Three Types of Trust: Guest Post by Kris Kelso


The premise of today’s topic will never become obsolete or outdated. Trust is always crucial to develop and keep in order to build a successful business / career.  Thanks for sharing, Kris. – Danielle

Now, to today’s Guest ROND Report:

Topic of the Week: Three Types of Trust

One of the most important ingredients of a healthy relationship (whether personal or professional) is trust.

Whether I’m counting on you to paint my house, take care of my kids, or keep a secret, I have to know to what extent I can trust you.  But what does that word, “trust,” really mean?

There are three types of trust and three areas where trust can break down.  Let’s look at each one.

  1. Character. This is my belief that your intentions are pure, your motives are right, and that you intend to deliver on your promises.  Basically, that you’re not trying to pull the wool over my eyes or defraud me in some way.
  2. Competence. This is my belief that you are capable of doing what you say you will do – that you have the knowledge, skills, abilities, resources, etc. to get the job done.
  3. Commitment. This is my belief that your work ethic can match your character and competence – that you follow through on your word to completion.

Trust can break down in any combination of these three ways.  For example:

  • I can believe that you are skilled and gifted, but that you are dishonest. I trust your competence, but not your character.
  • I can believe that your motives are pure and your intentions are in the right place, but you don’t have the skills, capabilities, or resources to do what you are saying you will do (or at least to do it with quality). I trust your character, but not your competence.
  • I can trust that your intentions and motives are right and that you have the ability to fulfill your word, but if you have a track record of dropping the ball or suffering from “shiny object syndrome,” then I trust your character and your competence, but not your commitment.

Corporate Trust

It’s easy to see how these apply to an individual, but the same three types of trust apply to companies as well.

When I choose to do business with a company, I’m trusting the company to deal with me honestly and fairly (character), produce a quality product or service (competence), and to deliver on time and provide support/customer service if it is required (commitment).  A failure on any of these three fronts will destroy trust and erode the company’s reputation.

Character problems are perhaps the hardest to identify until they become blatantly obvious.  Think Theranos, Madoff, Enron…

Competence problems usually show up quickly, but can sometimes grow in the background.  Toyota was hailed as the “best carmaker on the planet” by HBR in 2007, but by 2010 was reeling from quality control issues, with a software glitch causing “unintentional acceleration.”

Commitment problems, sadly, can persist for decades.  A certain large ISP comes to mind, who provides a decent product when it works, but is notoriously horrible to deal with from a customer service standpoint (I suppose it helps to be the only option in some markets).

Think about the last time a company violated your trust.  Which type was it?

Recently, it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica obtained data on about 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge.  Many see this as a huge violation of trust by Facebook to its users.  My question is, which type of trust was violated?  Do you believe that Facebook’s intent has been misrepresented to its users (character), it is ill-equipped to secure its users’ data (competence), or it just got lazy/careless (commitment)?  An argument could be made for all three.

If you knew for certain that it was one type or another, would that change your opinion of Facebook?  Is one more easily forgiven or overcome?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, and would also love to know what company has most consistently earned your trust on all three fronts.  You can reach me at

Kris Kelso is an entrepreneur turned executive coach.  He has founded or co-founded multiple companies, is an advisor at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, and is an Executive Advisor with The Alternative Board.  You can learn more about him at and

About the author

Danielle O'Rourke

Recovering Investor. Mom. Wife.

1 comment

Danielle O'Rourke

Recovering Investor. Mom. Wife.

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