In agriculture we rely on trust – farming practices we trust, suppliers we trust, and the list goes on. Often the trust we count on comes from familiarity or even just habit. One challenge with relying on trust that only comes from familiarity is that we can hold back from building new trusting relationships that could help us solve problems faced by a rapidly changing business.

An interesting view of trust was pointed out by a client who was looking for expertise in a different part of his business. Even though he had a friend who could help him, our client felt reluctant to work with that friend in a business relationship. When I asked why he was concerned, he said he wasn’t worried about confidentiality but was concerned that he wouldn’t get the level of service he expected due to the relationship they already had. He had done business with friends before and felt that he had been taken advantage of because they didn’t have to work as hard to earn his business.

For me, this example highlights the need for the skills of building “new trust.” One of the most important elements that top farm leaders master in order to build trust is to set and manage expectations. More often than not, trust is broken when expectations haven’t been understood or met.

In working with this client, we established an understanding that in the past his disappointment had come from him and his supplier not having the same expectations of each other. We then identified what he would expect from a new supplier – what would be provided, who would be doing it, how they would communicate, and when these things would occur. By walking through this, he gained the confidence to lay out his vision for a successful relationship.

While every person has his or her own definition of trust, it can be broken down into three key areas:

  • Communication: Do we openly share information, admit mistakes and seek understanding?
  • Character: Is there consistency, clear expectations, and do we keep each other’s best interest in mind?
  • Competence: Does this person have the skills needed for the problem at hand and can they teach those skills?

If you keep these three elements in mind when you develop new trust or evaluate longstanding relationships it can lead to:

  • confidence in our team
  • find and address gaps
  • a different view of the people we need for a successful team.



  1. Consider relationships where you feel trust has been an issue.
  2. Evaluate whether unclear or unmet expectations led to the trust problem.
  3. Meet with the person and review your concerns around unmet expectations.
  4. Develop a plan together that includes very clear expectations for both you and the other person.