Trust and the Standard Deviation

Those of you who regularly read Trust Matters have probably heard something about the Trust Equation, a formula for figuring out your own individual trustworthiness.

It looks like this:


T = Trustworthiness
C = Credibility (words)
R = Reliability (actions)
I = Intimacy (safety)
S = Self-orientation (whose agenda are you working?)

You can read more about it in this article:

From this equation, Charlie Green developed the Trust Quotient assessment–20 questions which yield powerful information on not only a person’s overall TQ, but also her or his areas of strength and – let’s be forthright – weakness when it comes to creating trust.

And the Trust Quotient Assessment Says…

Over the past two years more than 10,000 people have taken the TQ quiz. And what a rich and delicious trove of aggregated data that has given us – the largest study of its kind ever done on personal trustworthiness.

One of the key findings is this: in building trust, consistency matters.

The data show that the more consistent a person is across all four areas of the TQ (credibility, reliability, intimacy and low self-orientation) the higher that person’s overall TQ score will be.

Put another way, the higher the standard deviation among the four components’ scores, the lower will be the overall Trust Quotient number. Science has now shown what intuition has always told us. We trust people more when they display all four key factors evenly, when they act consistently. In some ways, this is what we mean when we say ‘integrity’—a sense that we are seeing a whole, that this person walks the talk, there are no secrets, what we see is what we get.

In less mathematical terms …

Imagine that you scored very well on credibility (you really know your stuff), on intimacy (you relate to others on a human level, and are open with them), and on self-orientation (you really listen to other people and want to understand how you can help, not just how you can make a sale.)

BUT–with all of this going for you, if you miss deadlines, show up late or not at all for meetings, and fail to get your part of the project done, no one is going to trust you.

Will they tolerate you? Maybe, if you are the super-expert they need on the job, or the total charmer who makes even wacky excuses sound plausible. But trust you? No. You’re a brilliant or charming flake. You can’t be relied upon.

Does the TQ Contradict Strengths-based Management?

On the face of it, this may appear to contradict the strengths-based approach to management championed by Marcus Buckingham, who argues you’re generally better off working from your strengths than fixing your weaknesses. Because if a charming flake can improve her or his score on reliability, she or he can improve their TQ trust score.

In fact, we don’t think it contradicts Buckingham’s basic proposition; if your natural strength lies in intimacy, for example, you’d do well to use it.  But what if people can’t see it for the strength it is?  What is your flakiness obscures it?

As is true so often, trust may be a bit of a special case. If the appearance of dis-integrity (flakiness, perhaps) is keeping people from seeing your natural strength in intimacy, then improving reliability is a way of enhancing your strength, rather than just shoring up your weakness.

This is just a peek into the tent of our findings from the survey data. Stay tuned to read more in future blogposts.

The Lady or the… A Values Quiz

This is a values quiz.

It’s based on a story.

Here is the story as it was told to me:

A Lady and a Man, very much in love, were separated by a river deep and wide. They longed to be together, but didn’t have a way to get across.

One day a Boatman came by and offered to take the Lady across the river. He could see how much she wanted to go, however, and named a very high price, more than his usual rate. Alas, she didn’t have enough to pay the Boatman, and still couldn’t see a way to get to the Man she loved.

About the same time, a Stranger walked by. He saw the beautiful Lady and offered her a large sum of money in exchange for sex with him. She agreed, and got the money to pay the Boatman and join her lover across the river.

The Man was overjoyed to see his darling, until a Friend told him what she had done to get the money for the Boatman. Then his joy turned to outrage, and he told the Lady he never wanted to see her again. What’s the moral of this story?

It depends on your values.


You can make a case that every character in the story behaved more or less badly. In what order would you put these people, from best behavior (or least bad) to worst behavior?

Really. Take out a pencil and rank them.

Done ranking?


I mentioned this is a values quiz. These are the values assigned to each of our characters:

Lady = LOVE


Boatman = BUSINESS

Stranger = SEX


Next to your written rank order, write in the value assigned to each character.

What was the order in which you ranked these values?

My Ranking

At the high end, I said Stranger, then Boatman. After all, they were just getting what they wanted in pretty straightforward transactions.

Next rung down I put the Lady – a bit of a dope, but she was also going after what she wanted.

Lower down I put the Friend – what business was it of hers to tell the Man about the Lady’s infidelity?

And on the very, very bottom rung, I put the Man. He did nothing to change their plight, and when the Lady took action, all he could do was act priggish in response.

Your Ranking

I feel pretty passionate about my array, and my reasons for putting each character where I did. My ranking seems very right– to me. But you probably feel as strongly for your array and your own reasons.

Try this with a few friends or colleagues. You may be surprised at the way different people think.

What’s It Mean?

We’ve already seen the primary meaning—we are all indignantly and equally sure of the rightness of our own perspectives. Therefore, either most of us are wrong–or there is no unanimity of moral views in the world.

There is another, more speculative meaning: that our rankings roughly correspond to our value systems. And there’s no right or wrong to that.

For my part, yes it does mean I value sex and business over love and morality, especially conventional morality. I know what that means to me. I don’t know what it means to you–nor do you know what it means to me.

Discovering what each means to the other is very much about learning to trust.

Trust and the TransAm

My husband Mark doesn’t come to trust easily in the everyday world, but in some special realms he can build surprising bridges of trust with total strangers. Take the selling of one of his treasured Trans Ams to someone 2000 miles away, whom he never met.

Mark had his last two in a long line of muscle cars – all Trans Ams – in the garage, a ’71 and a ’78. He concluded one day that they deserved better homes because he wasn’t driving either of them more than a few hundred miles a year. The ’78 he sold immediately to a neighbor; we can still see it in their garage by looking from our front porch. The second one he held onto while he debated about keeping or selling.

In October, in the course of his “sell” research, Mark found a ’72 Trans Am for sale on e-Bay and contacted the seller to talk about how he, The Seller Guy, had set the price. (All the sellers and buyers in our e-Bay world are “The Guy”, as in “The Guy selling the Trans Am.”) As it turned out, The Guy was only selling a Trans Am for a friend, and was himself interested in buying Mark’s ’71. They continued their dialog offline.

The Guy then sent a hundred dollars or so – earnest money – as they negotiated. The Guy wanted to see more pictures; Mark posted 172 shots of the inside, outside, underside and every inch under the hood on his FTP site. The Guy sent another $3000 as they concluded the deal and tried to make arrangements for shipping the car and a considerable assortment of parts from New Jersey to Montana.

I don’t know how many cars you’ve shipped, but it seems that shippers take either parts or cars, but not both.

Months ticked by, and nine months later, in July, Mark got an email that The Guy had found a friend delivering a car to PA who was going to stop and pick up the ’71 in NJ to haul it back to Montana. The Guy wired the rest of the money. In August The Pick-up Guy showed up and the car and parts were lovingly handed over to the care of another stranger.

If you asked Mark (I did) what made him trust The Guy he’d never met, hold onto the car for months, and then load the car onto the truck of another stranger, he’d say it was that he didn’t do anything until he had money in hand. The Guy had to do all the trusting (and Mark was of course trustworthy.)

I think it goes deeper: they were members of the same tribe, who spoke the same language, and could be trusted because they established that each was what he said he was – part of the Trans Am tribe.