by Ade McCormack

How to calculate your trust capital

Apr 27, 20124 mins
CareersIT Leadership

In these difficult economic times it is a fairly well known fact amongst technology vendors that, whilst the CIO doesn’t always have sign off authority on big ticket sales, they do retain the capacity to be the CINo in terms of blocking any circumvention attempts.

This party spoiler branding is increasingly part of the negative perception business leaders and users have formed about the office of the CIO.

You might find yourself tarred before you even open your mouth on your first day in the job.

Many CIOs will argue that this goes with the territory and if users got everything they wanted the network would collapse and the organisation’s security would be compromised. And they would be right.

It’s the way in which the veto is delivered that is the problem. Upmarket restaurants handle similar situations in a manner that is different to that of a roadside diner. The former considers your feelings the latter does not.

I think the problem is one of branding. With a strong brand, the trust is in place with the users and vendors. Any service failures or request rejections will be taken in a very different manner.

With trust in place the users will give you the benefit of the doubt because they genuinely believe you are acting in their best interests.

For me, the definitive book on the topic is Trusted Adviser (Galford, Maister and Greeen 2002). It defines the elements of trust as:

– Credibility: Credibility includes your ability to understand the challenges and aspirations of the users and have the capability to provide the appropriate support.

– Reliability: Reliability is in essence your ability to keep your promises. Last minute announcements of delayed delivery are not trust-amplifying

– Intimacy: Anyone who has ever tried to accelerate intimacy will have been on the receiving end of a slap or worse. However intimacy can be progressed through sharing.

At one extreme this could be revealing aspects of your own challenges and aspirations right through to publicly announcing your three-year plans for turning the IT function into a lean, demand-driven business decision-making hub.

If you score yourself from one to ten in respect of each of the above and multiply them together you will arrive at a number between one and one thousand. Park that number for a second

– Selfishness: Selfishness should be unambiguous. Do you speak the language of the users when you engage with them or do you prefer to keep them bamboozled by a rich cocktail of buzzwords and acronyms?

This is a form of selfishness and suggests that you are more interested in your agenda. Score this between 1 and 10

Now take the parked number and divide it by your selfishness score. You now have your trust quotient. And you now have your baseline from which to focus your brand building activities.

Relationships: Your relationship will vary from user to user. So whilst an average trust quotient might be useful. The real value comes from building your trust levels one person at a time.

This takes us into the world of relationship capital. For each person you need to consider their seniority and their influence coupled with your trust quotient in respect of that relationship. Seniority can be scored as follows: – User – 1 – Manager – 2 – Director – 3

Influence This is a little more tricky. You have to ask the question as to whether they have the power to support or destroy your initiatives.

A crude approach might be to look at how many people they are connected to on LinkedIn. Those with low numbers of connections generally aren’t interested in influencing others, but this is a questionable assumption.

In any case work out a scoring system and multiply seniority by influence and then by the trust quotient associated with the relationship being scored. This gives you a relationship capital score.

You do not need to do this for every user, the system encourages you to focus your love and attention on those individuals that will yield the highest relationship capital return.

Identify the top 10 to 50 people in your organisation in this respect and ensure those people value having a relationship with you.

Managing relationshipscannot be reduced to Boolean logic and that might be a problem for some of us whose careers have involved intimate relations with compliant and highly predictable new technologies.

However the role of CIO centres on service and not new technologies. So some IT leaders will find themselves at a career crossroads.

The choice is whether to invest in your relationships and build your brand as an information leader or return to that comfort zone known to many as the data centre.

Ade McCormack is a Financial Times columnist, speaker and adviser on the digital economy (