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Maister's Trust Equation

Do you sometimes have difficulties building trusted relationships at work? May that void prevent you from leaning in and contributing your best self to your team at work?

I like to turn to Maister’s trust equation to illustrate what is needed to form a trustworthy relationship. Expressed as an equation, it speaks to my love for math and logic and looks like a reliable place to start exploring how you might enhance your relationships at work.

In words, Maister describes trustworthiness as the sum of credibility, reliability and intimacy divided by self-orientation.  Let's look at the relationship between us as coach and coachee to illustrate what this means.

Credibility centers around the question whether you can trust me to coach you in light of my experience and how I present my experience to you.  My coaching certificate alone will not be sufficient  for you to experience me as credible.  Do you experience me as believable and honest?

Reliability is about whether you think I am dependable and can be trusted to behave in consistent ways. You will find me to be reliable if you experience me as doing what I promised to do.

Intimacy is about whether you experience a level of closeness with me where you feel validated and safe. Do I share enough personal information with you that you feel you get to know the real me and have the courage to confide in me? Can I be a safe haven for your tough issues?

Self-Orientation is about whether you believe that you and your success are the most important part of our relationship.  Alternatively, do you think I am selfish and coach you “just for the money”? Am I present in our conversations, or do I seem to be preoccupied? Am I fully present and listening to you?

Reflecting on these elements in your work context and culture might help you gain clarity how to better build trusted relationships at work.

If you are interested to learn more about Maister’s Trust Equation framework, please check out this link:



Green, C. H., Galford, R. M., & Maister, D. H. (2001). The Trusted Advisor: 20th Anniversary Edition. Simon and Schuster.

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