When a new high-level manager is joining an organisation, team’s trust is one of the key factors behind his/her success. The question that arises: should the trust in this case be gradually gained or freely offered?

To tackle this problem I’ve created a simple Trust Model explaining how we gain and lose trust over time. I’ve aimed at making it easy to understand and implement. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on that matter.


Trust is one of the most important resource of a leader. Some call it the currency of the leadership. It can help you carry out major transformation project or get maximum effort from your team in difficult times.

When somebody is joining the team, I am in favor of giving the person an initial trust bonus along with all the necessary help and resources to help him/her succeed. Without that, we can easily create a self-fulfilling prophecy and lead to failure, wasting a lot of time and effort.

The tricky thing is that the initial trust is a good practice, as long as it is treated as a debt that is expected to be paid off. After getting an initial trust bonus, it is your duty as a leader to sustain it. Trust has tendency to erode. Sustaining trust requires a lot of effort.

Trust model

Here comes our Trust Model. It describes the way we should perceive trust to make sure that we do not let it erode. Thanks to that we can achieve our goals as leaders.

Trust Score

Let’s measure trust with Trust Score.  Your Trust Score differs from person to person. The higher the score, the more trusted you are by somebody. If someone trusts you he/she is more likely to follow you, rely on your advice or choose your services.

Negative Trust Score will make it much more difficult for you to convince people to your plans or make them follow your advice.You do not wanna be there.

Trust Score Graph

Trust Score Graph

Factors affecting Trust Score

There are events which increase and decrease your Trust Score. Some of them are dependent on you, some are independent.

We can divide trust events into four main groups:

  • initial trust bonus
  • trust erosion
  • trust gainers
  • trust losers

Initial trust bonus

At the very beginning of every relation you may get an initial trust bonus. It is a good practice to assume that somebody is trustworthy. The level of initial trust bonus depends on the person who is interacting with you. If somebody is more suspicious or has reasons not to fully trust a particular person, we can expect the bonus to be low.

Trust erosion

Here comes the challenging part. Your Trust Score is eroding over time. Once again – how fast it depends on the person you are interacting with. However, for sure you can expect that if you do not take any steps to increase the Trust Score, you will soon reach zero (and keep going down…).

Trust gainers

Fortunately, there are some activities that help you boost your Trust Score, for example:
1) Helping people achieve their goals (on a daily basis and in a long term).
2) Honoring promises and being consistent (doing what you say).
3) Leading by example.
4) Helping people develop themselves.

Here you can find more ways to boost your Trust Score.

Trust losers

On the other hand there are things that makes your Trust Score decline, including:
1) Being closed-minded and ignoring others’ point of view.
2) Failing in communication – which leads to confusion and rumors.
3) Seeking personal, rather than group’s gain.

Some more trust-losing technques are available here.

Case studies

Let’s consider couple of examples. Below you can see the Trust Score graph. On X axis there is time, on Y axis – Trust Score.

Scenario 1

Imagine you join new company. You gain an initial trust bonus. You are in a situation where you can introduce some major change. However, over time your Trust Score is decreasing. If you do not boost it (for example through helping your people achieve their goals), it soon turns negative. Then implementing any big change or dealing with serious problems becomes extremely tough.

Trust score 1

Natural erosion of trust

Scenario 2

After starting new cooperation you receive an initial trust boost. Over next days/weeks it steadily decreases. In the period 6 you implement a major development program for your team members which helps them improve their skills. You receive trust boost and end up above its initial level. Unfortunately, in the next few days it will keep sliding down. You will need another initiatives to sustain its high level.

Trust Score 2

Single gain of trust in the Trust Model.

Scenario 3

After initial trust boost you make a major transition in your team. You introduce it without getting feedback from your team members. What is more, you fail at informing your team about the reasons behind this change. As a result people feel confused and unsafe about their future, and stop trusting you. Your Trust Score suddenly drops. Right now you need a lot of effort to build up your reputation from scratch.

Trust Score 3

Significant decrease of trust in Trust Model.

Hope this Trust Scoremodel will help you in building and sustaining trust among your team members and key stakeholders.

Looking forward to your views on that!