ABCD Trust Model

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This article describes the ABCD Trust Model, developed by Ken Blanchard in a practical way. After reading you will understand the definition and basics of this powerful leadership and coaching tool.

What is the ABCD Trust Model?

The ABCD Trust Model was designed by Ken Blanchard. The American is mostly known for being a management and leadership guru and developed the Situational Leadership Model together with Paul Hershey. In addition, he wrote the international best seller ‘The One Minute Manager. In 2013, his book ‘Trust Works’ was published, in which he discussed the ABCD Trust Model. The foundation of this model is giving and receiving trust.

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What is trust? How is trust built among people? What happens if the trust is broken? According to Blanchard, there are a number of common elements that decide what trust is. He calls this the ABCD model, in which each letter stands for a word: Ability, Believability, Connectedness and Dependability.

Based on these elements, the status of mutual trust in a relationship between people can be determined. Next, people can discuss with each other how the trust in each other can be increased.

According to Ken Blanchard, trust is expressed in actions and behaviour; words alone are not enough. He distinguishes between trust breakers and trust makers.

Actions that systematically dismiss other people’s work and ideas, are true trust breakers according to him. Recognition for the work of others, appreciating and supporting them on the other hand and are true trust makers.

Ken Blanchard refers to low trust as Low T(rust). People with Low T do not feel good about themselves and experience a lack of emotional connections to the people around them.

They are not able to share important information with others and often feel that they are being excluded by others. Both employees and managers deal with Low T in their work. By recognising and understanding the causes of Low T, they are better able to regain their trust in themselves and others.

ABCD Trust Model : Causes of Low T

Trust is the basis for good and healthy human relationships. It allows people to work together well, feel confident to take risks and be open to innovation and new things. Nevertheless, there are causes for people experiencing Low T in the workplace:

  • When a colleague or manager takes the credit for someone else’s work
  • When a colleague or manager does not take his responsibility
  • When a colleague or manager displays an unreliable attitude or unreliable behaviour
  • When a colleague or manager does not meet his obligations
  • When a colleague or manager lies and cheats
  • When a colleague or manager spreads gossip and rumours
  • When a colleague or manager holds back information
  • When a manager does not recognise and/or reward an employee’s performance

ABCD Trust Model : Countering Low T

The treatment of Low T involves the previously mentioned ABCD model. It is necessary to understand and apply the four elements of trusts in daily behaviour in order to counter Low T.

Able / Ability

By showing ability, a person’s environment starts to trust someone’s actions. A certain level of expertise is expected from managers. If they do not show that they have that expertise, employees will have less trust in their manager. Demonstrating their competencies will inspire others and increase trust in the manager.

Believable / Believability

By acting with integrity, managers show that they are honest and will not harm their employees’ trust in them. People expect that they behave in accordance with the standards and values or the organisation. It is their task to carry out the company policy in a believable way and act accordingly.

Connected / Connectedness

By being genuinely interested in their colleagues and employees, managers show that they are involved with and connected to their environment. They are able to listen to others well, and they have good communication skills and contribute to a pleasant work atmosphere. This caring attitude by the manager will rub off on the employees, which will be beneficial for a team’s cooperation.

Dependable / Dependability

Showing that others can depend on the manager will lead to a positive response from their environment. They manager would do well to really stick to agreements and be consistent in that respect. Employees and other’s regard for their manager will increase if a manager actually delivers on his promises, within the time that was agreed.

By implementing what has been discussed above, a manager can work on building a good and long-lasting relationship of trust with his employees and colleagues. The ABCD is the foundation for the so-called ‘language of trust’. The more managers, the more reliable they will become to their employees and the rest of their environment.

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It’s Your Turn

What do you think? What is your experience with the ABCD Trust Model? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more additions? What are your success factors for good team management and gaining trust within a team?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Blanchard, K., Olmstead, C., & Lawrence, M. (2013). Trust Works!: Four Keys to Building Lasting Relationships. Harper Collins.
  2. Kimmel, B. B. (2013). Trust Inc.: Strategies for Building Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset. Next Decade, Inc.

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Patty Mulder
Article by:

Patty Mulder

Patty Mulder is an Dutch expert on Management Skills, Personal Effectiveness and Business Communication. She is also a Content writer, Business Coach and Company Trainer and lives in the Netherlands (Europe).
Note: all her articles are written in Dutch and we translated her articles to English!


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