Trust: The Performance Triangle

Trust: The Performance Triangle

 Trust: The Performance Triangle

Two are better than one only if two can act as one."  - Coach K

Trust is a differentiator that leads to elite performance, elite accountability, and elite relationships. Creating a culture of trust is paramount to boosting and accelerating performance within teams, organizations, and individuals. The above quote references one of the best coaches in all of sports speaking about trust. Coach Mike Krzyzewski talks about the importance of trust with his team at Duke, and he achieves this through many exercises and ideas each season. In one simple exercise he will randomly ask a player, “Is two greater than one?” Players will generally answer, “yes, of course two is better than one.” Coach responds, “Not necessarily. Two are only better than one if two can act as one.” I love this representation of trust from Coach K, and how its simplicity holds such a powerful meaning. 

While it seems obvious that we should have trust and instill trust in our teammates, the “how” is much more difficult. We seemingly give trust to people in our everyday lives to prepare our food, drive and fly us places, and in other daily activities. Another example of perceived trust is the “I’m trusting you with this” mentality. This mentality isn’t actually trusting someone, but instead hoping that you can trust them with something. I believe that these actions and ideas are largely based on necessity and dependence, and don’t possess the necessary components of true trust. So what does true trust look like? How do we cultivate and maintain trust within a team, group, organization, or relationship? We believe that the answer is, the trust triangle. 

The Triangle:  The 3 C’s of trust are character, commitment, and connection

We like to think of each C as one line in an equilateral triangle. The 3 C’s that compose this triangle are the key to building a culture of trust. Each line of the triangle is necessary to complete the shape, and no line in the triangle is more important than another. If one line in the triangle is insufficient, the shape remains uneven, or disconnected. 

It is important to recognize that each “C” is only achieved through experience. What this means is that although you may feel that you may be trustworthy, if the other people don’t experience this from your actions or behavior, they will never fully trust you. While the saying “perception is reality” is not always a true statement, it is true when regarding trust. The other person or group’s perception or experience dictates their trust in you! Additionally, the consistency of each “C” is important, and a lack of consistency in any area makes trusting a group or individual increasingly more difficult. 

The 3 C’s are the building blocks of the triangle


  • Ethical Trust
  • The consistency of you doing what you say.
  • The consistency of people experiencing you do the right thing.

What is character?

  1. Do the right thing, especially when it’s hard.
  2. Think before you act.
  3. Well done is better than well said.
  4. Talk to people, not about people.


  • Tactical trust
  • The consistency of you doing what is expected and more
  •  The consistency of people experiencing your commitment through your effort, focus, and attitude. 

What is commitment?

  1. On time is late.
  2. You believe in the process of getting better.
  3. You are accountable and hold others to the same standards.
  4. Relentless effort and energy.


  •  Emotional trust.
  • The consistency of your sacrifice for others.
  • The consistency of you showing people you care. 

How do we form connections?

  1. Empathy in their situation. 
  2. Willingness to help them.
  3. Making sacrifices for them.
  4. Investing your time in their success.

Sidenote: As a coach, I try to have a 30 second meeting with every player on the team at each practice. I take this 30 seconds to check in with each player on non-lacrosse related parts of their life. “How’s school?” “How’s everything going at home?” “Are you having fun?” “YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB AND I BELIEVE IN YOU.” No matter how small and simple the dialogue is, these 30 second meetings are not only meaningful, but also help establish a connection with the individual. 

Application 1: As coaches, captains, and leaders, we have to constantly focus on the 3 C’s if we want our players to trust us. In order to develop this trust, players have to consistently experience our character, commitment, and connection. If coaches expect players to be on time but are always late, they are not experiencing our character. If the coaches aren’t committed to working hard, but ask the players to, they will not experience our commitment. If we don’t show the players we care about them, they WILL NOT trust us. 

Application 2: When looking for a realtor, doctor, bank, business partner, etc., the same triangle of trust applies. If a realtor tells you that “it is always a good time to invest in real estate,” when the market doesn’t dictate this, you do not experience consistency in their character. If they are slow to return your phone calls, you don’t experience their commitment. If they don’t show you that you are more to them than just a closing, or don’t show you their true investment in making you happy, you will not feel a connection to them.

People who love and trust their leaders perform above their potential.  On the flip-side, teams who lack this trust regularly perform below their potential. The common saying, “you don’t have to like your coach, but you have to respect her/him,” contains a foundational flaw. If people don’t love their leaders, they will never perform to the best of their ability. While respect is an important characteristic of all relationships, trust cannot be achieved if the players don’t like the coach, and if the connection doesn’t exist. Coercion and fear of punishment may be a way for people to do what you want them to, but maximum capacity and beyond is achieved through love and TRUST. This trust does not mean flowers and rainbows, and in fact, people who trust you will run through a wall for you! 

Conflict: All organizations and teams operate with some level of conflict. Groups that trust each other use conflict to grow, where groups that don’t, are defined by this conflict. Coach K describes confrontation as “truth, head on.” Speaking your truth with a foundation of trust leads to results, and allows for people within a team to hold each other accountable. Without this foundation, confrontation often leads to doubt in an individual, or in the team as a whole. Doubt is the enemy of belief, and the highest levels of performance come from the deepest levels of belief! 

 The trust triangle creates an infrastructure to foster, instill, and maintain trust within any group, team, or organization. This triangle is the foundation of high performance, meaningful relationships, and a culture built on belief. Remember that trust is based on the experience of the other person or group involved, and that “two are better than one only if two can act as one.

-Coach LaHoda