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How to Measure the Level of Trust at Work in Less than 5 Minutes

Trust at Work

Trust at Work

As a certified John Maxwell Team Coach, Speaker, and Trainer, I receive mentoring and training directly from John Maxwell and his global faculty. In one of his speeches on Trust and Leadership, he shared some excellent tips for developing trust and one, in particular, stood out. Referencing Stuart Wells book From Sage to Artisan: The Nine Roles of the Value-Driven Leader, John cited Wells’ four levels of trust.What I discovered is that people can use Wells’ four levels of trust to assess the level of trust in their workplace in literally 3-5 minutes. In my experience, you can do the same by simply reading the descriptions because they are deceptively simple yet provide a powerful framework from which a rich and candid evaluation on trust begins. So read the descriptions listed below and answer the question: What level of trust are people in your workplace operating at?

Negotiated Trust

This is the lowest level of trust, and in this level, there is a need for a formal agreement for trust to exist. People will not do any more than formally required to do and will not share more than they are contractually required to share. It is the lowest level of trust.

Conditional Trust

In the next level of trust, people will give others the benefit of the doubt yet they will reserve full judgment based on how they see others behave. In practice, it is a “wait and see” approach. And when there is a failure to meet expectations, it results in a reduction of trust. John Maxwell described this level as “an attitude of good will combined with weariness”.

Cooperative Trust

In this level of trust, people have expectations of each other and failing to meet those expectations does NOT result in a reduction of trust. In the occasional mistake, lapse in judgment, or error, people will assume there was some level of misunderstanding and/or miscommunication. Belief in other people is not easily shaken because everyone is operating under the principle of partnership for collective success.

Unconditional Trust

This is highest level of trust. People rely on the word of each other without questioning it. Trust is not affected by individual weaknesses, and people openly take responsibility for their own actions. Another clear sign of a high trust work environment is the fact that people will consistently and proactively find ways to add value to others.

Now that you’ve read the descriptions, which level of trust is most prominent in your workplace? I bet the answer was pretty easy to determine, wasn’t it?

I leave you with a powerfully enlightening quote from John about trust. He said, “Only when people have something to lose does trust have any meaning.” If the level of trust in your workplace is too low, then what are you going to do to improve it? Remember, trust is an inside job, and it always it starts with you.

Years ago, I rebuilt my trustworthiness from catastrophic lows by developing a methodology based on cutting edge research and proven best practices for helping individuals and organizations grow their trustworthiness. So if you’d like to improve your own level of trustworthiness and / or improve the level of trust in your workplace, contact me today.


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Sardek… you have been such an inspiration to me since we first met all those years ago… I have been honored to see your level of success continue to rise…. I feel blessed to be able to continue learning from you even though we no longer work with one another… Keep it coming!!!! You are the brightest Star in a sea of knowledge!

Thank you so much Rosemary! I am honored to receive such a glowing statement from you. I sincerely appreciate you, and am blessed to have worked with you!