Blanchard's ABCD Model of Trust

Strengthening the Four Elements of Trust

Blanchard's ABCD Model of Trust - Strengthening the Four Elements of Trust

© iStockphoto

How much do you trust your colleagues?

Do you trust your colleagues? I mean, really trust them?

Trust is an essential part of all our relationships, and it's especially important in teams. Imagine, for example, how deeply firefighters need to trust one another.

These men and women put their lives in the hands of their team mates and leaders every day. Without trust, they would waste time second-guessing every command. They'd never be able to respond with the speed and certainty needed to save lives, and they couldn't function as a team.

Your job may not involve life-and-death situations, but trust is still essential for a high-performing team. Trust allows you to collaborate freely with your coworkers, it gives you the confidence you need to come up with creative and innovative ideas, and it helps you achieve far more than you ever could alone.

In this article, we'll look at the ABCD Model of Trust, which highlights the four behaviors needed to foster trust. We'll then explore ways to strengthen each of these behaviors and develop bonds of trust within your personal and professional relationships.

About the Model

The ABCD Model of Trust was developed by Ken Blanchard, Cynthia Olmstead and Martha Lawrence, and published in their 2013 book, "Trust Works!"

After six years of research, the team uncovered four core characteristics needed for trust to grow in relationships. They labeled them A, B, C, and D:

  1. Able.
  2. Believable.
  3. Connected.
  4. Dependable.

From "Trust Works!: Four Keys to Building Lasting Relationships" by Ken Blanchard, Cynthia Olmstead and Martha Lawrence. Published by William Morrow, 2013.

By developing each of these characteristics, the authors believe that you can build your trust in others, and inspire others to put their trust in you.

The Importance of Trust

Having people's trust is like having a good reputation – it can take a lifetime to build, but it can be lost in a moment.

Trust is one of our most basic evolutionary survival mechanisms. Our chances of survival are increased when we act as a group but, in order to work together, we have to trust one another. If we don't, suspicion, blame and fear arise – none of which are conducive to collaboration, connection or bonding. 

This is why organizations built on a culture of trust have a significant advantage over those that aren't. Team members are more engaged, more productive, and more committed to the organization's goals and objectives. They're also more likely to enjoy their jobs, and have a good work-life balance (and, hence, better health) than those working in organizations built on a culture of fear and suspicion.

The A, B, C, D of Trust

Let's look at each of the four elements of trust in greater detail, and explore ways that you can develop each one.


When you're able, you demonstrate competence to others. Your work is of a consistently high standard, you use your initiative to solve problems, you can be relied upon to help others, and you are always striving to be the best you can be.

To build trust in this area, focus on achieving consistent, high-quality results. Meet your deadlines, be a team player, and remain committed to making a difference within your team.

Continue to improve your skills by making time for professional development and keeping up-to-date on your industry. The knowledge and skills that you acquire through continuous learning will show others that you truly care about your work. They also give you the expertise you need to be a true asset to your team and organization.

Be generous with your knowledge and skills. Share what you know willingly with others, and do what you can to lift them up. Showing you care in this way can quickly build people's trust in you.


People who are believable have integrity. They're always ready to admit when they're wrong, and they don't gossip or undermine others behind their backs.

To strengthen your believability, always be honest and up-front with your colleagues. Even little white lies can undermine their trust in you, as can deliberate omissions designed to mislead them. If you make a mistake, admit it, and learn from your failures.

It's also important to keep your word. If someone tells you something "in confidence," respect the trust they've put in you. Showing that you can be trusted with other people's secrets strengthens your credibility, and makes you even more trustworthy.

Maintain your integrity by avoiding spreading rumors and gossip. Don't talk about others behind their backs, and learn how to navigate office politics with grace and tact. When you refuse to gossip or spread rumors, you instill a sense of safety in others and demonstrate that you can be trusted to do the right thing. 


People who are connected care deeply about others. They have good relationships, show interest in their companions, are empathetic, and are willing to share personal information about themselves to help establish meaningful relationships.

Use active listening skills to deepen your connections with others, by taking the time to understand them better. Listening is an incredibly important and largely overlooked skill. When people feel that you're genuinely interested in what they have to say, and are not just waiting for your turn to talk, you'll achieve a much deeper connection with them.

You'll also strengthen your connection to others by recognizing their efforts and giving praise when a team member or colleague does a great job. Sincere praise makes everyone feel good, and it's great for building trust.

Finding This Article Useful?

You can learn another 147 communication skills, like this, by joining the Mind Tools Club.

Join the Mind Tools Club Today!

Show others you trust them with self-disclosure. Your willingness to be vulnerable will help others get to know you better, and it will make them more willing to open up to you, too. If you have trouble talking about yourself, use a tool like the Johari Window to guide the discussion.


When you're dependable, you keep your word and you do what you say you will. You're organized, accountable and consistent with your work and words.

Become more dependable by always keeping your promises. Be accountable for your words and actions, and show others they can depend on you.

It's also important to be punctual. Lateness is a sign of imprecision and disrespect, and it undermines the trust you've already achieved. (Note that there are strong cultural differences in attitudes to punctuality. If you come from a culture where people are relaxed about being on time, be aware that this can be a real problem in cultures where it matters!)

Another sign of dependability is always responding to requests. Replying to emails and phone calls in a timely manner shows others that you're on top of your work.

This doesn't mean saying "yes" to every request that comes your way. It's important to manage your time and commitments, so be honest about what you can and can't take on. Our article "'Yes' To the Person, 'No' to the Task" explains how to turn down requests diplomatically, without harming your relationships.

Key Points

The ABCD Model of Trust was developed by Ken Blanchard, Cynthia Olmstead and Martha Lawrence, and published in their 2013 book, "Trust Works!" The model outlines four characteristics that are essential for building and maintaining trust:

  1. Able.
  2. Believable.
  3. Connected.
  4. Dependable.

By making an effort to bring these qualities into your relationships, you'll inspire others to behave honorably and to put their trust in you.