Trust – It’s a Must for Business Relationships That Work

by Jan Richards

Trust is important in every relationship, and certainly those in business. It is especially essential for high-risk, high-reward relationships.


Consider these thoughts about trust:

“Learning to trust is one of life’s most difficult tasks.”
Isaac Watts

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.”
Frank Crane

What part has trust played in your career and achievements?

First, think about a few of your greatest accomplishments, work- or career-wise. Now, consider the degree to which trust was an essential part of each experience.

For example:

– Were there people you needed to trust and did, to meet each goal?

– How did you know you could trust these people?

– Did they need to trust you, too?

– How did they know that you were trustworthy?

So what’s the consequence if you don’t have trust in the situations in which it is vital for success?

For starters, your work is tentative, cautious, fearful. Your costs are higher as you’re mired in worry, indecision and infighting and working at cross-purposes.

And you’re having to clean up after things that have gone wrong… knowing that more are surely ahead.

And worse. It can be a horrible experience, from start to finish.

What’s the difference with situations when trust is high?

You know you can count on the people with whom you’re working. They know they can count on you. You say what you mean. You do what you say you will.

You “read” each other well.

You may even develop a short-hand communication that’s very effective as you create a shared history of step by step successes.

And your work on a high-trust team may well be better than you expected it could be.

What’s the flip side of high trust?

There’s a risk, of course, that your trust is misplaced. I’ll go into that in the next blog post.

One downside is that you may not always like where trust takes you, on your way to the goal.

For example, think of a great coach, preparing his or her team for a major championship game.

Or think of a very difficult course course of study, requiring great dedication and effort, such as medical school.

The toughness of the preparation involved doesn’t always seem worth it when you’re in the thick of the high-risk experience.

But when the spotlight and pressure are on and you must perform… whether in a business situation, or, let’s say, on a surgical team… the very rigorous preparation the coach or medical professors led you through pays off in many ways.

Why is it hard to create and maintain trust?

Trust is like many other things that we may think will “just happen” naturally, without lots of planning, thought and effort.

In that way, it’s like listening well, good communications, good follow-up, and being a good leader and manager.

Yet there are plans you can make and actions you can take to set up a high-risk, high-reward project, team or company so that you can succeed.

Finally, ask yourself this: “What experiences come to mind when I think of times when high trust was needed for things to work out well, and they did?”

About the author

Jan Richards mentors and provides online training for leaders and teams who want to change or improve, but the desired change hasn’t happened yet, for any of many reasons. An experienced entrepreneur and business consultant, Jan has led many teams and businesses through major change and improvement projects. She is based in the always-rapidly changing Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay area. Her clients include large and small companies, primarily in tech, biotech, financial services, and telecommunications. She has an MBA from UC Berkeley and a BS in journalism from Iowa State. She was a national examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for five years. Prior to starting her consulting business, Jan worked for seven years at Apple Computer where she worked on and led teams that improved key business processes in product development, manufacturing, distribution, finance and administration, and sales and marketing. To learn more, visit her website at