to be the same person at all times, and the same to all people.
  • You work to make sure there are no surprises when you’re around. You use others’ vocabulary and respect and reflect their norms and environment. You make sure that their expectations of you are consistent. You produce documentation of consistent quality and create deliverables with a consistent look and feel.
  • You do what you say you will do. You keep and deliver on your promises, and see keeping your word as a matter of personal integrity. When you are unable to fulfill on a promise, you immediately get in communication to acknowledge the impact and reset expectations.

Reliability is Reliability is Reliability

Here’s the rub: Consistency matters. If you apply these best practices more with your clients and less with, say, your Trusted Advisor instructor … then your reliability score suffers.

Perfection is not the goal here; impeccability is (See Impeccability vs. Perfection: Who’s Got Your Back?). There’s always room for error and for our humanity. When it comes to trust, what matters is being rigorously self-aware, transparent about our strengths and weaknesses, and willing to hold ourselves to higher and higher standards of execution.

Writing this post was one action I chose to boost my own Reliability today. What’s yours?

Can You Train for Trust?

Can you train for trust?

The question needs to be broken down; but the quick answer is — yes. Let’s talk about how. And then we want to invite you to experience it yourself.

Disclosure: this blog-post is part advertisement. Trusted Advisor Associates is offering an open enrollment Being a Trusted Advisor program  in New York, New York. Read on to find out more, or just click here to sign up.

Now, back to training for trust; let’s break it down.

How to Approach Training for Trust

1. Be clear what you’re teaching. There is training for trustworthiness, and there is training for trusting. They are not the same. It’s the combination of one’s trustworthiness and another’s propensity for trusting that creates trust. Trustworthiness can be learned and is a lower-risk proposition–focus your energy and resources here. (See Trust, Trusting and Trustworthiness)

2. Keep it simple. Break an amorphous, complex topic into bite-sized, digestible pieces. Use a few solid, core models of trust. We use the three Trust Models: the Trust Equation, the Trust Creation Process, and the Trust Principles.

3. Make it stick. Thought-provoking concepts are necessary…and far from sufficient. We recommend four specific learning techniques to make a lasting impact:

a. Generous use of anecdotes—stories have a way of conveying the paradoxes of trustworthiness better than any rigorous intellectual model;
b. Realistic cases—in particular, role-play exercises, cases and video vignettes;
c. Muscle Memory—there is no substitute for ‘feeling’ the techniques, with hands-on demonstrations by experienced trainers and a lot of experimentation by participants;
d. Ongoing application to current business situations—with instructors and coaches guiding you through it in real time, live ammunition, no safety net.

Above all else, trust is learned by doing. What action will you take today to increase your trustworthiness?

Back to the advertisement: Being a Trusted Advisor is being held in New York, New York, April 22-23, at the Columbia University Faculty House. This program develops the mindsets, skills, and day-to-day practices of a Trusted Advisor. It includes built-in reinforcement–a one-on-one coaching call for each participant–along with a personalized Trust Temperament(tm) and autographed copy of either "The Trusted Advisor" or "Trust-based Selling."  Click here to sign up.   An early-bird discount is available until April 1.

We hope to see you in New York City!

 

 

Call for October Carnival of Trust Submissions

This blog has some pretty talented people reading and commenting in its pages. I’d like to invite all of you to consider submitting one of your own blog postings to the Carnival of Trust.

The deadline for submissions to the next Carnival of Trust is this Thursday night–midnight. The Carnival will then go live in a matter of days–after our esteemed guest host, Scot Herrick, has a chance to go through them and make his selections.

Here’s what you do to get your 15 minutes of fame and enrich the world. Pick your trust-related post, and submit it here.

Then sit back and roll in the adulation.

OK, seriously, the Carnival of Trust is a fascinating, monthly compendium of blog postings related to trust in business, trust in selling, trust in society at large. It is kept interesting by the vibrant commentary of our esteemed hosts, and their discriminating selection criteria.  If you don’t get selected, it’s no dis. But if you do get selected, it’s a tribute.

So bring out your best stuff, and share it with the world. After all, how’s the world going to get better if you hide those great insights from the rest of us?

(Read more about the Carnival of Trust here).