To continue the theme of trust, I was mulling over different reasons we have to trust other people. We talk quite often about ethics, integrity, even a moral compass. But what do those things mean, and how do we exhibit them to the people we work with, and negotiate with?

History is a part of it – if someone has proved trustworthy in the past, you’re more likely to trust them again. And the reverse if true. In the West we have the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf, don’t we? (I wonder what the Chinese equivalent is.) The long-term nature of guanxi relationships reflects this need for context, and is a good reason for Western businesses to get in the game early, in a small way. I had this in mind, in fact, when I went to China in 2002.

But two old-fashioned words also came to mind: honor, and duty. Not concepts we talk much about. I’m not sure I’ve ever – in real life, I mean, rather than in a novel – heard someone described as “honorable.” (Though I have the impression that the Yiddish term mensch implies this.) And no one talks much about having a sense of duty. In fact, it’s always struck me that traditional religions impose obligations, or duties, on their adherents, where New Age belief systems do not – except the obligation to be self-actualized.

I’d love to know whether those interested in trust think that these personal qualities are important, how often you see them in the people you work with, and whether you think about them in terms of your interactions with staff, colleagues, and customers.