How Hillary Can Build Trust

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At this stage in the election, everything essentially comes down to Trust. Ultimately, do the voters trust the candidates who are asking for their vote.

What is Trust? How is it accrued?

I am reminded of a recent leadership training that I was privileged to be a part of — which included a module that dissected the concept of trust in a consulting-style framework. The participants in my training were mostly Type-A executives who respond well to left-brain frameworks rather than right-brain softer stuff. So the facilitators introduced a Trust Quotient in order to land their point.

It goes like this…. the Trust Quotient is has 3 parts to the numerator which compounds trust, and one part to the denominator which erodes trust.

Trust = Credibility (times) Reliability (times) Intimacy (divided by) Self-Orientation

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  • Credibility is your expertise and credentials. It’s what you bring to the table by knowing what you are talking about.
  • Reliability is that you do what you say. You deliver what you promise.
  • Intimacy is showing vulnerability. It’s being humane. It’s giving others a glimpse into who you are and what makes you tick. It’s revealing your weaknesses and insecurities.
  • Self-Orientation is being egotistical and calculating. Self-orientation erodes trust. When leaders show self-orientation, people disconnect and whatever balance was accrued through Credibility, Reliability, and Intimacy is sabotaged.

Full disclosure. When it comes to the election, I’m With Her.

But, for me, like so many others, what’s palpable and disconcerting is the clear lack of trust that Hillary Clinton has been able to accrue — even from her base. Why?

It seems clear that Hillary’s inside circle are focused 100% on her promoting her Credibility. And, objectively, she is the most qualified human to be POTUS of any candidate in my lifetime. That’s almost not debatable. And yet, people don’t trust her. Which confounds her inner circle. Still, for Hillary, Credibility is a huge positive.

When it comes to Reliability, if you look at her record, and set aside the nitpicking of naysayers who can easily pinpoint flip-flops over a 50 year political career, she is Reliable. She has fought the fight and consistently so. People may argue otherwise, but objectively, she has been consistent and reliable in her positions in her career. For Hillary, some lapses in judgment aside, Reliability is positive and at worst is a neutral.

But let’s talk about Intimacy. Admittedly, in surviving over that decades in what has been truthfully a “man’s game” she has had to be tough, thick-skinned, private and even shrewd. To be sure, more so than her male counterparts. Which, for many, makes her the word that rhymes with witch. Which indeed is an unfair double-standard. But, what she’s lost in this posturing is the ability to show Intimacy. Has she shown herself to be vulnerable? Hardly ever. While she has shown herself to be steely, the lack of showing vulnerability has resulted in that people don’t intrinsically root for her. For Hillary, Intimacy is a (big) negative.

And now to Self-Orientation. How self-oriented is she? On the one hand, she set aside her pride during her husband’s lower moments. On the other hand, she’s been accused of being an opportunist. Her email debacle could be seen as big self-orientation. Same for the accusations about her being in the pocket of Wall Street and accepting egregious speaker fees. And yet, through her career, she has eaten humble pie, and done what it takes to put her in position to drive her moderate agenda forward. So it’s hard to tell. But, to be honest, she is a career politician, and by now everyone knows that she has come too far and sacrificed too much such that she is now willing do anything to become the first female POTUS. Unfortunately for her, this makes her come across as having high Self-Orientation.

In sum for Hillary:

  • Credibility (high)
  • Reliability (medium)
  • Intimacy (low)
  • Self-Orientation (high)

Hillary’s Trust Quotient: MEDIUM-LOW. Her low Intimacy and high (perceived or actual) Self-orientation kills her score.

As a comparison, let’s look at Bernie:

  • Credibility (med-high — walked the walk for so many years and never wavered, yet lacks POTUS credentials)
  • Reliability (med-low — high consistency in his message, but low in effectiveness in execution)
  • Intimacy (med-high- didn’t really reveal much of who his is, but frumpy old guy helped)
  • Self-Orientation (super low — no personal agenda and totally authentic in his interest in the people)

Bernie’s Trust Quotient: VERY HIGH. For you math kids, having a super low denominator creates a really high score. Fun with fractions.

How about Donald:

  • Credibility (medium — lacks political credibility but has leveraged his celebrity and business success(?) to making himself appear credible)
  • Reliability (med-low — all over the place, this guy — but he has his loyal circle who says that Trump “does business with a handshake”)
  • Intimacy (high — while we don’t know his dirty secrets — he does let it all hang out and is super unvarnished which draws people to him and makes people root for him)
  • Self-Orientation (off the charts high — this is the most puzzling thing about how/why people trust him at all)

Donald’s Trust Quotient: should be VERY LOW but in reality is closer to NEUTRAL. His high authenticity creates Intimacy which (ahem) trumps the other variables as most of his followers revere that Reliably speaks his mind. Meanwhile, his critics point at his lack of Credibility and spotlight his massive Self-Orientation. Yet, he seems to be made of Teflon on these dimensions and his fans perhaps forgive his self-orientation as a proxy for their own self-orientation. Admittedly it is puzzling, and yet I would posit that Trumps followers somehow still back him, even if they don’t implicitly trust him.

Which brings me back to Hillary. Because, at this moment in time (July 2016), Hillary suffers from a lack of trust.

I believe the balance of the election (and therefore global stability) lies in Hillary’s ability to build Trust with American voters. While her supporters will continue the drumbeat on her Credibility and even Reliability, that is falling on deaf ears. She can have 100% records on these dimensions. But, what’s lacking in Hillary’s campaign so far is high Intimacy and low Self-Orientation.

As we enter the critical phase of the election with the Democratic National Convention and then debates and such, my unsolicited guidance would be to use this equation to consider refining your approach. Show Intimacy! Admit vulnerability. No one is going to question your toughness. And, reduce Self-Orientation. It’s not about you (“I’m with her”). It’s about others.

I’m expecting at next week’s DNC and throughtout the rest of her campaign to chip away at these areas, but I sincerely hope, for the benefit of our generations, that she authentically takes on both Intimacy and Self-Orientation. The balance of the outcome of the election, and more, depends on it.

Brad Porteus tends to take three times longer than he needs to to make his point, adding tangental side-bar stories as he goes. If his meandering style doesn’t drive you completely mad, there is a lot more where that came from. Check here on Medium or the complete set on

American in Amsterdam.

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