For most people trust is a “chicken or egg” thing. The age-old question is: which comes first? If you require others to earn your trust, then you are in the Chicken camp. If, on the other hand, you extend trust to others—even without a track record—you are part of the Egg camp. Before we go any further, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I am an Egg person.

Before we explore both sides of the conundrum, let’s consider the relative importance of the issue. How important is trust to building a strong and effective network? Is trust a prerequisite to a high-powered and dynamic network, or only an unnecessary doodad? I say unequivocally that it is the cornerstone of a strong network.

Most work-for-hire or employment arrangements are bound by obligation and contract and managed by a top-down authority exerting command and control. A network, by contrast, exists among peers by mutual consent and does so only so long as the arrangement is seen as jointly beneficial. The glue that holds a network together is trust. I believe that the success of a network is directly proportional to the trust shared by its members.

Back to the Chicken and Egg. The Chicken chooses to be cautious and wait for a strong likelihood or certainty that a person is worthy of receiving his trust. The Chicken is afraid to trust and puts the responsibility on the other person to prove him- or herself. I know lots of people who approach life in this manner. Most of them work in organizations, where they feel safe because their power and authority is defined by strong organizational structures, tradition and plenty of rules and regulations. They do well in the corporate world and may find the freedom of networking to be a challenge.

Egg people are different. We understand that it is called trust because there is a possibility of error, disappointment or loss. We understand that the gift of trust, while given freely, is never given without consideration. Sometimes we waste our time and energy on a person who disappoints us. But we also understand that trust has a power that can transform people and nurture our network.

People are naturally motivated to grow, learn and improve. One of the best ways to bring out these traits in people is by trusting them. When you trust someone, you are doing more than plugging them into a motivational tape or seminar. You are encouraging them by demonstrating your belief in their ability. By contrast, when you are reluctant to let another person try out their own wings and manage their own prospects, you are showing a lack of trust. You are demonstrating your lack of belief in that person’s ability. The disempowering effect can be devastating.

When it comes to the people in your network, don’t be a Chicken. Give your fellow networkers the gift of trust by offering them the Egg that, while fragile, has the capacity to grow into something wonderful.

WARD FLYNN is the author of Truth Zone: Building the Truthful
Organization from the Bottom Up! and Perfect Customer Service.
In addition to his entrepreneurial, writing and training activities,
Ward has been building a retirement business in network
marketing for the past five years.