June 24, 2022
Dan, the tech man, didn’t go to college. I saw that on his resume, and it made me hesitate. We had been through a few tech professionals in the past years who had been disappointing. We really did not want to fill this position once again. Even though he lacked that college degree, he had years of experience and training. He knew what he was doing and was an expert in his field. His work was consistently good, and he was easy to get along with. Everyone liked Dan. He wasn’t in management but quickly became our trusted tech advisor.
I gathered data from 2,571 individual contributors from Marketing, Operations, HR, Finance, Product Development, Legal, Engineering, IT, and Research and Development. These people were all asked by their organizations to participate in a leadership development program for leaders even though they were individual contributors. Because they were asked to participate in a leadership development effort, I concluded that these were most likely knowledgeable professionals respected in their field. Despite not being in a management position, these individuals were rated significantly higher on their trust (other leaders 50.3, Trusted Advisors 55.0, t-value 8.111, Sig. 0.000).
But, not all these trusted advisors were more trusted.
In Zenger Folkman’s 360-degree assessment, each person was evaluated on their level of trust using feedback from all other raters with their self-assessment data excluded. I compared the results for those whose trust ratings were at the bottom 10% (166 people) to those in the top 10% (277 people) with assessments from all raters, managers, peers, and the person themselves.
The graph below shows the comparison between the most trusted and the least trusted advisors.
What do we see in the data?
This research shows that you don’t need to be a leader for others to consider you a trusted ally.
Our research on trust has taught us there are three factors that are best at building trust. The first is positive relationships. We trust our friends and distrust our enemies. The second most important factor is consistency. When people do what they say they will do and keep their promises to others, they are trusted. The third is expertise and good judgment. We trust people who have the correct answers and can solve difficult problems.
Analyzing data comparing the most to least trusted advisors, I identified the top seven behaviors that can help individuals build trust.
In our research with leaders and individual contributors, we have learned that the worst person at evaluating weaknesses or brilliance is that person themself. Their manager, peers, direct reports, and others see them much more clearly and accurately than they see themselves. The evaluations from different raters are consistent and contain useful insights. A 360-assessment is a great value for a person to understand how they are viewed by others. Rather than a fickle evaluation from others, it is a highly predictive assessment that is strongly correlated with performance. Trusted advisors need accurate information on how trusted they are and their effectiveness on the factors that influence trust.
We strongly recommend that every trusted advisor participates in a 360 assessment that will provide them with an accurate assessment of both their level of trust and the behaviors that improve trust.
Connect with Joe Folkman on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.
(This article first appeared on Forbes)
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