In our book, Making Trust Happen! How To Think and Talk About Trust & Experience and Create It, we present our framework to hold “trust conversations” based on our organizational development consulting practice and experience. In addition, we’ve added four concepts to the vast literature on “trust.” (i) definitional clarity, (ii) co-arising, (iii) gap analysis, and (iv) trust ratios.  



Definitional Clarity

For us, one reason “trust conversations” are “triggering” and often “difficult” is because of the absence of a universal, shared meaning of the word “trust.” Indeed, the term “trust” means different things to different people. 

So, we’ve developed a “trust glossary.” In it, we’ve offered definitions of six types or dimensions of trust –(i) trusting, (ii) trustworthiness, (iii) trust relationships, (iv) trust structures, (v) self-trust, and (vi) systemic trust. Click here to see our glossary.



We suggest “definitional clarity” doesn’t exist because “trust” has no independent existence. We’ve used the term “ineffable” to express that.”  “Trust” has a “know-it-when-you-see it” quality.  Therefore, the lack of an “independent existence” means we can’t talk about “trust” without specifying a “trust perspective.”  “Trust” appears or happens along with one or more dimensions.

For example:  Instead of saying that I don’t “trust” you, I would say: I don’t find you “trustworthy.” Consequently, before getting deep into a “trust conversation,” we can pause and ask:  Is this the type of “trust” you mean? We can repeat this process for the other five types of “trust.”


Recasting the Familiar

In our book, we’ve taken a familiar concept, “trust,” and reframed it until we had to ask ourselves: What do we mean when we say we “trust” someone? To answer that question, we suggest that before or during a “trust conversation,” we drop the term “trust” and enumerate which of the six perspectives we’re discussing. 


Gap Analysis

As we note in our book, each “trust dimension” has an “as-is” and “to-be” state. Because of this, “trust issues” arise because a “gap” often exists between these two states. So, we present a protocol to close “trust gaps.”



Ensure everyone shares the exact meaning of “trust.” Use the definitions (dimensions) in the “trust glossary.” Our descriptions  are suggestive, not prescriptive



Determine everyone’s current (as-is) and desired (to-be) trust levels (stages.) Use surveys, guided inquiries (power questions), or “trust” exercises.



Use activities that move everyone from their current to desired trust level. For example, increase everyone’s ease at sharing “stories.”



Enhance everyone’s “trust ability.” Why? Their “to-be” stage will become their “as-is” one. Organizations are constantly in flux. For everyone, there will be an “N+1 Trust Stage” to attain. “Trust work” is ongoing.


Trust Ratios

We started our book by presenting “trust” as “ineffable.” We then identified six dimensions of trust. Towards the end of the book, we introduce the concept of “trust ratios.” A “trust ratio allows us to reduce our six dimensions to one. The “one” is a dyadic relationship between “realizations” (R) and “expectations” (E).

If “R” is on the top of the ratio and “E” is on the bottom, the value of our trust ratios (VTR) will change when the relationship between “R” and “E” varies. Ideally, we would like for our VTR to be greater than one.

For example, if “R” is greater than “E,” then the value of our trust ratio (VTR) is greater than one. Our realization of trust relationships is higher than our relationship expectations.

On the other hand, if “E” is greater than “R,” our VTR will be less than one. So we have some “trust work” to do.

If “R” equals zero, our VTR will also be zero. So, in this case, “trust structures” might be misaligned.

If “E” equals zero, then we have an undefinable and difficult situation on our hands, and we would have to explore ways to create or re-create “systemic trust.”


Thinking Inside and Outside Our Trust Boxes

We’ve taken a familiar concept, “trust,” and reframed it. As a result, we can deconstruct and reconstruct our “trust frames.” Consequently, we can identify the “trust boxes” we’re thinking inside so we can think outside of them.  


Trust Skills & Choices

Where does that leave us? Trust’s “elusiveness” fades once we understand trust’s V+1 perspectives and their inter-relationships. We realize that “trust” is a choice and a skill.  That is, we have the ability and capacity to make wise trust choices.  At each moment, we are “free to choose” — “to trust” or not.  


Making Trust Happen

As importantly, we can make trust happen!  And when we do that, our team members strengthen their relationships. They eliminate second-guessing. Their organizational life becomes more comfortable. Furthermore, when “trust happens,” ease of being permeates our organizations and us.