This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

Trust typically gets created between people, and usually in conversations. The Trust Creation Process, brought to us by the authors of The Trusted Advisor, is a five-step model describing how this works best: Engage, Listen, Frame, Envision, Commit—or “ELFEC” for short.

“It sounds like what you may have here is a case of Y” is something you might say in the frame step.

Framing happens when you state the true, root issue in terms acceptable to all parties, using caveats, problem statements, and hypotheses. It provides an opportunity to articulate a point of view, which allows everyone to buy-in to the issue at hand.

Framing well is harder than it appears. It comes after the Listen step for a reason, and often requires you to take personal risks to explore sensitive issues. That “case of Y” might be a touchy subject. When you raise it with sensitivity, most will be grateful for your courage.

Bonus: Making it Real

This week, identify a challenge in which you have a stake, and write a problem statement that defines it, as in “The problem is _____.” Then edit the statement until it meets all the criteria of a good problem statement:

  • A rigorous statement of fact, devoid of blame.
  • Reflects a “we” approach—in other words, it has you in it as well as your stakeholders.
  • Resonates emotionally as well as rationally for all parties.
  • Imputes good motives –theirs as well as yours.

It may take several iterations to get it just right, along with the help of an objective “outsider” who might be able to see the true, root issue more clearly than you can. Ask a colleague for a fresh perspective.

Now, what do you see about the situation that you didn’t see before?

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).