Trust is Earned: Based On What?


Trust is the foundation of all human relationships, whether personal or business. Think about your last job interview. The interviewer had your resume which had already told them about your job experience and education. What kinds of things did the interviewer want to talk about?

Think about a first date. You know some basic information (perhaps, provided by the dating site). What do you talk about over coffee and scones?

Think about talking to potential investors. Many entrepreneurs tell stories about investors saying that they are investing in the entrepreneur not just the company or the idea. What is it about entrepreneurs that impresses an investor?

The following RICE model provides a list of the kind of topics that address each of these situations. It addresses things you “can do” and seeks to predict things you “will do.”



  • How you do what you do
  • Who would speak up for you (boss; boss’ boss)
  • How you behave when nobody’s looking
  • Response to constructive criticism
  • Judgement
  • Behavior
  • Style
  • Self-image
  • Character
  • Loyalty


  • Purpose
  • Motivations
  • Why you do what you do
  • Desire
  • Ambition
  • Sacrifice
  • Drive
  • Energy
  • Initiative


  • Education
  • Knowledge
  • Understanding
  • Where you got them
  • What you’ve been exposed to
  • Continuous self-development
  • Certifications


  • Skills
  • Abilities
  • Competence
  • Aptitude
  • Proficiency
  • Versatility
  • Thoroughness
  • What you do/did
  • When you did it
  • Reaction under pressure
  • Political savvy

That’s because each case is based on the initial formation of a trust-based relationship.

As relationships progress, these same topics need to grow and expand. Consider the situation of being considered for a promotional position. An employee’s history of performance and learning establishes the context for excelling over their competition. Hopefully, the employee has regularly accepted challenging assignments and pursued knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience.

Whether it’s between an employee and supervisor, a couple, or an entrepreneur and investor, trust must be regularly reviewed. What can be done to make it grow? We need to measure the elements that will help it do so. Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.” Of course, he was talking about keeping the Soviets in check, but the principle is the same.

Trust takes years to gain and only a moment to shatter. My sons learned that it is critical that they promise to do something and then make sure that they do it. In fact, do a little extra, if possible. When we don’t live up to our promises, we shatter trust.

Stephen P. (Steve) Czerniak

About the author: Mr. Czerniak retired after a successful career that culminated in fifteen years of experience as an internal consultant and “change agent.” He is currently a volunteer at Macomb-Oakland University INCubator.

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