Relationships, Trust and Teamwork: the Formula for Business Success

Good RELATIONSHIPS and TRUST are vital ingredients for building high performing TEAMWORK. And all three – relationships, trust and teamwork - are essential for building and sustaining success in business. 

So let me ask: why is management so often almost exclusively focused on sales, marketing, new technologies, pricing, customer service, operations efficiency and financial management?

These hard deliverables are obviously important. Every one of us who has ever been a business leader knows the importance of these hard tangible measurements. However, my experience in business management and in working with SMEs is that there is a vital ingredient for business success – without which no amount of business savvy works – and that is TEAMWORK built on TRUST.

We can’t get away from the fact that effective TEAMWORK is built on RELATIONSHIPS and relationships are built on TRUST.

Consider therefore the trust equation – as it sheds light on both teamwork and relationships. This trust equation is used by many professionals in the global consultancy industry who seek to build mutually beneficial business relationships as trusted advisors.

Trust is a function of four factors.

Three of these factors positively contribute to TRUST. One, in principle, detracts from trust. Think about it:

                             Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy

Trust     =            -------------------------------------------


Let’s break it down.

In the numerator of this equation, above the line, trust builds in teams when there is:

· Competence – where team members show up and are seen as capable to do their jobs, professional within their respective disciplines

· Reliability - where team members are seen to do what they say they will do, deliver as promised, are true to their commitments

· Intimacy – where team members have real work-relevant relationships that create positive energy and good team dynamics

In the denominator of this equation, below the line, trust and relationships are enhanced when the self-interest of the individual concerned is secondary to their interest in what is good for the business or their interest in others. By contrast, if self- interest is greater than the interest an individual has in the business or in others, trust will be eroded as colleagues realize that such an individual is more in it for themselves than for the team or the organization. Trust and relationships are therefore damaged when interest is primarily directed toward self.

Think about how this manifests at a team level - when a lack of interest and understanding and respect manifests between sales teams and marketing or installation or service or finance teams. These ingredients of teamwork and relationships and trust are vital at all times – yet they are especially critical when a business is going through significant change and transition. This is likely to be the case when a new senior manager joins the team, or when a business owner hands over the day-to-day running of the company to the management team, or when a business is acquired and a new senior team begins to call the shots, or when a company needs to be turned round.  

Trust at such times needs to be recalibrated and the different components of the trust equation need to be thought through. At such times business leaders and team members find themselves asking questions - whether these questions are voiced or not:

· Can so-and-so do the job? Are they able and willing to put in the necessary effort? (competence)

· Is so-and-so reliable?  Will they deliver on their promises? Why are they not delivering as they promised? ( reliability)

· Can I relate to so-and-so? Can I have a real conversation with them? Will they include me in their thinking? (intimacy)

· Is so-and-so really interested in the needs of the business? Are they thinking about what the business needs - or are they primarily interested in their own gain, personal end-goals, personal achievement? (self-interest )

Three final thoughts:  

1. Trust takes a long time to be established – yet it often takes only one occasion for it to be lost.  

2. Relationships (implied through “intimacy” and “self-interest”) are at the heart of good team-working. Good relationships in business are essential for delivering great customer service, high sales performance and positive financial results.

3. Especially if you are in business for the long-term, consider the anonymous African proverb which says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” So let me ask: how are you building TRUST within your teams and with your key players? TRUST is key for long-term success – and especially critical in times of transformation and significant change.

If you would like support in building a high performing team, contact us by email at or call us on 020 8798 0175