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  • Writer's pictureNavvir Pasricha

The Formula of Trust Pt 3 - Intimacy

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


The formula continues with the most controversial element, intimacy.

​​I cite intimacy as the most controversial element as it can swing from professional intimacy to personal intimacy with ease and it is a trap that many leaders have fallen into.

Intimacy requires the leader to build rapport with their team members with the end goal being for the leader to be seen as more than just a “boss”. The leader needs to cultivate a relationship where their team members feel comfortable enough to make open and honest conversations the norm rather than the exception. These conversations allow the leader to connect with their team members on a human level putting aside the trappings of the corporate hierarchy. The leader then needs to show their team member that the leader has the team member’s best interests at heart.

This is always easier to achieve if the leader is new to a team. The leader could organise team outings or even just join their team members for lunch. The idea here is to start building a personal relationship with all members of the team. Therefore participating in activities that are somewhat meaningful to the team members will go a very long way to building that relationship.

If the leader is not new to the team, however, there could be a few ways to achieve this level of bonding. If the organisation has a team-building/engagement budget, the leader can utilise that. The leader could inform the team of how much money is available and ask the team to come up with an event or activity that they would enjoy. The leader would then just need to be present at the event and be active. The worst thing one could do is not go or to go and seem disinterested.

These team engagement activities could help bring the team together. Furthermore, as team members have a good time together some of those positive emotions could be transferred onto their team leader.

This could even be achieved without a budget. For example; in a previous organisation my team decided to embark on a “biggest loser” style competition. Not only did I participate but I attempted to add to the overall healthy living theme by creating my own competition for which team members could make the best healthy breakfast. I advised the team members to be aware of other dietary restrictions and not only did this create a deeper sense of commitment within the team, but I was also seen as someone who was enabling the team as a collective unit to achieve their goals which in this case was healthier living.

These events bring people together meaning the leader is now seen as “one of us” in the collective eyes of the team. This means that when the leader has coaching sessions or discussions with the teammates, they would already be in a position to open up and to discuss issues without the fear of repercussions or scoldings. The more the teammates and the team leader speak, the more comfortable they get with one another and the more open their discussions become.

This is where the team leader must remember to maintain their professionalism. As a leader grows to be accepted in their team, they will feel a deep sense of caring for the team as a whole and for individual team members. One would even say a sense of love is developed between the members and the leader. As such, a team leader could be seen as a confidant, someone who can and will keep a team member’s secrets and guide them through any difficulty they might be facing in their personal life. This might be in a romantic sense, a financial sense or even a familial sense. The leader must be able to distance themselves from such issues whilst still displaying sympathy to the teammate.

The leader must, no matter what, not get involved. I made this mistake once and got involved between a breakup of a member of my team and their partner who worked in the same office. I felt bad for my team member as they were alone and upset and instead of switching to the “leader” lane, I stayed in the “friend” lane and ended up getting involved in the breakup. Hindsight being 20/20, I know that I should have offered my team member some time off to sort out their personal issues and remind them to not allow their personal life to affect their work as that would mean they would be facing issues at work as well as issues in their personal life.

There is a thin line that separates acceptable and unacceptable behaviour when it comes to intimacy and as long as the leader is able to stay on the right side of the track in this regard, they will be fine.

Next time, we complete the formula of trust with the last (and some say most important) element, self-orientation.

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