4 Elements of Trust Needed for Successful Collaboration

Alyssa Gregory

Trust creates a strong foundation in all relationships, whether business or personal in nature. But when you look at the trust in each of your relationships, you may be surprised that the central elements can be vastly different.

In a personal relationship, for example, compassion and understanding may be the most important attributes of trust. While in a business relationship, competence may be at the top of the list of must-haves in order to create a trusting relationship. The trust is the same, but the precipitating factors can be vastly different.

When considering collaborative relationships, the four most common elements needed to develop trust are competence, reliability, integrity and communication. Without any one of these, it can be difficult to create the trust needed for a sustainable and successful collaboration.


A collaborative relationship is doomed if there is a gross mismatch of skills and experience that is brought to the table. All sides of a collaboration need to have areas where they excel, and a general understanding of the rest. If one person doesn’t have competence, it will become very difficult for the other person(s) to gain trust in them and believe that they are a valuable addition to the collaboration.


Although important in all relationships, reliability may play an even bigger role in collaborative relationships. If one person in a collaboration repeatedly falls short, misses deadlines or fails at following through, the others are likely to lose trust in that person. Without having confidence that everyone is carrying his or her own weight, it can be a challenge to maintain a collaboration.


Would you ever enter a collaboration if there was a risk that someone was going to swoop in, gather up all of the work, and present it as their sole project? Neither would I.  If each person in a collaboration doesn’t demonstrate integrity, there will be a serious lack of trust that will make it impossible to work together.


Even if someone has demonstrated all of the other elements of trust, if communication is missing, the rest doesn’t matter. Each side of a collaboration has to communicate often, clearly and honestly in order to develop mutual trust and respect. Without communication, there  can’t be a meeting of the minds, which is what a collaboration is based upon.

Measuring the trust in a relationship is a gauge of the potential that relationship has to succeed, regardless of the elements that combine to create trust. In a collaboration where all parties give equally and share in the victories, there must be mutual trust and understanding of each other in order for the partnership to succeed.

How do you define trust in collaborative environments?

Image credit: Eastop