“I don’t trust him as far as I can throw him”.  Everyone has heard/said that phrase.  So how important is TRUST for IT professionals and organizations.  Consider this. “With high trust, success comes faster, better and at a lower cost” says David Neeleman, CEO of JetBlue.  What IT organization does not want to be successful – faster, better, and cheaper – and I would say much less stressful?

I have worked in all environments – low, moderate and high trust.  So when I became a CIO I knew an important Habit of Excellence I need to build and cultivate was trust within IT, and between IT and other business leaders and organizations.  But how does one go about building trust and establishing it as a Habit? In the 90’s and was introduced to the writings and teachings of Stephen R. Covey and his son Stephen R.M. Covey.  Both have written, taught and consulted on the topic of trust.  And I have used their concepts and adapted them to my personal and work lives with much success.  Many of my thoughts below are elaborations and adaptations of their writings.

Trust is not just a touchy, feely concept.  Consider this definition of trust from the Covey’s:

TRUST = One’s Character + Ones’ Competency

Trust between people is a combination of a person’s:

  •        Character – What you say/do, How you say/do, and  Why you say/do
  •        Competency -  What you can do, What you do and What results you get

So why is competency required to build trust?  I thought you just needed to be a ‘good person’ – high character.  Let’s look at a doctor/patient relationship.  As a patient needing open heart surgery, would you trust a doctor that had good bed side manners and high personal integrity, but was in their first year as a cardiologist, and had never performed open heart surgery?  Partially, but I was the patient, I want someone more accomplished to do the surgery.

 People build trust by building ‘wealth’ in what the Covey’s call an ‘Emotional Bank Account’.  As with any bank account one can add to the account with deposits and reduce the account with withdrawals.  Here are just a few examples of deposits and withdrawals with IT professionals and organizations.


  •        Deposits – Think Straight, Talk Straight; Listens to Understand; Manages Expectations; Works to Right Wrongs; Puts Employees First, Then Customers, Then Stockholders; Promotes Win/Win Decisions
  •        Withdrawals -  Shows Disrespect; Listens to Respond; Not Trusting; Talks Behind People’s Backs; Avoids Conflict; Talks the Talk, Does Not Walk the Walk; Being Intolerant/Inflexible


  •        Deposits – Keep Commitments and Delivers Results; Manages Risks; Solves Root Cause of  Problems; Promotes Continuous Improvements; Admit When Wrong or Do Not Know; Demonstrates Leadership
  •        Withdrawals -  Does Not Hold People Accountable; Makes Excuses-Blaming Others; Does Not Take Responsibility; Sells Poor Ideas; Does Not Understand the Business; Does Not Measure Success; Is Reactive versus Proactive; Does Not Align with Business

So how can you objectively measure your EBA with colleagues? I use the Trust Quotient:

TQ = EBA Deposits / (EBA Withdrawals * 2.75)

That’s right – withdrawals are more expensive than a single deposit.  So you need 3 deposits to make up for a single withdrawal.

So what are your experiences in building Trust???