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  • Writer's pictureNavvir Pasricha

Formula of Trust Pt 4 - Self-Orientation

The formula of trust was something my favourite manager shared with me a long time ago. His decision to clue me in on the formula of trust came at a time where I was struggling to connect with a new team of mine after being thrust into position due to the old manager leaving. My struggles boiled down to the fact that my style was vastly different from my predecessor and what the team was ready and able to accept. My manager at that time shared the formula of trust with me and promised that once I had fit all the requirements, my new team would not only welcome me but prefer me to any other manager offered to them. I did not know it at the time but my manager was correct and the formula of trust that I followed not only helped me build trust within my team but it helped me build a reputation as a fair, honest and open manager, so much so that I had people requesting to be transferred into my team within two short years.

In this Four part series, we will discuss the formula of trust and I will share some real life examples of when I had implemented them in the workplace.

The formula is : Trust = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy


Today we cover the final element of the formula of trust - Self-Orientation.

Self-Orientation refers to the degree to which a person places their own self interest. The higher an individual's self orientation is, the more they prioritise their own goals. For example companies exist to make profit. A company with a high self orientation wouldn't require employees to cross promote and to up-sell their products when dealing with a customer. Conversely, a company with a low self orientation will place the customer’s needs ahead of their own. This might seem that self-orientation is a fancy word for being selfish. However, this is not the case. Instead, think of self orientation as a way for a person to adjust their position to create a win-win. For example, a company might coach its employees to deliver the best customer experience possible to all customers in the hope that the customers will voluntarily buy more of the company's products because they appreciate how the company’s employees make them feel. The company still achieves its’ target of making more money but they do so by adjusting their orientation from forcing the sale to creating a better customer experience. This action decreased the company’s self orientation as their desired outcome (ie : more revenue) was put on the back burner and the customer’s desired outcome (a better experience) was brought to the foreground.

A leader can apply this same principle to building trust in their team. Leaders, in general, always have targets to achieve. They could be quantitative (number of cases worked/number of calls answered) or qualitative (quality of the work done), but there is always a target the leader must achieve. Now let us take a hypothetical leader named George. George wants to get his team performing at a higher level and arranges meetings with all members of his team one by one. In each meeting, George tries to push each individual to work faster and with more care by giving a speech about how he wants the team to be the best version of themselves and that the team member needs to not let anyone down, put in 110% and do the best job they can. George reminds each team member to ensure their targets are met and possibly even exceeded. It is likely that the team would inevitably chalk that down to George serving their own self interest. The team might wonder if George could be pushing them so he can have bragging rights amongst his peers or simply to avoid getting told off by his manager.

However, George can take a different approach. He can tell the high achieving members of his team that they need to keep their performance up so they can be in line for a promotion. He can encourage the in-betweeners by asking them where their difficulties lie and helping them overcome those obstacles. George can also inform the poor-performers that they must either improve their performance or be ready to leave the job.

That last part might seem strange but the reality is that leaders don't like having those conversations as they are difficult and they make it awkward for the leader who might face pushback from the team. However, this shows that George has high self orientation as he is avoiding a conversation because of how it makes him feel. Lowering his self orientation and having that conversation means that the strong performers and the mid-tier performers know that George is not just pushing those who can and are achieving but he is ready to push non-performers out.

It took me the larger part of a year to understand the power of self orientation. I was leading a very matured and seasoned team and naturally, a few members of my team felt that they wanted to explore new opportunities. I found myself in a situation where my top performer whose output was nearly double of anyone in my team, informed me of his decision to seek employment elsewhere. He informed me that he had attended a couple of interviews and was scheduled to attend the final interview in 1 weeks time. He also admitted that he was nervous and had been given the feedback that he had to improve on his interview style.

After a discussion with my manager, I decided that I was not going to stand in his way and I made up my mind to help him secure his new position. Till over the next week I spent 1 hour every day with him improving his interview skills. I've realised that while I was losing my top performer, he had learnt the right to decide to move on with his career and that I should be an encouraging force rather than a discouraging one.

I was not surprised when he informed me that he had received an offer letter from the company he interviewed with. However, my actions had a knock on effect that was unexpected. My team members saw what happened with this team member and realised that if they too could be strong, consistent performers, I would help them move on to bigger and better things in their career. As a result of this, I found myself in a position where I had three superstars as opposed to just one. My team went on to produce the highest number of managers in the company and before long I had multiple people approaching me to figure out what they had to do to join my team.

The formula of trust overall is not complicated at all. It is simplistic yet effective as it encourages leaders to stick by their words, to deliver all deliverables on time and as promised, to build strong personal relationships with members of their teams, and to put their team members first.

The formula of trust has helped me immensely in my career as the leader and I hope that it does the same for you.

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