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An Unconventional Client Retention Strategy” was first published on the Trust Matters Blog.

Most people usually don’t think of empathy as having much business value. In fact, you might think if you start empathizing with your clients, you’ll lose your edge; you’ll appear “soft;” you’ll lose business. Here’s a compelling story* about a global firm that turned that conventional wisdom on its ear and transformed a big loss into a big win.

The News No One Wants to Hear

Once upon a time, a Midwestern U.S. office of a global accounting firm was informed by one of its major clients that the audit work they usually did would be going out to bid. The partners were shocked. “We hadn’t seen it coming,” one partner said, “and they were very clear that this was final.” As a nicety, the client gave them the opportunity to bid.

They brainstormed about why the client could possibly be unhappy with them. What had they done to get the boot? What might have been said at the meeting that resulted in this decision?

Once they had a pretty good idea what the issues could have been, they did something dramatic.

Sometimes Not Risking is Very Risky

Instead of using their 90-minute time slot to do a conventional presentation, four of their partners acted out a skit for the four client executives. They role-played those very execs having that decisive meeting.

They said things like, “Well, those audit folks just haven’t showed us that they have what it takes.” “That’s right, they haven’t been proactive enough.” They humbly and genuinely gave voice to the critical thoughts they imagined the client was thinking.

Unexpected Returns

“We were prepared to get yanked out of there in two minutes,” one partner said. “And, in fact, after five minutes, we stopped and asked them if they wanted us to stop. But they were fascinated; they asked us to keep going. And we did, for nearly an hour. We just kept talking—as if we were the client—about the things that we had done wrong and should have done better. And the client listened.”

Here’s the extraordinary ending to the story: the client rescinded their decision to put the work out to bid, and the firm got the job back. Why? Because they had been able to prove they understood their client’s concerns—in an honest and effective demonstration of empathy. They showed they had finally been listening. As a result, they won the right to try again.

The Business Value of Empathy

Seeing things from the clients’ perspective requires more than just taking good notes, muttering “I understand” from time to time, or periodically pausing to summarize the content of their communications. It means taking the time to tune into the tone, mood, and emotion—the music—as well as the words. It means reflecting it all back accurately and frequently. It means differentiating yourself by not just being the smart ones, but the ones who really get it—not just during the tough times, but all the time.

Bring empathy to the table from the get-go and your chances of getting a nasty unexpected surprise diminish greatly. Pull out all the empathy stops when things go awry and you dramatically improve the odds that you at least salvage the relationship, if not the contract.

Add empathy to your business toolbox and see what it does to help you gain and retain clients for the long haul.

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*This and other compelling stories can be found in The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust

Story Time: Want a Relationship Breakthrough? Role-Play Your Client.” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

Our Story Time series brings you real, personal examples from business life that shed light on specific ways to lead with trust. Our last story proved that good intentions won’t keep you from screwing up. Today’s story highlights the business value of taking time to see the world from another’s perspective.

A New Anthology

When it comes to trust-building, stories are a powerful tool for both learning and change. Our new book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, October 2011), contains a multitude of stories. Told by and about people we know, these stories illustrate the fundamental attitudes, truths, and principles of trustworthiness.

Today’s story is excerpted from our chapter on training for trustworthiness. It vividly demonstrates how a little role-playing—walking in your clients’ shoes—goes a long way.

From the Front Lines: Role-Playing Pays Off

The value of role-playing couldn’t be highlighted any better than the example that one of our course participants experienced in real time at one of my (Charlie’s) sessions. The exercise asked a group of business leaders to play the role of one of their most challenging clients while a colleague held a typical meet-and-greet.

One male partner chose a woman who was then a presidential appointee at one of Washington’s largest government agencies. The partner was flummoxed by two aspects of the relationship. One, a number of her direct reports were using the services of his organization, so he had to be careful of jumping the chain of command. Two, she kept asking for feedback, and what others inside and outside the organization were saying about her, a question he didn’t feel he could answer without jeopardizing the firm’s relationship.

The exercise got off to a good start, but then the ‘client’ asked over and over: ‘How are we doing?’

The other executive in the role play finally said: ‘Why do you keep asking that?’

The ‘client,’ the senior partner, answered quickly: ‘I’m just looking for information.’

A light bulb went off: she hadn’t been asking about how her staff felt about her; she was looking for information outside her own glass bubble as a senior official.

The senior partner immediately shot off an e-mail asking his client to have coffee and catch up. She answered right away with: ‘I’ll buy.’

—Charles H. Green, about Greg Pellegrino (Global Industry Leader for the Public Sector Industry, Deloitte)

Connect with Greg on LinkedIn or read his blog.

“Story Time: Good Intentions Won’t Keep You From Screwing Up” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

message-receivedOur Story Time series brings you real, personal examples from business life that shed light on specific ways to lead with trust. Our last story told of innovation, trust, and the freedom to fail. Today’s anecdote zeroes in on the importance of living the trust principles all the time.

A New Anthology

When it comes to trust-building, stories are a powerful tool for both learning and change. Our new book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, October 2011), contains a multitude of stories. Told by and about people we know, these stories illustrate the fundamental attitudes, truths, and principles of trustworthiness.

Today’s story is excerpted from our chapter on the three trust models. It vividly demonstrates how the difference between intentions and impact can lead a client to conclude “you’re just like all the others.”

From the Front Lines: Living the Principles

Ian Brodie, who specializes in marketing and sales advice for consultants, coaches, and other professionals, tells a story that illustrates the difference between intentions and impact.

“Back in ’98, I was working in the Netherlands; part of my role was to lead a series of workshops with the executive team to develop their strategy. My colleague was a real expert but badly organized. And to be frank, that’s not one of my strong points either.

“We ended up doing the prep very late. For one workshop in particular we were brainstorming in the bar at 2:00 a.m. The next day the client’s executive team was excited about the possibilities we’d discussed. Great result. With one exception.

“I had a partner on the client side I was supposed to be working with to develop the strategy and prepare the workshops. The next day in the workshop he’d been quietly embarrassed that he didn’t know what we’d prepared.

“He was quite blunt with me afterwards: ‘We were supposed to prepare that workshop together. You said when we started this project that you weren’t like other consultants—you’d work in partnership with us. But you’re just like all the others.’

“It didn’t matter that we’d had a great result, or that there was no malicious intent. We’d promised we’d work together and we didn’t. We’d let him down. He no longer shared his opinions or his insights and we suffered because of that.

“Others can’t see your intentions?they can only see your actions. My intention was to be a great collaborative partner. My actions excluded him and told him I was working in my own interests.

“Here’s the bottom line of what I learned that day: It’s important tolive the principles all the time.”

—Ian Brodie (UK)

Connect with Ian on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.

The Three Ps of Trust” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

Trust is a complex concept in human relationships. In our Chapter 1 of the still-pretty-new The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, we explore ten fundamental attitudes that take aim at the complexities of trust, breaking it down so that it can be managed and more readily increased. Think of the Three Ps as the short list; they represent the core of our thinking on trust.

Trust is Personal

When trust is discussed, it usually refers to people. Yes, you can trust a company, but when you do, you are typically focusing on just one part of trust—dependability. It makes perfect sense to say a company or organization is dependable or reliable. It does not make much sense to say that a corporate entity has your best interests at heart or is sensitive to your needs, or is discreet. Those are things you would usually say about people. Even when it does make sense to say an organization is credible or careful or focused on your interests, the reference is usually to the people in it. At root, trust is personal.

Trust is Paradoxical

Over and over again, you will discover that the things that create trust are the opposite of what you may think. That is why we say trust is paradoxical—in other words, it appears to defy logic. The best way to sell, it turns out, is to stop trying to sell. The best way to influence people is to stop trying to influence them. The best way to gain credibility is to admit what you do not know.

The paradoxical qualities of trust arise because trust is a higher-level relationship. The trust-creating thing to do is often the opposite of what your baser passions tell you to do. Fight or flight, self-preservation, the instinct to win—these are not the motives that drive trust. The ultimate paradox is that, by rising above such instincts, you end up getting better results than if you had striven for them in the first place.

Trust is Positively Correlated to Risk

Ronald Reagan, the fortieth president of the United States, was known to quote a Russian proverb, “Trust, but verify.” For our purposes, the opposite is true. Real trust does not need verification; if you have to verify, it is not trust.

Sometimes businesspeople forget this and try to ameliorate or mitigate all risks. This is particularly true in professions like law, finance, or banking. But the essence of trust contains risk. A trust relationship cannot exist without someone taking a chance—and it is your job to lead the way. If you think, I can’t take that kind of risk yet because there’s not enough trust in the relationship, check your thinking. It is the very taking of risks that creates trust in the relationship.

Ready to start your new trust-based mindset? Mind your Ps.

Real People, Real Trust: Our Magnificent Seven” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

Over the past year, I’ve offered an insider view into the challenges, successes, and make-it-or-break-it moments of seven men and women who are making their mark by leading with trust—every day. In case you missed any of them, or want a fresh dose of practical advice (not to mention inspiration), here’s a recap.

  • “We don’t hide anything, good or bad.” Find out how Ron Prater helped his government consulting firm recover from a major client loss by being totally transparent with employees.
  • “I asked him what would make him feel like we addressed the situation to his satisfaction.” Learn how Chip Grizzard’s nonprofit marketing and fundraising agency retained a long-term client even after mistiming their direct mail campaign.
  • “You don’t have to have the answer, and you definitely don’t have to be the smartest one in the room.” Meet Ralph Catillo, an Account Executive at a large benefits company, who encourages staff to be comfortable in the zone of not knowing.
  • “I have never had someone say, ‘I wish you hadn’t told me that.’” Find out how Anna Dutton, Sales Operations Director, finds the courage at her educational tech company to be genuine, tell the truth, and say things that others might not agree with.
  • “My life philosophy is there’s plenty of everything—customers, money, everything.” Take a tip from entrepreneur and former bed and breakfast owner John Dunn on collaboration…and learn how he joined forces with other B&Bs.
  • “I just had to lay it on the table. I said, ‘If you want to make me feel like sh** and perspire every time I talk to you, then you’re on target. But here’s the thing: I think I can learn from you.’” Get the whole story of how Heber Sambucetti, a senior learning consultant, turned a negative relationship with a senior executive around by being real.
  • “If you have a client who leads with social connection, then that’s where you need to put your foot out first. If someone is results-oriented, they might not want to chat—they want to know what we did for them today.” See how Janet Andrews, a senior level consultant, uses low self-interest to attune herself to her clients’ needs.

The themes across these stories: transparency, humility, courage, and true customer focus.

Many thanks, once again, to these magnificent role models.

Story Time: Innovation, Trust, and the Freedom to Fail” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

Our Story Time series brings you real, personal examples from business life that shed light on specific ways to lead with trust. Our last story proved that he who eats with chopsticks wins. Today’s shows how trust can impact innovation, productivity, and staff retention.
A New Anthology
When it comes to trust-building, stories are a powerful tool for both learning and change. Our new book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, October 2011), contains a multitude of stories. Told by and about people we know, these stories illustrate the fundamental attitudes, truths, and principles of trustworthiness.
Today’s story is excerpted from our chapter on making the case for trust. It vividly demonstrates how providing the freedom to fail, take risks, and build on others’ ideas increases a team’s ability to innovate.
From the Front Lines: A Trust-Based Business Unit
In 2005, Ross Smith became Director of an 85-person software test team within Microsoft. His team had great technical skills, passion, and excitement, but felt underutilized and unchallenged. Ross set out to improve innovation and productivity. Exploring options, they ran across aUniversity of British Columbia study by John F. Helliwell and Haifang Huang that equated the impact of high organizational trust to significant pay raises in terms of creating job satisfaction.
The team suddenly realized that innovation required freedom to fail, risk taking, building on others’ ideas—all behaviors grounded in high trust. That cognitive snap, that a high-trust organization would address underutilization and latent talent, was the beginning of the solution.
In a high-trust organization, individuals could apply their skills, education, and experience at their own discretion. They could take risks and change processes themselves because managers would trust them. The question was this: how to do it?
Ross asked the team to identify behaviors they felt influenced trust, positively or negatively. They realized that trust was subjective, situational, and very individual, and there was no single behavioral answer. As a result, the team put together a detailed playbook describing simple principles with discussion about how to implement.
They also modeled risk-taking and trust-building by using games to approach problems; everyone was allowed to play, experiment, and fail.
Microsoft is a heavy user of metrics, for Ross’s team as well as throughout the company. The first noticeable difference was a higher-than-normal level of retention. After two and a half years, other things started to change dramatically—new test tools and new techniques were developed, and a high level of collaboration and partnership was working. Productivity numbers started to rise. As the project finished, the team was rated at or near the top across virtually every Microsoft productivity metric.
When Ross and several others from the original team moved to another division, they set out to introduce the trust-building ideas and practices which had worked so well before. Once again, they saw a high retention rate, a broader application of talent, and higher productivity numbers.
The metrics followed the changes in mind-set and behavior—not the other way around.
—Ross Smith (Microsoft), as told to Charles H. Green
Find out more about Ross’s experiments in management innovation and trust, or read his blog on productivity games.

groupnexttowaterOur Story Time series brings you real, personal examples from business life that shed light on specific ways to lead with trust. Our last story proved that he who eats with chopsticks wins. Today’s shows how trust can impact innovation, productivity, and staff retention.

A New Anthology

When it comes to trust-building, stories are a powerful tool for both learning and change. Our new book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, October 2011), contains a multitude of stories. Told by and about people we know, these stories illustrate the fundamental attitudes, truths, and principles of trustworthiness.

Today’s story is excerpted from our chapter on making the case for trust. It vividly demonstrates how providing the freedom to fail, take risks, and build on others’ ideas increases a team’s ability to innovate.

From the Front Lines: A Trust-Based Business Unit

In 2005, Ross Smith became Director of an 85-person software test team within Microsoft. His team had great technical skills, passion, and excitement, but felt underutilized and unchallenged. Ross set out to improve innovation and productivity. Exploring options, they ran across a University of British Columbia study by John F. Helliwell and Haifang Huang that equated the impact of high organizational trust to significant pay raises in terms of creating job satisfaction.

The team suddenly realized that innovation required freedom to fail, risk taking, building on others’ ideas—all behaviors grounded in high trust. That cognitive snap, that a high-trust organization would address underutilization and latent talent, was the beginning of the solution.

In a high-trust organization, individuals could apply their skills, education, and experience at their own discretion. They could take risks and change processes themselves because managers would trust them. The question was this: how to do it?

Ross asked the team to identify behaviors they felt influenced trust, positively or negatively. They realized that trust was subjective, situational, and very individual, and there was no single behavioral answer. As a result, the team put together a detailed playbook describing simple principles with discussion about how to implement.

They also modeled risk-taking and trust-building by using games to approach problems; everyone was allowed to play, experiment, and fail.

Microsoft is a heavy user of metrics, for Ross’s team as well as throughout the company. The first noticeable difference was a higher-than-normal level of retention. After two and a half years, other things started to change dramatically—new test tools and new techniques were developed, and a high level of collaboration and partnership was working. Productivity numbers started to rise. As the project finished, the team was rated at or near the top across virtually every Microsoft productivity metric.

When Ross and several others from the original team moved to another division, they set out to introduce the trust-building ideas and practices which had worked so well before. Once again, they saw a high retention rate, a broader application of talent, and higher productivity numbers.

“The metrics followed the changes in mind-set and behavior—not the other way around.”

—Ross Smith (Microsoft), as told to Charles H. Green

Find out more about Ross’s experiments in management innovation and trust, or read his blog on productivity games.

Real People Real Trust: Transforming a Business from the Inside Out” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

Ron PraterRon Prater has worked in government consulting firms for almost 20 years, including three years with Arthur Andersen LLP. In 2007, he set out with partner Alan Pentz to create a company that would apply real entrepreneurial curiosity to find new ways to solve the U.S. government’s biggest problems. The result is Corner Alliance. Find out how this organization, triggered by a crisis in its formative years, applied the principle of collaboration to devise a new and different kind of corporate culture.

Leadership Lessons

Ron and I have known each other through other people for years. A few months ago I was talking with Corner Alliance Director Sarah Agan, a mutual colleague and veteran consultant. I was intrigued by the unusual ways she described a recent all-hands meeting. “We practice ‘inner voice’ all the time,” she said. “And we have an explicit value to eat our own dog food.” Needless to say, I was intrigued by Sarah’s word choice and even more so by her animation. I wanted to find out more. So I set up some time to talk with Ron and Sarah together.

Ron explained it to me, “‘Eating our own dog food’ means we operate the way we advise our clients to—we follow the same processes and approaches we recommend to them.” “Essentially, we practice what we preach. It can be harder than it sounds when you’re trying to balance helping clients succeed while also trying to grow a sustainable business. And it hasn’t always been that way, even in our company’s short life.”

Learning the Hard Way

Corner Alliance had some growing pains in its early years. “We had a really tough time a few years ago when we lost a project that led to a serious financial struggle,” Ron confided. “I, along with my partner, Alan, and our Director of Operations, Brandi Greygor, responded in typical ways. Privately, we talked daily about how much money we had left in the company’s line of credit and what to do if we maxed out what the bank would loan us. Publicly, we sent a general message to staff that we all needed to ‘increase billability’ but we were afraid to state the full reason.

“We thought we were doing the right thing by keeping the true stress from our staff. The MBA books say it’s important to protect the people from the stress of running the business. And the HR consultants told us we had to follow proper procedures to avoid lawsuits if we did have to lay people off. So we kept things hidden.”

Going contrary to conventional business wisdom, Ron and the other principals listened to their own inner wisdom. “It’s not how our guts said to handle it. We faced a real inner conflict every day for months. How do you form a company of trust and transparency when it seems like all the advice you get—from grad school, friends, lawyers, and more—says to withhold information?

“Looking back,” Ron said, “I grew more personally from that very tough time than from every great year I had. While it was hard, the learning from those six months led to one of the most positive and significant turning points for Corner Alliance.”

Eat Your Own Dog Food

Out of the crisis came a big transformation for the company. “With cost-cutting, along with full transparency with our staff, we managed to stabilize our operations,” Ron said, “And we realized that, on the heels of such a hard and painful time, we had a real opportunity to fundamentally re-think and re-vision.

“So Alan and I announced to our staff that he and I would map out a new company strategy,” Ron elaborated, “including our top three strategic priorities. We told people at an all-hands meeting that we’d start by focusing on which clients to talk to and what to offer them. That message landed with a thud. Within the first few minutes of the meeting it was clear we had made a huge mistake and needed to rethink the approach.

“Our people said, ‘That’s not how we advise our clients to develop strategy. So why are we doing it that way?’”

That uh-oh moment led to a dramatically different plan to create the company’s strategy. “We realized we’d be stronger if we engaged the whole company in the company,” Ron continued. “And instead of starting with what we do and where we want to go, we started with who we are and what we wanted to stand for as a company,” Ron explained.

jumpingpeoplePut Values First

The group put first things first. “We focused first on our values, and to do that we created a conversation rather than creating a task,” Ron said. “We also found a way to make it a truly collaborative process, not just a collaborative process led by one person. We’ve never been about one-person trust—not at our core—so we found a way to define our values that would reflect that we all have to trust everyone else in the company.

“Since we’re a virtual company with staff in five different states, we selected an on-line tool to help us create the conversation. Everyone could contribute real-time, see each other’s inputs, make comments, and vote.”

Take Your Time

The process of defining yourself takes time Ron learned. “We allowed three weeks to generate ideas, and it took us about four months to solidify our values. If we had tried to get results in a one-day strategy session, our output would have been more generic—even with everyone participating,” Ron added. “People needed time to digest and think through what they stood for and then internalize that in relation to the company. The elapsed time allowed people to contribute at their best, and allowed the most important things to materialize organically.”

They ended up with 10 explicitly stated corporate values that are the foundation on which Corner Alliance continues to be built. Not surprisingly, “Eat our own dog food” was on the short list.

It’s a value that Sarah especially endorses. “We live that value even beyond our approach to strategy development,” she added. “Everyone takes turns running our internal meetings—everyone. We share leadership that way, and expand our capacity as leaders and facilitators at the same time. People get to experiment, practice, and learn in a safe environment, and they get real-time feedback. Just like the leaders we serve, we have to be willing to take risks and make mistakes to learn.”

Sarah continued, “It’s okay for things not to go well. What’s not okay is not learning from it. One of the greatest gifts we give each other is feedback. We are deliberate about creating a culture where we all recognize we’re both perfect and imperfect, where we can bring our whole selves—who we are and who we aren’t.”

Tell It Like It Is

Financial transparency is another key value that emerged from Corner Alliance’s collaborative strategy process. “Alan was instrumental in moving us to open-books management,” Ron said. “We now share just about everything with all employees every quarter, the exception being salary information. We have bi-weekly company-wide calls where everyone sees each other’s billability, our revenue, where we are exceeding or falling short of revenue projections.  We don’t hide anything bad or anything good.”

Ron is clear that the effect is palpable. “It has made a massive difference in everyone understanding the business impact of their decisions,” he stated. “It also supports one of our other corporate values, which is sustainability. I believe the whole firm really understands the state of Corner Alliance and can see that we have a really strong foundation for growth right now.”

Be Bold with Clients

That kind of transparency also now extends to Corner Alliance clients—in a bold and differentiated way. The stated value “inner voice” is about people sharing their internal dialog as much as possible, recognizing that’s often where the truth lies. Corner Alliance staff is encouraged to not leave important things unsaid.

“This is definitely not easy,” Ron emphasized. “It takes a commitment to practice over time with our clients and with each other. We actually label it, as in, ‘Using my inner voice, I’d like to say I think there are serious organizational risks associated with what you are considering.’ This makes it easier to do and hear as the person listening now knows that the person speaking is taking a risk.

“Our people know they’ve got the organization behind them every time they venture into inner voice territory,” Ron affirmed. “As Alan points out about using inner voice, ‘It’s a personal risk to reveal what you’re thinking but not saying. It’s a risk to the organization if you don’t.’ But we all also recognize it’s important to apply this value wisely, appropriately, and thoughtfully.”

Perhaps the most unexpected result from this dedication to speaking the truth is that clients have begun to pick up both the practice and the lingo. Ron explained, “When our clients started saying to us, ‘My inner voice is saying xyz,’ we knew we were onto something bigger.”

Reap the Rewards

The list of indicators that Corner Alliance is onto something is long, and now includes growing staff, secure multi-year prime contracts in place, and work with key government executives who have budgets in the billions. “Corner Alliance is poised for an incredible year in 2012,” Ron said with pride. “Not only are we making a difference in the business of government, but we get emails from clients saying, ‘You’ve changed my life.’”

The focus for 2012? “Helping people thrive by doing creative, meaningful work, and living the life they want—not just the work life they want,” said Ron.

The Bottom Line

Ron feels very strongly that what Corner Alliance has created was not led by or done by one person. “Featuring me for this article is actually counter to our culture,” Ron stressed. “Corner Alliance has been led by a collaborative approach using values as our core, and that’s precisely what will lead us into the future.”

And a promising future it is.

Connect with Ron on LinkedIn.

4 Behaviors that Help Delivery People Be Better Business Developers” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

It’s an age-old challenge in the consulting industry: how to get your delivery people to develop more business. After all, who’s in a better position to bring in more work than the people who labor side-by-side with the client? But first there are barriers to break through. Read on for four specific strategies that will help your delivery people execute on both project plans and business development plans.

Old Problem: Those Closest to The Client Don’t Want to Sell

The other day I was chatting with Jonathan, the Chief Growth Officer for a boutique consulting firm. He spoke about the long-standing challenge of getting delivery people to think and act like business developers.

We talked about how:

  • Many are 100% focused on delivery. They’ve got their eye on their target: project results. So they naturally pay the most attention to delivering on project promises, sometimes missing what’s in the periphery.
  • Some don’t see business development as their job. This mindset is common and understandable: Generating new work is for salespeople or business developers; delivery is for project teams. And there’s certainly a case to be made for spending time where you excel and have expertise.
  • Some aren’t sure how to sell. They may have a “deer in the headlights” reaction at the thought of selling, even though they know they should be looking for new opportunities, and even though they genuinely want to get better at it.
  • No one wants to be seen as smarmy. They’ve developed trust based on project execution and may see it as a breach of that trust to switch to “sales mode.”

Looking through the lens of delivery, all of these perspectives make sense. And all of them hinder business growth—for consultants and clients alike.

New Mindset: It’s a Disservice Not To Sell

One way to get delivery people to develop more business is to change their mindset—to help them think their way into behaviors that will naturally open doors. I think that’s the right place to start. Make it your job to remind them—again and again—that everyone in the organization has a higher obligation than delivery: client service. “Selling” then, is part of the professional obligation to serve the client. Not paying attention to the clients’ business needs as a whole is a disservice. Don’t miss an opportunity to beat that drum.

I also believe that’s the beginning and not the end. Overcoming the concern about being seen as smarmy—which I suggest is the biggest barrier—will take more than a steady drum beat.

New Approach: Behaviors That Take the “Sell” Out of “Selling”

Let’s be honest: selling is perceived as a less-than-meritorious endeavor more often than not. There are widely held stereotypes on the part of buyers and sellers alike that influence our thoughts, feelings and actions when we’re on either end of anything that feels like a sale.

Delivery people may falter because they’re just not sure how to approach opportunities in an un-smarmy way—even if they’re clear it’s the right and good thing to do. You owe it to them to provide specific tools and approaches to help take the “sell” out of selling. Try these four:

    1. Ask permission. Telling a client about new opportunities to improve their business is a hundred times easier when you have set the expectation early on that you’re going to do it. At project kickoff, this could sound like this:

“Aria, we’re going to be working together closely for four months. We are totally committed to achieving the results we’ve defined in our project plan. Along the way, we might see opportunities to improve your business that fall outside the scope of our work. Would it be OK with you if we bring those to your attention when we see them?”

Then when the time comes, it’s natural to start with, “Aria, remember when we said…”

Anyone on the team can set this expectation and anyone on the team can follow through.

  1. Sell by doing. One of the reasons sales gets a bad rap is that it’s seen—fairly or unfairly—as a process of mostly talk and little action. Selling by doing is a distinct approach that gives your client the actual experience of working with you. This is particularly valuable for professional services and is an easy transition when delivery people are already working shoulder-to-shoulder with a client. It gives the client a taste of what it might be like to go in a new or different direction, without obligation or pressure to move forward.
  2. Sell the right solution, not your solution. The purpose of traditional selling is to help others buy from you; the purpose of trust-based selling is to help others make the best decision for them right now. Suggest that your delivery folk unreservedly explore all options with the client—not just your company’s solution. This frees them of the concerns they feel about having a company agenda. A trusted advisor, after all, is a safe haven for tough issues, not just ones for which you have a product or service or that fall within the scope of your work. Paradoxically, the chances are excellent that you’ll win more client loyalty—and more business in the long-run—when you approach opportunities with this mindset and the behaviors to back it.
  3. Use caveats. Sometimes we feel things even when we know we “shouldn’t”—like feeling awkward or smarmy when it’s time to talk about being of greater service. Suggestion: say something about that. “Geez, at the risk of coming across as salesy…” That’s what we call a caveat, and it’s a conversational jewel. It dispels the yuck that you’re feeling and communicates that you care about how your message is received. It simultaneously smoothes over what could be an awkward shift for the client—although truthfully is more likely awkward for the one delivering the message.

Taking the “sell” out of selling—employing four specific strategies to reduce the perception of sales as smarmy—leads to greater value and better results.

Isn’t that the ultimate delivery?

Story Time: How One Conversation Changed Everything” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

Our Story Time series brings you real, personal examples from business life that shed light on specific ways to lead with trust. Our last story told a tale of risky business. Today’s anecdote zeroes in on the importance of being willing to interrupt the status quo.

A New Anthology

When it comes to trust-building, stories are a powerful tool for both learning and change. Our new book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, October 2011), contains a multitude of stories. Told by and about people we know, these stories illustrate the fundamental attitudes, truths, and principles of trustworthiness.

Today’s story is excerpted from our chapter on shifting from tactics to strategy. It demonstrates how simple it can be to dramatically alter the nature of a working relationship, and pave the way for delivering far greater value.

From the Front Lines: Upping the Ante

Sarah Agan tells us about the conversation that changed everything with her client, John.

“I had just joined a new consulting firm and was asked to take over as the engagement manager for a project that I soon learned was in dire straits. My client John was happy—he was responsible for a high-priority government-wide initiative with the potential to catapult his career, he had a high-end strategy firm by his side (that was us), and he was getting everything he thought he wanted—a well-documented plan identifying key investments required to guard against terrorist attacks.

“The problem was this: my team was very unhappy. Imagine a group of super-bright, creative, energized young graduates, well-trained in strategy development and execution, assigned to a high-visibility project, sitting in a windowless conference room formatting Excel spreadsheets. It was a troubled project that everyone in my firm had heard about and no one wanted to work on.

“While it was tempting to step in and make a dramatic move, I bided my time. I focused first on developing my relationship with John, understanding his interests and priorities. In several of our initial meetings he made reference to our team as his ‘administrative support.’ At first, I just filed it away. He was happy with the arrangement. He had no idea what he could or should expect from us.

“I also made a point to find out more about how our company had ended up in this predicament. We had fallen into the trap of being seduced by a lucrative long-term contract, doing whatever it took to keep the funding coming.

“One day when John referred to us again as his ‘administrative support,’ I decided it was time to speak up.

“I don’t recall being particularly nervous at the time. I just spoke from the heart: ‘John, this is at least the third time I’ve heard you refer to us as your administrative support. If that’s what you truly feel you need, let us help you find someone who does this as a core competency at a fraction of what you are paying us. If you’re interested in doing things more strategically, I’d love to have that conversation.’

“From that moment, everything shifted. The nature of all our conversations changed. The team began to bring ideas to the table, like helping John host a national workshop—with representatives from across the government, academia, and private industry—so that John could engage all his stakeholders in a way that they would have some ownership for the nationwide plan. It was an extraordinary workshop John’s successor is still talking about years later.

“Now we were positioned to deliver the kind of value we were truly capable of. The project that no one wanted to be on became a project people wanted to be part of.

“The biggest lesson for me in all of this was the importance of being willing to interrupt the status quo and say what had been left unsaid for too long in order to focus on what really mattered to John. Looking back, it was a pretty risky move. It was also the right one. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

—Sarah Agan

What’s been left unsaid for too long in one of your relationships?

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Read more stories about trust:

Risky business

When to walk away

An unexpected way to recover lost trust

An unexpected approach to developing new business with trust

Leading with trust in the C-suite

Legal + Innovation = Matt Homann” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

Charlie Green and I were recently interviewed by Matt Homann of LexThink and the [non]billable hour blog on the subject of trust and the legal profession. Among other things, Matt wanted to know how lawyers can deal with difficult clients (is firing inevitable) and how to embrace non-traditional pricing models.

Rebel with a Cause

Matt joins Mike McLaughlin on the list of people Charlie suggested I follow on Twitter—and I’m once again grateful. Matt is a self-described Legal Thinker, Innovational Keynote Speaker, Creative Facilitator, and Dad. He’s also the founder of LexThink LLC, a legal innovation consultancy (cool phrase!) that delivers conferences, retreats and workshops for lawyers and other professionals who want to get creative about growing their businesses and serving their clients better. In 2009, Matt was named a “Legal Rebel” by the American Bar Association Journal.

Matt’s [non]billable hour blog posts are refreshing, creative, and provocative. I was hooked when I read his blog about using Haiku as a way to quickly develop an elevator speech that responds to the question, “What do you do?”

Other thought-provoking posts include:

Q & A

Matt asked us some challenging questions, including:

  • In this down economy, where clients seem more focused on price, does trust matter more or less than before?
  • How can lawyers leverage trust to embrace more collaborative pricing models, where risks and rewards are shared between client and lawyer?
  • If I’m a lawyer with a difficult client, what should I do? Isn’t it just easier to fire them?
  • When should law firms start teaching Trust?
  • What specific advice do you have for solo and small firm practitioners with a general practice who feels compelled to take nearly every client who walks in the door?
  • What questions were you expecting and haven’t yet been asked about your new book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook? How would you answer them? (Charlie answered, “Why don’t people trust lawyers? And is it a bum rap?” I answered, “What one chapter would we advise people to read, if they could only read one chapter of the book?”)

Check out Matt’s blog post today to find out how we answered.

Connect with Matt on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Real People, Real Trust: An Entrepreneur Wins with Partnership” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

John Dunn has worn many hats in his 25 years as a professional including consultant, change management expert, bed and breakfast owner, and most recently, screenwriter. Find out how John used the principles of trust-building to create a wildly successful business venture—strategies anyone can use to win business while making a difference for a community.

It Starts with a Mindset

John and I met a few months ago while working for a mutual client. Over lunch one day, I learned about his business ventures including the bed and breakfast he launched and ran from 2001 to 2006. I was immediately struck by his out-of-the-box approaches to developing a successful business—starting with a mindset of collaboration not competition.

“There were five B&Bs in the town we were serving, including mine. I suppose I could have looked at the other four as competition, but I believed there were an abundant number of customers and no way to accommodate all of them 365 days a year without leaving business on the table. I knew that the only thing preventing us from tapping into the full potential of the market was letting the public know about all of us. And I knew the best thing to do would be to have all five inns working together, viewing ourselves as a unit and viewing the hotels in town as our collective competition.

“My life philosophy is there’s plenty of everything—customers, money, everything. You just have to direct it to you.

“I’ve also been in business long enough that I know some people prefer data over a philosophy. So, I researched the number of people who came to our town and determined what we were missing in the market. The numbers showed clearly that if we created a strategic alliance and pooled our resources, we’d then have a competitive advantage over large hotels with big marketing budgets.”

An Offer to Help

John took a systematic approach to convincing each B&B to adopt his mindset and approach—first, he built trust individually, then he approached the group as a collective.

“Of the other four B&Bs, two were already established and the other two were in the process of opening. I took time to introduce myself to all the other owners and talked to each of them about what I believed was unique about my inn. I shared information readily and freely. Then I offered my help with anything they needed. For example, I had relationships with the city that could help the new businesses figure out how to comply with city codes. Once all the B&Bs were open and running, I went back and proposed my idea of working together to be stronger in the marketplace.”

Team Agreements

I asked John if he got push-back. “There was some resistance at first, and we had to have the conversation about how we could really collaborate rather than compete. One critical success factor was agreeing to be transparent. When we were upfront with each other we found we were able to make it work. We also decided we all had to be in full agreement to do something, and that we were all responsible for ideas on how to execute. For example, we decided that everyone would decorate for the holidays. Then someone came up with the idea of having a local florist put a uniquely decorated tree in every inn. One tree was raffled off and the others were available for sale. A lot of people benefited from the creative ideas that came out of our partnership—not just us.”

Systems Thinking

John says another key was in thinking of all the B&Bs as a whole.

“I’m a big believer in win/win. Sure, I would’ve loved it if my B&B filled first. But my over-riding belief was if we had 35 rooms and 50 people looking for rooms, even if mine were the last ones filled they’d still be filled.

“I kept reminding myself that the way you get more done is through leverage. For example, we could leverage money by collectively pooling our marketing budgets. So when the Chamber of Commerce held an event and wanted tables for all the inns, we had a joint table marketing all of us. That meant we could take turns at the event so we could all be at our inns keeping our customers happy. We instantly had 12 to 16 staff members to do marketing instead of two or three.”

Putting the Customer First—For Real

John and the other B&B owners consistently put customer needs ahead of any one B&Bs’ needs.

“We agreed that the primary way to differentiate from the bigger hotels in town was through our personal connections with customers and through exceptional customer service. So if a customer called my B&B and I didn’t have what they needed, I’d put him on hold and call each B&B until I found what he was looking for. Others did the same. We all viewed the entire inventory as our own, we knew it well, and we were committed to doing whatever it took to help our customers out.”

John’s mindset of “customer” extended to the community as well.

“I knew another way we could all differentiate was by promoting our historical buildings. So twice a year, in the spring and near the December holidays, we rented a trolley and opened up all the B&Bs to the public so they could take historical tours. I established a relationship with the historical neighborhood association for a nearby neighborhood so that our tours were timed to align with theirs, giving people more opportunities to see historical properties. And I partnered with the local historical museum by including admission into the museum as part of the tour ticket. All the pieces worked together and everyone gained something.”

“Real World” Application

The results John got speak for themselves: a 25% increase in occupancy rate over a year (which is a big number in the hotel business) and double the number of advertising impressions without any additional investment.

I asked John if he thought his approaches could create a similar return in the corporate world. His answer was a resounding, “Yes.”

“When you think about it, what we did was actually quite simple: we looked at ourselves as a unique product and created strategic partnerships that would create leverage so we could all grow and be better. Companies have been doing this for years. Take ERP implementations. I worked for a global consulting firm that had the capacity to build their own product, but instead joined forces with SAP. That partnership created a much more compelling value proposition for the customer. The key is to maximize opportunity with as few resources as possible.”

John emphasizes that the strategy isn’t viable without the mindset that goes along with it.

“I do a lot of consulting with nonprofits and the hardest thing to get through their heads is the notion of leveraging their values and products with others’ values and products. They have trouble with it because their organizations are built on a mentality of scarcity—they’re always fighting for budget, asking for money, and have a perception there’s never enough. So they naturally think, ‘I can’t partner with another because they might steal my donor list.’

“If nonprofits believed there was an abundance of money out there for everyone, then every single one of them would be successful. It really comes down to mindset, mental models and belief systems. That’s what I spend time on when I’m consulting with them.”

Dream Big, Win Big

There’s a unifying theme in all John’s endeavors: how to manifest the impossible with the possible. He’s jazzed about his new career as a screenwriter?three of his scripts have been optioned by known producers. John says, “Making movies is a way to interact with bigger and bigger audiences and change lives on a much grander scale.”

Here’s to big dreams with big results.

Connect with John on LinkedIn .

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The Real People, Real Trust series offers an insider view into the challenges, successes, and make-it-or-break-it moments of people from all corners of the world who are leading with trust. Check out our prior posts: read about:

Chip Grizzard: A CEO You Should Know;

Ralph Catillo: How One Account Executive Stands Apart;

Anna Dutton: A Fresh Perspective on Sales Operations;

Heber Sambucetti: A Learning Consultant’s Approach to Leadership;

and Janet Andrews: What Trust-based Strategy Consulting Looks, Feels, and Sounds Like.

Meet Anthony Iannarino: Pragmatic, Insightful, Focused. (He also loves our book.)” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

Anthony Iannarino, creator of The Sales Blog, recently reviewed our new book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust. Anthony is a thoughtful subject matter expert on what he calls “the new art of sales and sales management.” We’re pleased to introduce Anthony to you, if you haven’t met him already.

Adventures in Selling

Once again proving that my resistance to Twitter is often misguided, Charlie and Anthony first “met” in the Twittersphere, and when I joined the party Charlie suggested I follow Anthony. It’s not the first time Charlie gave me good advice.

Anthony’s blog posts are pragmatic, insightful, and focused. He writes daily on adventures in sales and selling, sales management, the sales process, and what it takes to succeed. But what really resonates for me about Anthony’s posts is the drum he beats about the underlying belief system that leads to success in sales. Some of my favorites include:

When Anthony’s not blogging, he’s juggling myriad roles: President and Chief Sales officer for SOLUTIONS Staffing, a best-in-class regional staffing service based in Columbus, Ohio; Managing Director of B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, a boutique sales coaching and consulting company where he works to help salespeople and sales organizations improve and reach their full potential; and father of a thirteen-year-old boy and twin eleven-year-old girls. He has plenty to keep him occupied and we appreciate the time he took to read our book.

His review of the book, by the way, is Classic Anthony: pointed and thorough. Read it for yourself and find out what chapters he recommends zeroing in on. And don’t forget to turn to page 205 when you get your copy to read Anthony’s story about when to walk away.

Follow Anthony on Twitter, connect to him on LinkedIn, or friend him on Facebook.

Story Time: Risky Business” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

Our Story Time series brings you real, personal examples from business life that shed light on specific ways to lead with trust. Our last story told of the upside of being willing to walk away. Principle pays off in today’s story.

A New Anthology

When it comes to trust-building, stories are a powerful tool for both learning and change. Our new book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, October 2011), contains a multitude of stories. Told by and about people we know, these stories illustrate the fundamental attitudes, truths, and principles of trustworthiness.

Today’s story is excerpted from our chapter on risk-taking. It vividly demonstrates the potential upside of sticking to your guns.

From the Front Lines: Telling a Difficult Truth

Lynn P., a career systems consultant serving largely government clients in the United States, tells a story about taking a risk under pressure.

“Eleven years into my career, I took over a major project. A key phase, testing, was way behind schedule, and the Testing Readiness Review was only two weeks away. Passing the review was a very big deal: it meant completing a milestone and getting a payment for my company.

“I was due to present to all the clients and the senior managers of my own company. It was intimidating—and I was intimidated.

“I was under significant pressure to keep the program moving by passing the review. I also knew that we were not ready to pass.

“Knowing it could cost me my job, I went line by line through our assessment, citing the facts as I saw them. I said we did not pass the review and that we would need to delay to correct the critical items.

“There was complete silence in the room.

“My top executive asked, ‘Are you sure?’

“I said yes.

“After the meeting, both my client and my senior managers approached me informally to commend me for ‘sticking to my guns’ and recommending what I believed to be right.

“Apparently, I had created trust—a lot of it. Over the next 18 months, I was given roles of increasing responsibility, and was eventually promoted to program manager.

“I now believe it was this event that drove the client to increase my role. The experience gave me greater confidence in my own judgment and skills. And finally, it was this program’s success that ultimately propelled my career to the next level.”

The willingness to take a risk by being principled can pay off hugely—as long as you’re doing it for the principles, not the payoff.

—As told to Charles H. Green

When have you stuck to your guns? What payoff did you get?

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“Consult This” Consults Us” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

Charlie Green and I recently recorded a podcast interview with Mike McLaughlin on the subject of trust and professional services. We covered a lot of ground in 16 minutes, including the one piece of advice we’d each give consultants about building trust with clients.

Consult This

Mike is an accomplished thought leader in the world of professional services. A former partner with Deloitte Consulting, he’s the author of two books (Winning the Professional Services Sale and Guerrilla Marketing for Consultants, in collaboration with Jay Conrad Levinson), the founder of MindShare Consulting LLC, and the publisher of Management Consulting News, a monthly newsletter that delivers practical ideas to thousands of professionals around the world. He also writes another monthly newsletter, The Guerrilla Consultant, which extends the concepts and strategies in his first book.

Mike regularly taps into experts on a variety of relevant topics, and posts his own insightful content on his blog, Consult This. Some examples include:

  • Let Them Take Credit. How, by giving up the credit, you actually earn credit (and more business).
  • What’s in a Name? How the job titles we use on business cards, email signature lines, and web sites convey a world of meaning to others, some of which isn’t helpful.
  • When it All Hits the Fan. Why we should consider ourselves lucky when a client calls us on the carpet for a customer service failure.

We were honored to be among the likes of Peter Block and Peter Bregman, whom Mike has interviewed in the past, among others.

Q & A

Mike asked us some interesting questions. He wanted to know:

  • Do buyers trust professional service providers more, less, or about the same as they did when The Trusted Advisor was published?
  • If you’re meeting a client for the first time, what are the best steps to take to begin to build trust?
  • On the flip side of the coin, what common behaviors do you see that detract from building trust?
  • What do you say to the pushy sales manager who wants you to “accelerate” the sale before trust is established?
  • If you’ve lost trust with a client, what can you do to regain it?
  • If you could give a consultant just one piece of advice about building trust with clients, what would it be? (Charlie and I had different answers for this one.)

Check out his blog post to find out how we answered.

Connect with Mike on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Three Star Leadership” was first published on the Trust Matters Blog.

Charlie Green and I were recently interviewed by Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership Enterprises on the subject of trust and leadership. He wanted to know what bosses in general can take away from our new book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust.

From the Front Lines

Wally and I met via Twitter—he was a distinctive and caring voice in the crowd when I first joined the fray. Wally is a coach, consultant, and popular speaker to audiences in North America and elsewhere. He focuses on front-line leadership, and brings to his work all that he indelibly learned as a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps—first and foremost that a leader’s job has two parts: accomplish the mission and care for your people.

Wally’s latest book, Ruthless Focus, features companies that have been successful for years by training their sights on a single, simple, core strategy. Wally also created the Working Supervisor’s Support Kit, among other resources. He’s committed to providing day-to-day practical advice on how to be a great boss.

Wally blogs thoughtfully and regularly on the subject of leadership at all levels in his Three Star Leadership blog. His aim: to give you insight, information, and pointers to resources to do a better job and live a better life. Example blog posts include:

Q & A

Wally asked us provocative and wide-ranging questions. He wanted to know:

  • How is The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook different from the original The Trusted Advisor?
  • What, exactly, makes this a “fieldbook”?
  • What can a boss take away from here, regardless of the level where they find themselves on the org chart?
  • In addition to the things any boss will get, is there something for each of the following:
    • A first line boss such as a police sergeant, call center boss, utility company crew chief or sales manager?
    • A middle manager, probably with a technical specialty such as accounting, marketing, or logistics?
    • A general manager in any size organization?
    • What is the single most important take-away from the Fieldbook?

Check out Wally’s blog post to find out how we answered.

Connect with Wally on LinkedIn and Twitter.

How to Create a Culture of Trust” was first published on the Trust Matters blog and is co-authored by Charles H. Green of Trusted Advisor Associates.

We’re pleased to announce the release of our latest eBook: How to Create a Culture of Trust.

It’s the sixth in the new Trusted Advisor Fieldbook series by Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe.

Each eBook provides a snapshot of content from The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, which is jam-packed with practical, hands-on strategies to dramatically improve your results in sales, relationship management, and organizational performance.

How to Create a Culture of Trust reveals:

  • Two key levers: virtues and values
  • The difference that leading from principles makes
  • The biggest trust-destroyer in an organization

P.S. Did you miss out on Volumes 1 through 5 of The Fieldbook eBook series? Get them while they’re still available:

  1. 15 Ways to Build Trust…Fast!
  2. How to Sell to the C-Suite
  3. Six Risks You Should Take to Build Trust
  4. How YOU Can Raise Trust in Your Organization
  5. The Dos and Don’ts of Trust-Based Networking

Take a look and let us know what you think.

Hot off the Presses: The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook” was first published on the Trust Matters blog and is co-authored by Charles H. Green of Trusted Advisor Associates.

We are very happy to officially announce the publication of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust. Published by Wiley Books, it is now being sold at fine bookstores worldwide and online at major booksellers.

Whose shoulders does it stand on? The book’s pedigree begins with the classic The Trusted Advisor, by Charlie with esteemed co-authors David Maister and Rob Galford in 2000. In 2005, Charlie wrote Trust-based Selling, which squared the circle of trust and sales.

What’s up with the leadership emphasis? Since 2000, the world has gotten flat, connected and linked—trust drives success. The relevance of trust to leadership has increased 470% (our subjective estimate). We connect the dots.

What’s new? Material on creating a trust-based culture; networking; risk-taking; selling to the C-suite; rapid trust creation; leadership. And more.

Why a “fieldbook”? It’s practical, tactical. Loaded with how-to’s. Deals with the nitty-gritty of situations from business development to dealing with untrustworthy partners. It has so many lists it has a list of lists.

Who likes it? Tom Peters, David Maister, Chris Brogan, Neil Rackham, Jim Quigley, and more…

Find Out More

We want to make it easy for you. You can:

Tell Us What You Think

Real People, Real Trust: What Trust-based Strategy Consulting Looks, Feels, and Sounds Like” was first published on the Trust Matters blog and is co-authored by Jennifer Vanmeter.

Janet Andrews is a senior-level consultant at SRA’s Touchstone Consulting Group, a strategy and management-consulting firm. Janet spends her days running from one U.S. federal government building to the next, working with executives on issues of national interest. Discover Janet’s six tips for building trust-based relationships while getting the job done.

A Matter of Focus

“Janet’s reputation can be described as polished, thoughtful, and methodical,” says Jen Vanmeter, a colleague of Janet’s who teaches Trusted Advisor programs in-house and who co-wrote this blog. “She’s known for her smarts, her work ethic, and her integrity—she does exactly what she says she’ll do, when she says she’ll do it.” Jen continues, “She’s incredibly busy, and yet she takes time to pay attention. Even in a quick hallway chat, she’s focused on you, not the meeting she’s dashing off to.”

Jen and Janet spoke at length about how to build trust-based relationships in the midst of demanding and high-stakes projects. Here are Janet’s six maxims for client relationships that really work.

1. Know Yourself; Know Others Even Better

When Janet thinks about building trust in business relationships, she makes it a point to step back and think what is most important for the person she’s talking to.

“If you have a client who leads with social connection, then that’s where you need to put your foot out first. If someone is results-oriented, they might not want to chat—they want to know what we did for them today. This colors how I position things; it helps me think, ‘How do I start off that conversation?’ That awareness of my own style and preferences helps me see that what I want to lead with maybe isn’t what will work best for them.”

2. Remember It’s Their Truth, Not Yours

“Sometimes your version of what is right isn’t right for your client,” Janet says. “When I want my clients to do the right thing according to me, rather than the right thing according to their reality, I can easily become frustrated and therefore less effective.

“When I view their world with a lens of objectivity and put aside judgment of ‘that choice is good or bad,’ then I can walk into conversations with a more open mind. And I’ve noticed that clients respond in kind. When I remember they’re the ones that are living it, not me, then I focus on doing my best to advise them. Yes, I’m trying to sway them, but I keep in mind the decisions and choices that come out of it are theirs to own.

“Am I disappointed sometimes? Of course. But I keep reminding myself that whatever conclusion they come to, it is their truth. It’s my job to give them my best thinking. Pushing them on something they don’t want—or don’t want yet—is going to break trust, not build it, no matter how ‘right’ I think I am.”

3. Focus on the Dialogue, not the Difficult

While Janet acknowledges that there are always difficult conversations to be had in any business relationship, she says they don’t have to be personally difficult.

“Earlier in my career, I might have taken more of a defensive posture with clients whose style can be aggressive or combative. Now, I see a tense conversation as less of a conflict, and more of a dialogue. And when I feel less tense, my clients seem to also.”

4. Bravely Go First

“If there’s an elephant in the room that no one wants to bring up, I take a deep breath and bravely go first—once I’ve put aside my own judgments. If you can somehow frame the elephant by thinking about the other person’s motives, viewpoint, and how they like to lead, it can bring down their barriers to listening, so a dialogue—not a stand-off—can ensue.”

5. Slow Down and Listen

Janet emphasizes the importance of listening, which can be challenging in the fast-paced world of strategy consulting. “Learning to be less focused on dictating how the play is going to end, and more focused on listening along the way, has been a real shift for me in my career.

“I remember once we were working on a key deliverable for a client. We’d been back and forth a couple of times on drafts. The client was mad at our team for not taking her comments seriously enough, and the team was frustrated because they thought she was being difficult. All it took was a real conversation and some patience to break the logjam. Slowing down to really listen made me realize that we were all arguing the same point. When I acknowledged that, she agreed and we were able to move on.”

6. Don’t Sweat It When You Don’t Click

“Not all my clients consider me their trusted advisor. That used to worry me—of course I want everyone to like me. Now I recognize that sometimes it’s not going to click. So part of being a trusted advisor is being self-aware enough to recognize when it’s time to pass that relationship off to someone else who might be better suited for the relationship.”

Janet’s self-knowledge, her commitment to continuous improvement, and her willingness to focus on relationships as well as results clearly make a difference—for her colleagues as well as her clients.

Connect with Janet on LinkedIn.

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The Real People, Real Trust series offers an insider view into the challenges, successes, and make-it-or-break-it moments of people from all corners of the world who are leading with trust. Check out our prior posts: read about Chip Grizzard, a CEO You Should Know; Ralph Catillo: How One Account Executive Stands Apart; Anna Dutton: A Fresh Perspective on Sales Operations; and Heber Sambucetti: A Learning Consultant’s Approach to Leadership.

StoryTime: When to Walk Away” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

Our Story Time series brings you real, personal examples from business life that shed light on specific ways to lead with trust. Our last story told of an unexpected way to recover lost trust. Today’s anecdote zeroes in on the importance of personal integrity.

A New Anthology

When it comes to trust-building, stories are a powerful tool for both learning and change. Our upcoming book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, October 31 2011), contains a multitude of stories. Told by and about people we know, these stories illustrate the fundamental attitudes, truths, and principles of trustworthiness.

Today’s story is excerpted from our chapter on dealing with untrustworthy people. It vividly demonstrates the value of being willing to walk away from a deal any time, and the paradoxical outcome that often follows.

From the Front Lines: Walking Away from the Table

 

Anthony Iannarino, President and CEO of SOLUTIONS Staffing in Columbus, Ohio, tells about facing an accusation from a client.

“After going through two long Request for Proposal processes, I was finally presenting to the 14-person buying team for a dream client. One panel member I knew to be hostile asked a critical question. I knew he wouldn’t like my answer, but I was truthful. He voted No—but I still won the job.

“At the contract signing, the ‘No Vote’ person read the contract and said: ‘I see here you have failed to meet the commitment you made to us in your presentation.’

“I replied: ‘I am sorry for any confusion, but I was very clear that I couldn’t provide that service. I told you that doing so would destroy our ability to provide you with the whole package we proposed, including the price.’

“The No Vote said: ‘You lied. You would have said anything in there just to get our business.’

“I got up and said: ‘Then I am afraid I can’t sign this contract. If you believe I lied to get your business, then I cannot take your business. I have never lied to get any business.’ And I got up to walk out.

“At this point the main buyer intervened. He contradicted the ‘No Vote’ and upheld my account of the presentation. The contract was signed.”

It was Anthony’s willingness to put integrity ahead of the sale that, paradoxically, made the sale.

—S. Anthony Iannarino (President and Chief Sales Officer, SOLUTIONS Staffing)

Are you, like Anthony, willing to walk the talk—even if it means walking out the door?

+++++++++++++

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or his blog.

Read more stories about trust:

An unexpected approach to developing new business with trust

Leading with trust in the C-suite

An unexpected way to recover lost trust

The Dos and Don’ts of Trust-Based Networking” was first published on the Trust Matters blog and is co-authored by Charles H. Green of Trusted Advisor Associates.
We’re pleased to announce the release of our latest eBook: The Dos and Don’ts of Trust-Based Networking.

It’s the fifth in the new Trusted Advisor Fieldbook series by Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe.

Each eBook provides a snapshot of content from The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, which is jam-packed with practical, hands-on strategies to dramatically improve your results in sales, relationship management, and organizational performance.

The Dos and Don’ts of Trust-Based Networking reveals:

  • How trust-based networking is different from every-day business networking
  • Ten best practices for trust-based networking
  • Specific dos and don’ts for online networking

P.S. Did you miss out on Volumes 1 through 4 of The Fieldbook eBook series? Get them while they’re still available:

  1. 15 Ways to Build Trust…Fast!
  2. How to Sell to the C-Suite
  3. Six Risks You Should Take to Build Trust
  4. How YOU Can Raise Trust in Your Organization

Take a look and let us know what you think.

P.P.S. There are just three weeks until the release of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook. Receive a free Trust Quotient diagnostic ($30 value) when you pre-order The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook before October 31, 2011 midnight EST. Send your receipt to bookoffer@trustedadvisor.com. We’ll send you access to discover your trust strengths and weaknesses.

Real People, Real Trust: A Learning Consultant’s Approach to Leadership” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.
Heber Sambucetti is a senior learning consultant with Accenture, working routinely with some of Accenture’s most seasoned executives. Find out what Heber sees as the distinguishing traits of a trusted advisor, and learn how he has successfully turned the most challenging relationships into prosperous ones.

Foundations

Heber (pronounced EH-ver) and I met in 2010 when I led a Being a Trusted Advisor program for the team he works with. I was immediately struck by his candor, caring, and professionalism.

I began my Real People, Real Trust interview with Heber in the same way I’ve done in the past, asking, “What does it take to be a trusted advisor?” Heber’s immediate response was remarkably similar to Anna Dutton’s; he said, “Above all else, you need to be sincere and genuine.”

Heber continued, “That’s the only way you can create the right type of environment for a business relationship to prosper. You need to come with a pure intent to help others, and truly care about the person across from you.

“Secondly, don’t be afraid to bring emotions to the business environment. That’s a necessary element to create a certain level of intimacy—and by that I mean a sense of familiarity, closeness, and an understanding of each other. That way, not only do people see who you really are, but it makes it possible for you to ask the tough questions and deal with the tough stuff when it counts. If someone’s angry, you should be able to address that—as in, ‘What’s got you angry? I sense frustration.’ Sometimes people are afraid to explore this side of things. Validating other people is important. Sticking to the task only gets you so far.

“Those are your foundational pieces—the genuineness, the pure intent, and focusing on more than just the tasks at hand. And then you need to be able to consistently deliver whatever it is you’ve agreed upon, and bring something better for their business. That requires understanding what success is for them. And don’t forget about what you care about too. If it’s a one-way relationship it will never work.”

Fighting Fires

During our conversation, I discovered that Heber was a firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician in a prior life—something I never would have guessed, having interacted with him exclusively in a corporate environment. I asked him what parallels he saw between the world of consulting and the business of saving lives.

“In the fire department, I really learned first-hand the importance of establishing an environment of trust. When you feel like you’re part of a family, then you don’t want to let the family down, and you genuinely care about people you’re helping. You’re taught how to bring the best of yourself every day. The consequences of failure are extreme—your team member or a citizen loses a life. There is an unwritten rule that you all go in and you all come out; you don’t leave anyone behind.

“Sure, the stakes are different in business—mistakes in the corporate world won’t cost a life, no matter what the pressures you may feel inwardly, and I remind my team of that every day. But I still live by all those principles: be of service and always give it your best.”

Surviving the Heat

I asked Heber if he had a “proudest moment”—a time when he knew something important had shifted in a relationship.

“Once I turned a relationship from the individual being incredibly chastising and critical of everything—someone much more senior than me—to that person being a champion and educator. One day, after a series of interactions, I just had to lay it on the table. I said, ‘If you want to make me feel like sh** and perspire every time I talk to you, then you’re on target. But here’s the thing: I think I can learn from you. It’s true I don’t know everything, and we have a common goal of success with this project, so I need you to teach me instead of criticizing me.’ The person was taken by complete surprise and the relationship took a dramatic turn for the better. It was an intense moment. I ran out of deodorant. But I just had to say what was there.”

Heber then made a point to speak about taking responsibility for relationships gone wrong.

“When a relationship isn’t working, it’s easy to approach it from the perspective that you’re not doing anything and this person is beating you down. The question I always ask myself is, what am I doing to make the relationship better—or worse? What’s my piece to own? How have I let it fester? Holding yourself and others accountable are keys to relationships that work.”

Best Advice: You Snooze You Lose

I asked Heber for his best advice for someone who’s trying to increase trust in a relationship.

“First, ask yourself why you want to improve the relationship with that person; what’s in it for you. Always ask why. If the answer is, ‘Because I need to make my numbers and have them sign on the dotted line,’ think again. Would you want someone to approach you that way? No. OK, then try again from a different perspective. Put yourself in their shoes.

“Most people have a gut feel for what others are thinking and feeling, they’ve just hit the snooze button on it. They don’t want to look at it—it’s too raw, too emotional, too difficult, so snooze it is. And then they’re surrounded by alarm clocks all on snooze. That’s not sustainable.

“This applies personally as well as professionally. If I ever hit the snooze button with my son, he tells me right away. Children have a magical way of reminding you straight out that you’ve hit snooze—‘You promised me we’d play soccer, Dad.’ ‘We’ll do it tomorrow.’ ‘That’s what you said yesterday, Dad.’

“So I do what I can to minimize how many snooze buttons I have in life.”

Warming the Heart

Heber’s approach to building relationships reminds me of Heber: straight up, wise, humorous, warmhearted.

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad to have the Hebers of the world to keep me honest and out of danger.

Connect with Heber on LinkedIn.

——–

The Real People, Real Trust series offers an insider view into the challenges, successes, and make-it-or-break-it moments of people from all corners of the world who are leading with trust. Check out our prior posts: read about Chip Grizzard, a CEO You Should Know; Ralph Catillo: How One Account Executive Stands Apart; and Anna Dutton: A Fresh Perspective on Sales Operations.

How YOU Can Raise Trust in Your Organization” was first published on the Trust Matters blog and is co-authored by Charles H. Green of Trusted Advisor Associates.
We’re pleased to announce the release of our latest eBook: People Behaving Badly: How YOU Can Raise Trust in Your Organization.

It’s the fourth in the new Trusted Advisor Fieldbook series by Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe.

Each eBook provides a snapshot of content from The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, which is jam-packed with practical, hands-on strategies to dramatically improve your results in sales, relationship management, and organizational performance.

People Behaving Badly: How YOU Can Raise Trust in Your Organization reveals:

  • The three steps to constructive confrontation
  • What to do when constructive confrontation doesn’t work
  • When to walk away

P.S. Did you miss out on Volume 1, 2, or 3 of The Fieldbook eBook series? Get them while they’re still available:

Take a look and let us know what you think.

P.P.S. There are just three weeks until the release of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook. Receive a free Trust Quotient diagnostic ($30 value) when you pre-order The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook before October 31, 2011 midnight EST. Send your receipt to bookoffer@trustedadvisor.com. We’ll send you access to discover your trust strengths and weaknesses.

Story Time: An Unexpected Way to Recover Lost Trust” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

When it comes to trust-building, stories are a powerful tool for both learning and change. Our new Story Time series brings you real, personal examples from business life that shed light on specific ways to lead with trust. Today’s anecdote zeroes in on an unexpected way to recover lost trust and appease an unhappy client: listening.

A New Anthology

Our upcoming book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, October 2011), contains a multitude of stories. Told by and about people we know, these stories illustrate the fundamental attitudes, truths, and principles of trustworthiness. In the coming months, we’ll share a selection of stories from the new book with you.

Today’s story is excerpted from our chapter on listening. It vividly demonstrates the value of hearing someone out, resisting the temptation to problem-solve too quickly, and being willing to always do what’s in your client’s best interests—even if that means letting go of the work assignment.

From the Front Lines: Listening to Recover Trust

Catherine Gregory, Senior Principal at SRA International in its Touchstone Consulting Group in Washington, DC, tells a story of the business value of listening.

“I had a team of four working on a long-term project with an important client who especially valued seeing the same faces year after year. In the course of three months, the entire team turned over. I had to deliver the bad news as each team member departed.

“After several turnovers, my client vented to me his frustration. I listened, and then listened some more, as he expressed his concerns and aggravation. He concluded with, ‘I know you are doing all you can. I just had to get that out.’ He was still unhappy and we were able to move forward together.

“Once things were stable with the team, I brought up the possibility of phasing out our support and letting him phase in a contractor who he felt would be more reliable. He didn’t want anyone else; he wanted our team.

“This experience proved to me without a doubt that listening is a critical business skill, and a way to recover trust in the face of challenging circumstances.”

—Catherine Gregory (Senior Principal, SRA International, Touchstone Consulting Group, Washington, DC)

Who in your life is waiting for you to give them a good listening to?

 

Now Presenting…Four Experts on Powerful Presentations” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

I’ve been giving business presentations for nearly 20 years. The more I do it, the more I appreciate just how hard it is to do it really well. Today’s blog post features four resources to help with various aspects of speaking and presenting. Please add your favorites!

Get it Together

The same ol’ same ol’ approach to designing your presentation may not be getting the results you want. Nick Morgan (@DrNickMorgan) shares 5 Quick Ways to Organize a Speech.

Nick says:

“Too many people structure their presentations by pulling together slides and then assembling them like a deck of cards, in what seems like an OK order.  That usually means that no one except the presenter can divine where the speech is headed.

“That’s a bad idea.

“At the heart of a successful presentation is a clear structure.  Which one should you use?  The best structure for what you’re trying to do depends on the nature of your talk.”

Nick then shares five possible situations in the organizational world for which you might be called upon to present, with a suggested outline for each.

Present with Presence

Sims Wyeth (@simswyeth) writes regularly about a variety of delivery techniques likepausing as a presentation skill.
Sims says:

“Taking time to think when you’re on stage makes you more interesting to watch. It gives you presence and gravitas. It fills your body with a mysterious power-electric activity under the skin.”

Who doesn’t want a little mysterious power-electric activity under the skin!

(By the way, I recently signed up for Sims’ weekly Presentation Pointers and am really enjoying them. They are brief, insightful, and usable—a great combination.)

The One “Thing” to Avoid

Patricia Fripp (@PFripp) writes about the importance of being deliberate with the words we choose in How to Sound Intelligent in a Speech or Sales Presentation.
Patricia says:

“The one thing you should always avoid when you speak is—“thing.” What a fuzzy, flabby, non-specific word! Never be vague if you want to be believed. Use exact, precise words—words with power and value.”

Yes, ma’am.

Kill the Presentation Altogether

You wouldn’t treat a job interview like a sales presentation, complete with 40-slide deck, would you? S. Anthony Iannarino (@iannarino) turns our traditional ideas of how to conduct a sales call upside down in You Think You Are Presenting. You Are Being Interviewed.

Anthony says:

“Don’t get me wrong, there are times when you absolutely must present your company using your standard slide deck and when you must share some basic history. Even then, that presentation should not dominate your time with your dream client.

“Your dream client considers you a candidate for hire. They are considering making you part of their team and giving your responsibility for some outcome. The reason they need a dialogue instead of a monologue is because they are trying to get to know you. They are trying to make a good decision.”

Goodbye presenting, hello listening.

Six Risks You Should Take to Build Trust” was first published on the Trust Matters blog and is co-authored by Charles H. Green of Trusted Advisor Associates.

We’re pleased to announce the release of our latest eBook: Six Risks You Should Take to Build Trust.

It’s the third in the new Trusted Advisor Fieldbook series by Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe.

Each eBook provides a snapshot of content fromThe Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, which is jam-packed with practical, hands-on strategies to dramatically improve your results in sales, relationship management, and organizational performance.

Six Risks You Should Take to Build Trust reveals:

  • How taking risks actually reduces risk
  • A powerful tool for making difficult conversations easier
  • Six ways to build your risk-taking muscle

P.S. Did you miss out on Volume 1 or 2 of The Fieldbook eBook series? Get them while they’re still available:

Take a look and let us know what you think.

P.P.S. There are just six weeks until the release of TheTrustedAdvisorFieldbook. Receive a free Trust Quotient diagnostic ($30 value) when you pre-order The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook before October 31, 2011 midnight EST. Send your receipt to bookoffer@trustedadvisor.com. We’ll send you access to discover your trust strengths and weaknesses.

Story Time: Leading with Trust in the C-Suite” was first published on the Trust Matters blog and is co-authored by Charles H. Green of Trusted Advisor Associates.

When it comes to trust-building, stories are a powerful tool for both learning and change. Our new Story Time series brings you real, personal examples from business life that shed light on specific ways to lead with trust. Today’s anecdote zeroes in on being trustworthy in the C-suite.

A New Anthology

Our upcoming book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, October 2011), contains a multitude of such stories. Told by and about people we know, these stories illustrate the fundamental attitudes, truths, and principles of trustworthiness. In the coming months, we’ll share a selection of stories from the new book with you.

Today’s story is excerpted from our chapter on selling to the C-suite. It vividly demonstrates the value of speaking directly, and asking questions that are simple and humble. (And if it leaves you wanting more, check out our eBook, “How to Sell to the C-Suite.”)

From the Front Lines: Asking a Simple Question

Paulo Novaes, a Senior Manager working in Mexico for a global consulting firm, tells a story about the power of asking questions.

“At the due diligence stage of selling to a global bank, I was gathering information on how they work: their existing skills and where the gaps might be. This was a company which traditionally did everything in-house, and we would be their first outsourcing partner.

“The executive in charge told me with great passion of all they had accomplished, the skills they had, and procedures they had put in place, and so on. It was impressive.

“I had to ask a simple, critical question: ‘Why do you need us?’

“Once the client recovered from his surprise, he came back with set of answers: ‘You have the experience, the methodology, the capability to add to all we have built. Also, yes, we are good, we are proud, and have reached a limit in efficiency, with what we can do by ourselves. We need an external partner to complement what we’ve done, who is able to design a solution to fit our needs.’

“The client sold himself on our services in that moment.

“What I learned: sometimes you have to ask basic questions. Simple and humble is often better. Rather than struggle to find what’s beneath the surface or between the lines, the best way to advance is to be as direct as possible—even at the risk of going against cultural norms. If you speak directly—in a polite manner and with respect—the customer will thank you. You are saving their time and getting a better result.”

—Paulo Novaes (Mexico)

That’s Paulo’s story. What makes a difference in the C-suite in your experience?

Real People, Real Trust: A Fresh Perspective on Sales Operations” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

Anna Dutton is a Sales Operations Director for Blackboard, a company that brings technology to the world of education. Find out what Anna sees as the distinguishing traits of a trusted advisor, and learn two concrete steps she recommends for anyone who wants to bring more transparency and trust to their business relationships.

In a Word: Genuine

Anna (pronounced “Ahna”) and I met in 2009 when she was leading a team of 10 inside salespeople and wanted to share the principles of Trust-Based Selling with the group. In our exploratory conversations, Anna’s thoughtfulness, poise, authenticity, and commitment to people being the best they can be really shined through. Anna has the world at her fingertips— she has 15 years of business experience in roles as diverse as banking, tourism, and human resources, and she speaks three languages fluently. Yet she is as down-to-earth as they come.

I began my Real People, Real Trust interview with Anna the same way I began my conversation with others I’ve featured, by asking a simple question: What does it take to be a trusted advisor? Without a moment of hesitation, Anna said, “Being genuine.”

“Genuine for me means not being afraid to tell the truth, to say what you think, to say something that others may not agree with. It’s about really having integrity with the people you have relationships with.

“Most of my colleagues and former team members would probably tell you that I will always say the truth and not hide from it.  I want them to know they can rely on me, they can be honest with me, and that I always have their back. This extends into my personal life, too. It’s important for people to know where I’m coming from and that I will always meet them halfway.”

Delivery Matters

Anna emphasized the difference that delivery makes.

“Of course, I always consider how to say things. Delivery makes a difference. People have come to count on an expression I often use: ‘I’m sorry I just have to be blunt.’ They laugh now when they hear it, which brings some levity to what might otherwise be a tense conversation.

“Here’s what I’ve noticed over the years: I have never had someone say, ‘I wish you hadn’t told me that.’ I will apologize for being so transparent, but I will never need to apologize for saying the truth.

“I changed roles a few months ago, and had an exit dinner with my team. They said, ‘We trusted you; we knew you always had our back.’ The irony was that they further created that trust amongst themselves and strengthened their ties so much that they could focus on helping each other excel and succeed.  Projects and deliveries and tasks aside, this is what matters in life.”

The Courage to Stay the Course

Anna spoke to me in her characteristically frank way about the courage it takes to live from the principle of transparency.

“When you’re committed to telling the truth, you have to accept that some people won’t like it, and that not everyone will be willing to take the journey with you. Courage is being willing to take the risk and accept the consequences. Ironically, when you do that, you realize the consequences aren’t so bad. Truth-telling not only forges stronger relationships, but people respect you more, and ultimately, they thank you.

“I’m not saying it’s easy. I always have to remind myself that the benefits outweigh the negatives, and remind myself that I won’t stand for anything less. I definitely have my share of vulnerable moments. When I can remember what’s lost by not being genuine in this way, I know it’s worth the risk.”

The Journey

Anna attributes the learning of these important lessons to her own personal experiences, as well as people in her life who have served as role models, like one boss who stands out as a real trusted advisor. “I was so sad when he retired last year, but I take his lessons with me every day,” she says. Anna has also learned a lot from living and traveling all over the world.

“I had an atypical upbringing: being a first generation American and growing up in Italy, Spain, and the States.  I often related to different cultures, different people, and different perspectives.  I had to take risks to create relationships and to connect with my changing world. Life taught me many lessons, and I went from child afraid to say what she thought to someone who can, as a direct result of facing life’s challenges.”

Anna continues, “I also think that being great at relationships requires being a dedicated student of relationships. I’ve read a lot, learned a lot from experts, and I’m friends with people who are psychologist and organizational development experts. Our dinner parties are often marked by spirited and thoughtful conversations about human dynamics.”

(By the way, two books Anna highly recommends are A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East by Tiziano Terzani—a book that reinforces how just changing how you do things can cause dramatic changes in the world around you—and Type Talk at Work: How the 16 Personality Types Determine Your Success on the Job by Otto Kroeger with Janet M. Thuesen and Hile Rutledge, which emphasizes the importance of knowing your audience and how you communicate.)

Best Advice in Two Steps

I asked Anna what advice she had for anyone wanting to bring more transparency and trust to their business relationships. She suggested two concrete steps:

1.      Write down what you’re afraid of and really be honest with yourself.“Understand why you’re afraid of these things. Do whatever work you need to figure it out and address it—talk with friends, go to therapy, whatever. You have to understand what’s underneath it first.  You can’t create trust if you have fear.”
2.      While you’re figuring it out, just tell the truth for a week without coloring or altering and see what happens. “Worst case: you may annoy some folks, and see that they will not join you. I’m not suggesting you tell someone ‘You’re a horrid person’; you might say something like, ‘This situation is not working and this is why’ or ‘I’m nervous about this engagement and this is why.”

Anna says, “Being a trusted advisor is a process; it’s not like you learn it and then—boom—you do it every day. Plus as you evolve as a person, as you develop and grow, your approach may change. You’ll have bad weeks, and good weeks.  But more than anything, it’s a philosophy, an approach to life.”

Connect with Anna on LinkedIn.

—————————————————

The Real People, Real Trust series offers an insider view into the challenges, successes, and make-it-or-break-it moments of people from all corners of the world who are leading with trust. Check out our prior posts: read about Chip Grizzard, a CEO You Should Know and Ralph Catillo: How One Account Executive Stands Apart.

“How to Sell to the C-Suite” can also be found on the Trust Matters Blog.

How to Sell to the C-Suite” was first published on the Trust Matters blog and is co-authored by Charles H. Green of Trusted Advisor Associates LLC.
We’re pleased to announce the release of our latest eBook, “How to Sell to the C-Suite.”

It’s the second in the new Fieldbook series, celebrating the forthcoming release of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley Books, October 31, 2011), by Charles H. Green (@CharlesHGreen) and Andrea P. Howe (@AndreaPHowe).

Each eBook provides a snapshot of content from our Fieldbook, which is jam-packed with practical, hands-on strategies to dramatically improve your results in sales, relationship management, and organizational performance.

How to Sell to the C-Suite” reveals:

  • What’s different about selling to C-level executives
  • A powerful 3-part preparation plan for C-suite sales
  • 9 best practices for successful C-suite selling.

Did you miss out on Volume 1 of The Fieldbook Series eBooks? Get it while it’s still available: 15 Ways to Build Trust…Fast!

Take a look and let us know what you think.

If you’re not already receiving these in your inbox, please sign up here.

Leading with Trust: Story Time” was first published on the Trust Matters blog and is co-authored by Charles H. Green of Trusted Advisor Associates LLC.

When it comes to trust-building, stories are a powerful tool for both learning and change. Our new Story Time series invites you to pause for a time-out from your hectic day to gather ‘round for an insightful tale. Today’s anecdote sheds light on an unexpected approach to developing new business with trust.

The Magic of Stories

Stories tell the lessons of leading with trust in a vivid and memorable way. They help us make sense of what it means to trust and be trusted. Stories appeal to the heart as well as the head, they bridge the gap between differing audience types, and they provide meaning and order to our existence.

They also inspire what every leader wants—action—by providing intellectual insight into specific trust behaviors to adopt, along with the emotional motivation to do so.

A New Anthology

Our upcoming book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, October 2011), is infused with a multitude of stories. Told by and about people we know, these stories illustrate the fundamental attitudes, truths, and principles of trustworthiness. Over the next several months we’ll share a selection of stories from the new book with you.

Today’s story is excerpted from our chapter on developing new business with existing clients. It vividly demonstrates the personal nature of trust and the value of adopting a long-term view.

_________________________________________________

From the Front Lines: In It for the Long Haul

A savvy private wealth manager in Canada told me the long-term view he takes with his clients.

“I once offered to do some free investment planning for a client’s 12- and 14-year-old children. My co-worker was confused why I was wasting my time with children.

“’Are you kidding?’ I said. I regularly meet with clients’ children and explain the concept of saving, investing and risk. Even at the ages mentioned I have had success in making the experience relevant for the children and ultimately appreciated by the parents.

“I believe in long-term focus and relationships. While working with clients’ children has resulted in referrals (a happy outcome to be sure) that is never our primary intent. Our purpose is to build long-term relationships by continuously delivering a remarkable experience for our clients and their families.”

—As told to Charles H. Green

Excerpted from The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust by Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe. Order your copy today!

15 Ways to Build Trust…Fast!” was first published on the Trust Matters blog and is co-authored by Charles H. Green of Trusted Advisor Associates LLC.
In case you missed it, here’s your opportunity to get a copy of our latest eBook, “15 Ways to Build Trust … Fast!

It’s the first in the new Fieldbook series, celebrating the forthcoming release of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley Books, October 31, 2011), by Charles H. Green (@CharlesHGreen) and Andrea P. Howe (@AndreaPHowe).

These eBooks are distillations of some of the content from our Fieldbook, which is designed to provide you with a complete set of tools to improve your ability to lead as a trusted advisor. “15 Ways to Build Trust … Fast!” debunks the myth that trust takes time to develop, and provides concrete tips for accelerating trust in any business relationship. Next up: selling to the C-suite—how to put the executive first, the relationship second, the sale third, and your own ego last.

If you’re not already receiving these in your inbox, please sign up here.

Don’t forget to check out our Trust Tip collection for more quick tips on building trust.

The Great Twitter Debate: She Said, He Said” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

My co-author Charlie Green (@charleshgreen) and I (@andreaphowe) are both on Twitter. We have rather different ideas about it, however. We talked about our differing perspectives the other day, and decided to share our thoughts. What’s your view?

May I Have Your Attention Please

Andrea: I have a lot of mixed feelings about Twitter. In a world marked these days by a lot of distractions, Twitter is a big one—one more thing that helps shorten my attention span. This troubles me because being focused, present, paying attention—not being distracted—are the thrust of what you and I both teach and talk about.

Charlie: Well, if you’re going to tend bar, you’d better make sure your drinking problem is under control. Twitter is indeed mostly about short attention span. Then again, so are racquetball and improv comedy. Each of them is about impressions, reacting in the moment.

Twitter is where you come to scan, not to find soul mates. There is a time and a place for everything.

Andrea: You know I don’t visit bars much. I do have a soft spot for improv comedy, though. Good point.

Popularity Contest or Personal Growth?

Andrea: As much as I like to think of myself as a somewhat-enlightened grown up, I just can’t seem to avoid the negative emotional component of the Twittersphere. Twitter takes me back to junior high school popularity contests. Sometimes I feel great, like “I’m popular, wow.” Other times, it’s depressing as hell—“Why’d I lose 5 followers today? What did I do wrong?” (laughing).

Charlie: You can take the kid out of the junior high school; the important thing is to take the junior high school out of the kid. I actually see Twitter as a personal growth tool. It forces you to recognize that not every 140-second ADD burst from a stranger is an attack upon your being. It really doesn’t mean much at all.

Andrea: You know I’m a sucker for personal growth. I’m just not sure Twitter is where I want to work this stuff out.

The Downside of Early Adoption

Andrea: As long as I’m listing my complaints, let me add this one: Doing it well requires way too many steps. There’s using different client software programs, mastering Twitter etiquette, making the effort to acknowledge followers appropriately. It can take a lot of steps to create a good Tweet. So much for scanning and reacting in the moment. I’d rather let the process work itself out. Call me (Tweet me?) when the tools are better. I’m not an early adopter; I’m here purely under protest.

Charlie: On this we can agree. Twitter is still immature, and while it is changing—every month something gets easier—it’s still too cumbersome. I want more integration, more platforms, more easily available stats, and so forth.

You don’t want to be an early adopter? I don’t blame you a bit. I am an early adopter myself, but you do a pay a price for the privilege.

Authentically Pre-Scheduled

Andrea: Let’s talk about scheduling tweets. It smacks of being strategic rather than authentic; it doesn’t feel real. If this is such a conversational tool, then why pretend otherwise by pre-writing and then auto-delivering?

Charlie: I think you’re confusing “authentic” with “real-time.” Chat rooms and IRC have been around for decades. Authentic to me means real, not necessarily ‘right now.’ I have no desire to hang around for an hour watching the feed until someone looks me up and replies. I’ve got better things to do.

Also, not everybody reads when I want to write—that’s the great thing about time-shifting technologies. By spreading tweets around, I get to more people, and more people get to me.

Andrea: Hmmm. Interesting point about “authentic” versus “real-time.” I’m going to have to think about that one.

The Big Cocktail Party

Andrea: Maybe what irks me most is that the nature of Twitter tends toward superficial interactions. While there is some substantive stuff getting exchanged out there, a lot of Twitter seems more like idle party chit chat than real connection. And I have never been a big fan of cocktail parties.

Charlie: Remember that song, “Lookin’ for Love in All the Wrong Places?” Of course Twitter is chit chat, of course it’s a big cocktail party. Why do you think they call it Twitter?

Seriously, there’s a place for shallow, and a place for deep. Twitter is shallow; blogs are deeper. Articles are deeper yet. Or books—books are real deep.

But if you want to do a surface scan on what tons of people are thinking or saying about a particular topic—hey, God bless Twitter. And compared to real cocktail parties, at least you don’t have to drink or worry about how you look.

Hello, World

Andrea: Despite all my complaints, I do tweet. And I do see one very powerful thing about Twitter: it connects people who otherwise might not be connected. It lets people share perspectives and interesting pieces of information. Link-shortening is a blessing.

Charlie: Amen to that. Twitter is the new blog comments. Twitter is the new RSS feed (though we both use Feedly and I use AllTop to source some material). It is a whole ‘nother level of content-sharing between article/blog headlines and the articles themselves—and it lets you express your own views along the way.

Twitter lets me efficiently state to the world who I am, by way of sharing what I read and my take on it. You could call that branding.

Also, contrary to all the cocktail party metaphors, I’ve met some really cool people through Twitter–and then I’ve gotten more acquainted with many of them through email, by phone, and in-person. It is a fine way to meet interesting folks relevant to one’s business.

Parlez-vous?

Andrea: One last thing. I wish I didn’t have to invest the time to learn a whole new language with Twitter: “RT,” “TY,” the myriad other abbreviations, and the effort it takes to say something sensible in 140 characters. We humans can barely communicate well in our native tongue. Isn’t our time better spent trying to master our own language?

Charlie: That’s what I keep saying to the French when I visit Paris! But I haven’t been able to convince them yet to speak English.

Andrea: Tell me you did not just try to compare Twitter to Paris.

What’s your perspective? Join the conversation. Post a comment to this blog. Tweet about it. Email us. Or—gasp—give us a call.

Real People, Real Trust: How One Account Executive Stands Apart” was first published on the Trust Matters blog.

Ralph Catillo is an Account Executive with Gallagher Benefit Services, one of the largest employee benefit agencies in the northeast region of the United States. Read Ralph’s no-holds-barred replies to questions about what it really takes to be a trusted advisor—and how the lessons he has learned apply at home as well as at work.

First Impressions

I know Ralph because he was a champion for a Trusted Advisor immersion workshop I led for his company in 2010. The first time we ever spoke on the phone, I was immediately struck by two things about him: his humor and his candor. Within minutes of interacting with Ralph, it’s crystal clear that he has nothing to hide. You get the sense that he’s quick, yet not in a rush; he’s knowledgeable, yet more interested in what you have to say than what he knows.

I began the interview for this article by asking Ralph a simple question: What does it take to be a trusted advisor? With characteristic dry wit, he immediately said, “I show up with a brown bag full of cash. It’s all been laundered.” Then he got serious for a moment, because more than anything he’s a thoughtful guy. His answer was simple: it takes honesty and purpose.

The 1-2 Punch of a Trusted Advisor: Honesty and Purpose

“You have to be 100% transparent, and 100% with no agenda other than doing the right thing. That’s really all there is. If you put aside your agenda, and your role, and really just come from the perspective of what is the best thing for this situation, whatever it may be, then you’re on the right track.

“The challenge is, the best thing for this situation might not be clear from the onset. So you have to get comfortable being in a zone of not knowing, where others are sometimes uncomfortable, and just put it all out there. You don’t have to have the answer, and you definitely don’t have to be the smartest one in the room. Everyone—me included—gets tripped up trying to be the smartest in the room, as opposed to coming at it with open ears and eyes. The best idea usually comes when you don’t come at it from an angle.”

As for honesty, Ralph says, “We’re in the services business, so it’s all about relationships. You have to be yourself. When you’re not, it’s unhealthy and unproductive.”

I asked Ralph about the courage it takes to do what he prescribes. He laughed. “Courage? I think it’s a lot more courageous to try to skirt an issue or be someone you aren’t—you put yourself at much greater risk. If I put all my cards on the table and I don’t get the business, well, at least I know I did everything I could.”

Nature or Nurture

I asked Ralph if he came by his approach naturally, or if he had learned it over time.

“I’ve evolved to it. When you’re in school, you’re trained to get the right answer. No one teaches you how to have conversations and day-to-day interactions. Then you take that right-answer mindset into business and it doesn’t work. In fact, that’s why I think so many managers struggle and fail—because they try to force what they think is right on others.

“I’ve definitely butted heads with people a lot along my own learning curve. Fortunately, I had a great role model and mentor along the way.”

Mentoring and Stewardship

Ralph credits David Friedman with his mindset about building trust in relationships. David, who joined his father and a part-time secretary 28 years ago in a small insurance practice located above a storefront on Main Street in Moorestown, NJ, later became the company’s first and only President when they incorporated as RSI in 1994 (later merging with Gallagher). Ralph says, “My first foray into trust-based relationships was through the RSI Fundamentals, which David created.”

The Fundamentals, which have since been published as a book, are 30 tenets that inform every employee’s day-to-day behavior. They include directives like:

  • Work from the assumption that people are good, fair, and honest.
  • Create a feeling of warmth and friendliness in every client interaction.
  • Take responsibility.
  • Be quick to ask and slow to judge.

“Those 30 Fundamentals changed my whole thought process and approach. Because of the Fundamentals, we’re deliberate about the mindset we bring to our interactions. We use a common language. And we have the right people too—we’re careful about hiring.”

Ralph credits David for David’s personal mentoring and stewardship of Gallagher Benefit Services. “It’s thanks to David that our company has developed and sustained this kind of culture. I’m not a lone ranger in my organization; it’s a top-down thing. That doesn’t mean it isn’t sometimes a challenge. It’s still uncomfortable to walk the talk, and not everyone is great at it. But at least we have a shared understanding about what we aspire to.”

It’s Business; It’s Personal

Ralph sees a lot of parallels between trust in business relationships and in personal relationships.

“Consistency breeds trust. I see that as a professional, as a friend, and as a father. With my kids, all I want them to do is communicate, without fear of repercussions. That takes a lot of time and experiences and leading by example.

“Just yesterday my teen-aged son had his buddies over after school, before I came home from work. They’d come from the pool, and one of my son’s friends sat in my chair in his soaking wet suit. As soon as I got home, my son pulled me aside, told me what happened, and took responsibility for it. He was surprised when I thanked him for being up front and direct about it, instead of getting angry. I reminded him what I want more than anything is for him to just keep talking to me. A chair is a chair; it can be cleaned up. But the next time it might be something far more worrisome, like someone approaching him with drugs. I want to be a parent, and a resource, not the judge and jury.”

Keeping it Simple

Ralph’s perspective on leading with trust in all his relationships is a lot like the guy himself: uncomplicated, direct, thoughtful, real.

In the words of the famous artist, Leonardo DaVinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Thank you, Ralph, for sharing your art with all of us.

Connect with Ralph on LinkedIn.

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The Real People, Real Trust series offers an insider view into the challenges, successes, and make-it-or-break-it moments of people from all corners of the world who are leading with trust. Check out our prior posts: read about Chip Grizzard, a CEO You Should Know.

“Creating a Culture of Trust: Virtues and Values” was first published at the Trust Matters blog and is co-authored by Charles H. Green of Trusted Advisor Associates LLC.

This post comes from our upcoming book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading With Trust, from the chapter on Implementing a Culture of Trust. Tools for trust initiatives include principles, or values, at the organizational level, and personal attributes, or virtues, at the individual level. The chapter explores five tools for implementing trust change initiatives: leading by example, stories, vocabulary, and managing with wisdom. This post explores two diagnostic tools: the Trust Temperament™ and the Trust Roadmap.

We will be sharing selected portions of the book with our readers leading up to the publication date. The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook will be available from Wiley Books on October 31, 2011, or you can pre-order The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook today.

What Is a High-trust Organization?

Our definition: an organization of people who are trustworthy, and appropriately trusting, working together in an environment that actively encourages those behaviors in employees as well as stakeholders.

Creating a culture of trust requires a different emphasis than do most change initiatives. What works to reduce accident rates, increase customer-centricity, or become ISO-9000 compliant isn’t the same as what’s needed to create a high-trust organization.

Trust is about interpersonal relations. For people to trust and be trusted by others, they must take personal risks and face personal fears in ways that cannot, by their nature, be fully planned and structured in ways that typical change initiatives can rely on.

That suggests a different emphasis: an initiative built around personal change.

Two Keys to Trust Culture Change: Virtues and Values

Creating a high-trust culture boils down to two main thrusts: virtues and values. “Virtues” are the personal qualities that high-trust people embody, and “values” are what guide the organizations they work in. In trust-based organizations, virtues and values are consistent and mutually reinforcing.

We use these words very intentionally, because they’re commonly understood–and common language matters. Each deserves its own word and understanding, and both are required for trust culture change. In our experience, some companies rightly focus on organizational values, but few focus enough on personal virtues.

The virtues of trust are personal, and involve your level of trustworthiness and your ability to trust. The virtues of trust are contained in the trust equation: credibility, reliability, intimacy, and self-orientation.

It is virtuous for someone to tell the truth, to behave dependably, to keep confidences, and to be mindful of the needs of others. Unless people take personal responsibility for their own behavior around trust, the organization will never be a trust-based organization.

The values of trust are institutional, and drive the organization’s external relationships, leadership, structure, rewards, and key processes. The values of a trust-based organization are reflected in the four trust principles: other-focus, collaboration, medium- to long-term perspective, and transparency. An organization that espouses these values treats others with respect, has an inclination to partner, has a bias toward a longer timeframe, and shares information.

Trust-based organizations take values very seriously. If your organization has never fired someone for a values violation, then either you’ve been astoundingly successful in your hiring and development efforts, or you’re not a strongly values-driven organization.

Diagnosing Trust

To improve virtues and values, it’s helpful to know where you’re starting from—to have some kind of diagnostic. For virtues, there is the trust quotient: for values, there is the Trust Roadmap™.

Virtues.

The trust quotient is a self-diagnostic taken at the individual level, based on the four values of the trust equation. With individual data aggregated anonymously at the group level, you can profile the organization in terms of Trust Temperaments (the pair of highest-scoring values in the trust equation for an individual), as follows:

Trust Temperament™ Highest Ranked Attributes Motto
The Expert C, R “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”– Anonymous
The Doer R, I “As for accomplishments, I just did what I had to do as things came along.”– Eleanor Roosevelt
The Catalyst C, I “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”– Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Professor C, S “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”– Albert Einstein
The Steward R, S “My goal wasn’t to make a ton of money. It was to build good computers.” – Steve Wozniak
The Connector I, S “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”– Anonymous

Values.

The Trust Roadmap is a diagnostic tool that surveys the Trust Values across components of organizations, as below:

Collaboration Medium- to Long-Term Perspective Transparency Other Focus
External Relationships
Leadership
Structure
Rewards
Processes

Generic and organization-specific questions are developed for each of the 20 cells, and the survey administered to groups of stakeholders: customers, employees, managers, for example. For example, the question for Leadership and Medium-to-Long Term Perspective might be “Your leaders are willing to sacrifice short-term gains for the long-term benefit of the organization.”

The survey results allow a management team to assess, in a structured manner, where the organizational values that drive trust are being implemented, and where they’re not; how those patterns vary across constituencies; and what they feel the priority should be in addressing the issues. In short, a Trust Roadmap.

Real People, Real Trust: A CEO You Should Know” was first published at the Trust Matters blog.

Chip Grizzard (@chipgrizzard) is the CEO of Grizzard Communications Group, a nonprofit marketing and fundraising agency. Chip is the fourth-generation member of the Grizzard family to work at the 91-year-old company. Discover Chip’s candid replies to questions about what it really takes to be a Trusted Advisor and how to create a company that leads with trust, every day.

Seven Key Traits of a Trusted Advisor

I first met Chip in January of this year when he brought me in to teach his top 35 leaders about Trust-Based Selling. It was clear from the moment we met that he’s a very principled man with a real commitment to being the kind of leader that others want to follow.

When I interviewed Chip for this article, I asked him what he sees as the fundamental attributes of a Trusted Advisor. His answers highlighted seven key traits:

  1. Keep your promises. “You gotta do what you say you’re going to do. So many times people will casually say, ‘I’ll send you that’ or ‘I’ll call you about this.’ I routinely make mental notes about how often people follow through on their promises. It’s about 50% of the time or less. That drives me nuts and definitely impacts my perception of someone else’s trustworthiness, so I work hard to be sure I keep my promises. I watch my words a lot and don’t make off-hand comments. If I say it, I’ll write it down or get a text message to help me remember. And then I’ll do it.”
  2. Focus on others’ success. “The only way I’m successful is if I make others successful. You can’t fake caring about what others think or what’s important to them.”
  3. Stay in it for the long haul. “You can’t look for a short-term gain; you have do to what’s right for the long-term. We have a 60-year client relationship in one case; other clients have been with us 20 and 30 years. This is unheard of in our industry. We give them all we have and they know we’re in it with them.”
  4. Treat people right. “It really is so simple. Just treat people right. It doesn’t get any simpler. If you do that, then great things happen. The day we’re fired from one client is the day we start working to rebuild that relationship and win that business back. We always end a relationship as positively as we can. Any time you take a hard approach, you burn a bridge. Some agencies in our space take the harder approach. They carry that with them forever. We always strive to be fair—to ourselves as well as our clients.”
  5. Persevere. “It might take ten years to fix something, or to win someone’s business. So be it.”
  6. Never compromise. “Compromise is not negotiable. It’s not even something I think about. Our industry is very small and people move around a lot. News travels fast about how you treat others. Personal integrity matters.”

Here’s the seventh, which I’m adding to the list on Chip’s behalf:

  1. 7. Modesty. Chip didn’t speak of this trait directly; he demonstrated it. At the beginning of our interview, this very confident and highly successful leader said, “I hope I can help you. Please don’t feel like you have to use my answers if I don’t give you exactly what you need.” An hour after the interview was over, he emailed me a note to thank me for my time.

Moments of Truth

I asked Chip to talk about tough times in Grizzard’s very long history of exemplary client relationships. He shared one particularly poignant story.

“We made a big mistake once. Our client had big media plan that coincided with our direct mail drop. Because of our mistake, the mail arrived in homes before the big media push. In the client’s mind, this hurt results. He called and said, ‘This is very disappointing. We’ve done all this planning and you’ve let us down.’ I asked him what would make him feel like we addressed the situation to his satisfaction. He said, ‘I don’t think we should pay for this mailing.’

“There was a fair amount of money at stake. Right away, I said, ‘No problem, done.’ As painful as it was, it was the right thing to do. Ten years later, he’s still a client, despite having moved around to different organizations and locations. And every time I see him—every time—he says, ‘Do you remember when we had the problem with that mail drop and you took care of it?’ It had a huge impact on him, and he became a lifelong client as a result.”

Creating a Culture of Trust

Grizzard was recently named “Top Workplaces 2011” in Atlanta. The evaluation for the program was based on feedback from a survey that 94% of Grizzard employees completed (exceeding the average company response of 55%). This top honor is a direct result of the honest feedback in a number of areas related to Grizzard’s culture, such as organizational values, strategic vision, leadership, operations, pay and benefits and overall work environment and experience.

I asked Chip to share any advice he has for executives who are trying to create a culture of trust in their organizations. His response boiled down to one thing: being a strong role model. And from Chip’s perspective, it starts with him.

A Matter of Personal Integrity

I never send a mixed signal related to integrity; my staff never sees me do it one way this way this time and another way another other time. Some people try to play both sides of the fence—to turn on the relationship charm and do the right thing at some points. But it’s not a part-time thing. You have to live it every day. It has to be real. And it’s not just a business thing.

“I just came back from a client conference where I saw people doing great things with clients during the day and crazy stuff at night with colleagues. Even if clients don’t see that, well, then your co-workers doubt your character. You can’t turn it on and off. You have to be consistent all the time—in your personal life, your social life, your professional life. I talk to my staff when I see them doing things outside of work that leave me concerned. Integrity applies to all aspects of your life.”

Teachable Moments

Chip made mention of a discussion his leaders were having during the program I led on Trust-Based Selling for Grizzard. The question on the table was, are there ever times when you shouldn’t tell a client the whole truth? Chip was in the room at the time (role modeling that he, too, had things to learn and it was worth his time to spend two days in a classroom). He reminded me what he said that day.

“My answer to that was simple: If you’re expending any energy on the debate, then it probably means you already have your answer about whether or not it crosses the line. I said it that day in front of all 35 of my leaders in the room, and since then I’ve heard two people repeating the same thing when talking to their staff. Teaching moments are key to living our values and our culture. They start with me.”

Recovering from Mistakes

I asked Chip what happens when he makes a mistake. Here’s what he said:

“I hope I’m not making a lot of integrity mistakes. I might make mistakes on how we’ve resolved a particular situation. In that case, I look back and acknowledge it, and apologize if necessary. I own it, try to explain it, and try to rebuild the relationship. I put in the time, the work, and the commitment to turning a situation around.”

Going the Distance

Chip is not only a leader with an impressive track record; he’s also an endurance athlete with a long list of sports accomplishments. Chip has competed in over 100 triathlons, including the Hawaii Ironman and Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. I asked him what connections he saw between his athletic efforts and his success as a leader. His answer was inspiring:

“It’s very easy to not want to get up at 4 a.m. and go workout sometimes. If I stay up too late and do something dumb and I’m in the middle of training for an event, well, I get my butt out of bed and go suffer (laughing). On the endurance sports side, my work ethic and my passion make a difference for me. The same is true on the business side.”

May we all have the wisdom and tenacity to walk a mile—or run 26.2—in Chip Grizzard’s shoes.

Connect with Chip Grizzard on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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This is the first blog in a series on Real People, Real Trust—an insider view into the challenges, successes, and make-it-or-break-it moments of people from all corners of the world who are walking the talk of a Trusted Advisor. Know someone you’d like to nominate to be featured in our next article? Email Andrea Howe.

To Tell or Not To Tell: The Three-Question Transparency Test” was first published at the Trust Matters blog.

 

We’ve all had those moments when we realized we knew something that someone else didn’t know and it was awkward. Think of the last time you were at lunch and you noticed your tablemate’s big, toothy grin adorned by a piece of big, leafy spinach—yep, that’s the kind of awkward we’re talking about. Even though most of us probably ascribe to a principle of Transparency—being honest, open, candid except when illegal or injurious to others—we’ve all made the choice at some point to say nothing.

The question is: did we do the right thing?

Use the Three Question Transparency Test to find out.

When a Lie by Omission Seems Like a Pretty Good Option

On the surface, it’s easy to say “Honesty’s the best policy!” Dig a little deeper and it’s not so clear.

Let’s look at some client examples to make this real—cases where you know something that he or she doesn’t (or might not), and you wonder “to tell or not to tell?”

  • Imagine you’ve discovered a mistake in your work. The impact is relatively minor. Does it help or hurt the customer relationship to call attention to it?
  • Or…you’ve discovered a mistake in your client’s work. The impact is significant. So is the likelihood of embarrassment (or worse) for them. Are you honoring or dishonoring the relationship by saying nothing?
  • What if you learn something unfavorable about a competitor—one your customer is currently engaged with. Are you the hero or the jerk if you bring it up?
  • And—maybe the worst of all—what do you do when you notice your client has spinach in her teeth?

End the Debate with the Three-Question Transparency Test

The next time you’re debating “to tell or not to tell,” ask yourself three questions:

  1. Is my reason for not telling actually for my benefit, rather than theirs? Let’s face it: we human beings have a natural tendency to avoid scary, uncomfortable stuff—and that includes not telling things when telling is precisely what will honor the relationship. Is it really in the other person’s best interest to say nothing or is your desire to avoid your own discomfort creating a platform for a nice, juicy rationalization?
  2. If I don’t tell and he finds out later, will he feel misled? This question invites you to see the situation from the other person’s vantage point—always a good practice when it comes to relationship-building. (By the way, if you’re banking on the fact that he won’t find out later, check your probabilities…and your motives.)
  3. Would I tell her if she were my friend? This is my favorite question because it really cuts to the chase and invites us to set aside the arms-length decorum (often masked as “professionalism”) that defines most business relationships.

If at any point your answer is yes, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Say what needs to be said (with compassion and diplomacy, of course – caveats help immensely.)

An Even Simpler Test

If three questions seem like too many, here’s the ultimate litmus test. Thanks go to Chip Grizzard, CEO of Grizzard Communications Group, who recently shared these words of wisdom. Chip says, “If you’re expending any energy on the debate, then it probably means you should say something.”

It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

In Theory and In Practice

While the principle of Transparency sounds good in theory, it’s actually very hard to live by. It takes courage. It takes a willingness to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It takes a commitment to removing yourself from the equation. And it takes a certain level of discernment to figure out when it’s hurting versus helping to sidestep the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Use the Three-Question Transparency Test—or the simpler “Grizzard Gut Check”—the next time you wonder whether to tell or not to tell.

Accelerating Trust: Woo Woo before you Do Do (Part I) post can also be found at the Trust Matters blog.

 

When I lead our Being a Trusted Advisor and Trust-Based Selling programs, I ask participants early on what’s the “one big thing” they want to get out of their participation. Invariably, at least a quarter of people in the room will say something along the lines of “tools for accelerating trust-building.” And those who don’t say it usually vigorously nod their heads in agreement.

How to build trust quickly boils down to a simple three-step approach. Today I’ll tackle the first two steps—arguably the most important and least practiced.

  1. Mind your mindset. What are the stories you’re carrying in your head—about trust-building, about the people you’re meeting with, about yourself? Take stock. Be vigilant. Bust the myths. If you assume trust will take time, you’ll miss opportunities that are right in front of you (See Top Trust Myths: 1 of 2: Trust Takes Time) . If you assume it’s going to be difficult to bond quickly with your prospective client, well, you’re probably right. Being trustworthy is as much about attitude as it is about skill.
  2. Set your intentions carefully. Be committed, not attached, to a specific outcome. Let go. If you’re meeting a prospective client for the first time, you can be certain of the strengths of your offering while at the same time realizing that it may not be the best solution for her/him right now. If you’re taking over an account for your colleague, you can be confident in your abilities while also being open to the possibility that you’re not the right replacement. Attachment equates to high Self-Orientation, and I can’t think of a better way to lower or destroy trust quickly; it’s the obvious opposite of rapid trust creation. On the other hand, giving people the psychic freedom to choose increases trust. Be someone around whom they experience freedom, not pressure.

Here’s why Steps 1 and 2 usually get short-shrifted: they seem a little woo woo. You may be tempted to skip them in favor of something more concrete and action-oriented. It’s a common trap; don’t fall into it.

These steps are woo woo in the sense that they are more about being than doing. And it’s precisely the kind of self-work required to alter who you’re being that makes the difference between a good consultant and an extraordinary consultant, a so-so salesperson and a longstanding member of the President’s Club, and an average advisor and a Trusted Advisor.  (The woo-woo thing has some pretty solid science behind it too–thought drives actions which then result in outcomes. You can be scientific and believe this too).

Sure, the doing part matters—we’ll look at practical ways to accelerate trust in Part II of this blog—it’s just that the choices we make and impact we have in the realm of doing are directly tied to our mindsets and intentions. Lead with the woo woo and you’ll go beyond “good,” “so-so,” and “average” in a very short time frame.

Click here to read Part II of this 3-step system.

Are You as Credible as You Think? Probably Not post can also be found at the Trust Matters blog.

There are lots of ways to build trust with others (four, by our count) and Credibility is a big one. In our Trust Quotient research, Credibility shows up as second only to Reliability as the most favored way to build trust. (‘Most favored’ doesn’t mean ‘most effective,’ but that’s another blog, another day.)

This makes sense, given the emphasis that most business people naturally place on increasing trustworthiness by demonstrating credentials, experience, and know-how.

The risk is that we stop there or—even worse—spend too much time there. Picture the March of 1,000 Slides.

There’s more to Credibility than meets the eye.

Three Dimensions of Credibility

When thinking Credibility, we mostly think words, as in what you say and how you say it. That means that having information, perspectives, opinions, and recommendations are all important—especially for people in professional services whose very existence depends on high quality advice-giving.

But there’s more. Speaking the truth matters too. A lot. As does delivering your message in a way that makes it easy for others to understand and relate to.

Top Ten List of Ways to Build Credibility

Here’s a Top 10 list of tried-and-true Credibility builders, categorized by Credibility’s three main dimensions.

Feature your expertise and credentials:

1.    Be diligent about researching your customer;

2.    Know about industry trends and information, as well as business news;

3.    Write about your areas of expertise—articles, blogs, white papers;

4.    Host events that bring key stakeholders together.

Improve your delivery:

5.    Use metaphors and stories to illustrate your point;

6.    Practice your delivery so you are clear … and clearly relaxed;

7.    Combine your words with presence—a firm handshake, eye contact (when culturally appropriate), a confident air.

Demonstrate your truthfulness:

8.    Offer your point of view when you have one;

9.    Respond to direct questions with direct answers;

10.   Be willing to tell a hard truth when it’s the right thing to do—including “I don’t know.”

And as a bonus:

11.   Never ever lie. (This includes tiny little white lies and lies by omission.)

This last category, truthfulness, gets at one of the paradoxes of trustworthiness: The thing we’re most afraid to say is often what will build the most trust.

By the way, our clients tell us the truth-telling part pretty much applies to all cultures. Even in Asian countries, where saving face is paramount, the Trusted Advisor’s dilemma is generally less about whether to tell the truth and more about how to deliver the truth in a respectful and culturally-appropriate way.

Credibility-Building Can Happen Lightning Fast

This expanded view of Credibility is good news for anyone new to a profession or new to a relationship. This part of trust–building your Credibility–doesn’t have to take time; being refreshingly honest can build trust in an instant.

Most clients and customers are so used to spin they will immediately take note. So you can actually leave the PowerPoint deck back at the office (or bring it as a leave-behind) and focus on engaging in a genuine, transparent, and honest conversation. Heck, you might even build some Intimacy in the process.

Take Stock and Take Action

Feeling stuck in a particular relationship? Do a credibility check. Start with the honesty dimension—it’s the least comfortable and highest payback. Ask yourself what you’re thinking and not saying, or saying to some but not to all.

Then do something about it. You’ll be glad you did.

Moments of Truth, Improvised post can also be found at the Trust Matters blog.

Anyone who’s been in professional services for more than a week has probably encountered a tricky client situation or two. Some examples:

  • A prospective client asks you point blank, “What experience do you have in xyz industry?” and even though you saw that question coming, you didn’t think it would be quite so direct, and the honest answer is zero, zip, nada—only you’re afraid to say so because you think it’s a deal-breaker and you’ve got other relevant experience that surely they’ll want to hear about before summarily dismissing you!
  • You thought the draft deliverable you turned in yesterday was pretty good until you got an email from your client saying how disappointed she is in the product and that, quite frankly, she’s seriously re-considering sending you to London for the next and largest revenue-producing phase of the project.
  • You’re seconds away from beginning a meeting with a very senior client, originally scheduled to discuss how to expand the successful work you’re doing together, but an hour earlier you accidentally overheard him in the lunchroom speaking with colleagues about dumping your company and hiring your number one competitor instead.

(By the way: 2 of those 3 really happened to us: which is the made-up story?)

I call these Moments of Truth—when something happens, and suddenly it feels like you’re alone on a sinking ship with no life preserver in sight, and you’d rather be anywhere but where you are.

Daniel Goleman, author of “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ,” taught us to understand the science behind our reaction, using the phrase “amygdala hijack” to describe how our well-functioning “thinking brain” (the neocortex) gets completely overruled by the part of the brain that manages our survival. Then our amygdala-threatened-selves do stupid things like spin a great story of how we don’t exactly have direct experience in xyz industry but blah blah blah … or subtly (and maybe overtly) blame our colleague for the sub-par work product … or completely sidestep an awkward interaction altogether in favor of maintaining the pretense that everything really is OK after all. In other words: we’re in fight or flight mode, and often both at once.

Moments of Truth become Moments of Learning

We spend a lot of time dealing with Moments of Truth in our learning programs because they happen a lot in your business relationships. How you handle them speaks volumes about what you’re made of. It speaks to whether or not you have the mindset, motives, and agility of a Trusted Advisor. Being effective in a Moment of Truth requires more than mastering a few behavioral tricks; it demands a new way of thinking and being.

So we do a lot of out-of-the-box experiential learning that deals on the spot with your own live, real situations. Occasionally we use our own caselets for you to experiment with—ones that have been tested for a decade and earned a special place in the hearts of our alumni, like “The Lunchroom.” In other words, we do what most classroom learners universally dread: we role-play.

All right, collective groan–I know, I know, I hate role-playing too. It’s scary and contrived. And there’s never enough background or history or facts to be really comfortable in a role-play. It’s a common refrain during debriefs: “If only I’d known more about the situation I could have handled it better.”

But let’s be real: How many times have you prepped for hours for a meeting, only to learn in the first two minutes that the client just came out of another meeting in which a major decision was made that completely alters not only your agenda for this meeting but your entire set of recommendations for the engagement?

In a Moment of Truth, background and history and facts don’t matter one iota because your reptilian brain doesn’t care—it’s focused exclusively on the emotions of the moment. It has neither the time nor the inclination to process anything else.

Q. Faced with an MOT, what’s a Trusted Advisor to do?

A. Learn how to improvise.

The Practice of Improvisation: a Key Trusted Advisor Capability

To improvise is to “invent, compose, or perform with little or no preparation.” Which is exactly what is called for in a Moment of Truth—the ability to deal on the spot with something unexpected.

Believe it or not, you get better at improvising by practicing improvisation. (And that only sounds like an oxymoron—it’s actually very true). Practice is exactly how professional improv comedians (think, Whose Line is it, Anyway?) become so skilled at their craft.

They practice being quick to respond instead of over-thinking. They practice “yes-and” responses, where they build on what’s already been said, instead of contradicting or denying what someone else has already offered. They practice subordinating their own egos to support what’s being created by the collective instead of hogging the spotlight and stealing a scene. They practice giving up being clever and witty and funny and insteadget real.

How do they do this? They get together and … role-play. They do it again and again, always with new scenarios and relationships that are completely made up on the spot. And when it’s show time and the curtain goes up, they still have no idea what they’re going to create together because everything is based on audience suggestion. But what they do know is that they’re fully rehearsed at being responsive, collaborative, and authentic.

In Trusted Advisor terms, they’re credible, transparent, other-oriented, related.

And that is something worth practicing to get good at. So: role-plays? Yep, role-plays.

The Trusted Advisor/Improviser—a Brief Commercial

If you think your skills could use a tune up or you wish you felt more confident in the Moments of Truth you face with your clients and colleagues, we’d love to have you come practice with us Sept 28 and 29 in Washington, DC. Being a Trusted Advisor: Walking the Talk is a rare opportunity to immerse yourself in the mindsets and skill sets of a Trusted Advisor.

We’ll improvise. We’ll laugh a lot. And we’ll be sure you walk away with far greater value than you expected.

A Little Generosity Goes a Long Way: How a Small Kindness Can Have a Big Impact post can also be found at the Trust Matters blog.

Story 1: Parking in a Premium Demand Zone
Washington DC, where I live, has recently begun upgrading its street parking system. Many of our old coin-operated “single-space” meters have been replaced with “multi-space” meters that take credit cards as well as coins. If you’ve never encountered a “multi-space” meter, it’s a one-machine-for-a-whole-city-block kind of thing. When you pay, you pay for however much time you want and you are rewarded with a little white slip of paper that goes on your dashboard, telling the ever-industrious meter monitors when they can write you a ticket.
While I do appreciate the convenience of paying by debit or credit card (that is, when the card reader works), I hate the fact that any unused time goes wasted—or more accurately, I hate that it goes to the City. You see, if I come back earlier than expected, there’s no meter to be left behind with time remaining for the lucky next-parker; there’s just a slip of paper that drives away with me. Gone are the days of collaborating with my fellow citizens to share the burden, and beat the City at their parking meter game. (I know, I know, I should Metro more.)
Just last week I returned to my car 47 minutes earlier than expected. Being the mature adult that I am, I couldn’t bear the thought of giving away those 47 minutes to the City (particularly in light of what I paid to be in a “premium demand zone”), so I waited and offered it to a couple who pulled into a space a few cars behind me.
You would think I had handed them a check for $1,000. They were nearly giddy with excitement and effusive with their thanks.
I walked away with a little spring in my step—I beat the system and did a good deed, all in one fell swoop.
Story 2: Thirteen for the Price of Ten
Later that very same day, I was at my local FedEx Office picking up a print job for a client meeting. While waiting in line, I spied these really cool new plastic document holders—the perfect organizers for my documents and a nice change from the usual two-pocket folder deal. The only problem was there weren’t enough on the shelf to meet my needs. When I asked the clerk if there were more, he nicely said no. Then his manager chimed in and suggested we take a look at another shelf together to see what we could find. Et voila, there they were in another color, just one short. I said I could make do, no problem, and the manager offered to give me an extra one in a different color to make up for their lack of inventory. Then when she rung me up, she charged me for two fewer still. Each document holder was worth $1.29. She saved me a total of $3.87.
You would think she had handed me a check for $1,000. The gesture was grand, even if the dollar value was not.
And I walked away with a little spring in my step—what a nice, helpful lady!
The Moral of the Stories
It was fascinating to be on the receiving end of a small kindness so soon after I had offered one. Both experiences taught me a big lesson.
We talk a lot about the difference generosity makes here at Trusted Advisor Associates. “Selling by doing” offers a gift without expectation of return, among other things (see Selling by Doing Not Selling by Telling for the complete picture) and reciprocity–the tendency to return a favor—is the number one factor of influence. In fact, people who walk the talk of a Trusted Advisor tend to view life from a context of abundance and are always looking for ways to genuinely be of service.
What I didn’t realize until now is how little a kindness can be and still have a huge impact. 47 minutes. $3.87. A few extra copies of a book. A call returned at lightning speed in the midst of a busy day. An offer to spend a little time reviewing a document … with no meter running. Small things send a signal about our intentions, and help us keep our motives clean. If we’re only in it for big, we’re not in it for real. If we’re willing to be generous in all moments, including the little ones, it becomes a way of life. And the paradox is, of course, that if we’re willing to let go of hitting it big, we usually ultimately do.
I’ll remember this next time I’m tempted to take no action because I think it’s not worth my effort or not grand enough to matter. When it comes to generosity, a little goes a long way.

 

Life seems to happen to me in twos. A few weeks ago I blogged about A Cautionary Tale for Marketers based on two stories—a “don’t do this” story and a “do do this” story. Today’s blog is two-fer of a slightly different type: two stories, both illustrating what a difference a small kindness can make.

Story 1: Parking in a Premium Demand Zone

Washington DC, where I live, has recently begun upgrading its street parking system. Many of our old coin-operated “single-space” meters have been replaced with “multi-space” meters that take credit cards as well as coins. If you’ve never encountered a “multi-space” meter, it’s a one-machine-for-a-whole-city-block kind of thing. When you pay, you pay for however much time you want and you are rewarded with a little white slip of paper that goes on your dashboard, telling the ever-industrious meter monitors when they can write you a ticket.

While I do appreciate the convenience of paying by debit or credit card (that is, when the card reader works), I hate the fact that any unused time goes wasted—or more accurately, I hate that it goes to the City. You see, if I come back earlier than expected, there’s no meter to be left behind with time remaining for the lucky next-parker; there’s just a slip of paper that drives away with me. Gone are the days of collaborating with my fellow citizens to share the burden, and beat the City at their parking meter game. (I know, I know, I should Metro more.)

Just last week I returned to my car 47 minutes earlier than expected. Being the mature adult that I am, I couldn’t bear the thought of giving away those 47 minutes to the City (particularly in light of what I paid to be in a “premium demand zone”), so I waited and offered it to a couple who pulled into a space a few cars behind me.

You would think I had handed them a check for $1,000. They were nearly giddy with excitement and effusive with their thanks.

I walked away with a little spring in my step—I beat the system and did a good deed, all in one fell swoop.

Story 2: Thirteen for the Price of Ten

Later that very same day, I was at my local FedEx Office picking up a print job for a client meeting. While waiting in line, I spied these really cool new plastic document holders—the perfect organizers for my documents and a nice change from the usual two-pocket folder deal. The only problem was there weren’t enough on the shelf to meet my needs. When I asked the clerk if there were more, he nicely said no. Then his manager chimed in and suggested we take a look at another shelf together to see what we could find. Et voila, there they were in another color, just one short. I said I could make do, no problem, and the manager offered to give me an extra one in a different color to make up for their lack of inventory. Then when she rung me up, she charged me for two fewer still. Each document holder was worth $1.29. She saved me a total of $3.87.

You would think she had handed me a check for $1,000. The gesture was grand, even if the dollar value was not.

And I walked away with a little spring in my step—what a nice, helpful lady!

The Moral of the Stories

It was fascinating to be on the receiving end of a small kindness so soon after I had offered one. Both experiences taught me a big lesson.

We talk a lot about the difference generosity makes here at Trusted Advisor Associates. “Selling by doing” offers a gift without expectation of return, among other things (see Selling by Doing Not Selling by Telling for the complete picture) and reciprocity–the tendency to return a favor—is the number one factor of influence. In fact, people who walk the talk of a Trusted Advisor tend to view life from a context of abundance and are always looking for ways to genuinely be of service.

What I didn’t realize until now is how little a kindness can be and still have a huge impact. 47 minutes. $3.87. A few extra copies of a book. A call returned at lightning speed in the midst of a busy day. An offer to spend a little time reviewing a document … with no meter running. Small things send a signal about our intentions, and help us keep our motives clean. If we’re only in it for big, we’re not in it for real. If we’re willing to be generous in all moments, including the little ones, it becomes a way of life. And the paradox is, of course, that if we’re willing to let go of hitting it big, we usually ultimately do.

I’ll remember this next time I’m tempted to take no action because I think it’s not worth my effort or not grand enough to matter. When it comes to generosity, a little goes a long way.

This post can also be found at the Trust Matters blog.

Story 1: Don’t Do This

I got one of those broadcast email solicitations from a very reputable organization that hosts executive roundtables. Brian (a stranger to me) wanted me to attend an informational meeting. To his credit, he “had me at hello” with the very first lines of his email, which were both personal and complimentary: “Andrea, let me first say I LOVE the name of your company and the genesis of it…the ‘new beat’ story. Outstanding!”

“Wow,” I thought, “He’s taken the time to find out about BossaNova and make a personal connection to me. He gets me! He likes me! I like this guy!”

What followed was a directive to “Read on” with a photo of a jubilant baseball team and the assertion that “There are lessons you learn in Baseball that can apply to business leaders like YOU once you understand their importance and their impact” (with a bulleted list of those very lessons). His call to action at the end of the email was aggressive and impersonal.

Brian had me right off the bat and lost me soon after. I have nothing against baseball—not at all. I’m just not much of a sports enthusiast and, truthfully, get tired of the male-oriented metaphors. Brian’s very personal appeal followed by his very impersonal (and misaligned) form letter was a particularly lethal combo. Now, not only am I a “no” for the information session I was invited to, but I have an attitude about both Brian and his organization to boot. Three strikes, you’re out.

Story 2: An Approach to Emulate

A few weeks ago I was surprised by a knock at the door—an unexpected delivery of baked goods from a local sweet shop. The package included a hand-written note from Kacy, the office organizer I had hired exactly one year before. The sweets were to commemorate my first anniversary in my new home office, with a reminder that she was available should any lingering piles be in my way, and a request to tell others about her services if I was so inclined.

I immediately logged onto Facebook (well, by “immediately” I mean right after I had a cookie) and posted kudos for Kacy, along with a link to her web site. I sent her an email to thank her for the unexpected treat, alert her to the free Facebook advertising, and acknowledge her for the lesson in great marketing. She wrote me right back to thank me, saying, “I’m so glad you like them! I never know if someone’s going to be out of town or unavailable, but it always works out. In my client list, I have a column where I note the dates of our last sessions. Once a month or so I run through those and send the goodies out!”

The sweets hit the sweet spot, for sure, far more so than being hit over the head with a baseball bat. Maybe Kacy got lucky with her choice. Although it seems to me she could have sent me anything (even one of those giant foam fingers) and the good feelings from the unexpected personal acknowledgement would have prevailed.

A Plea to Marketers

The two anecdotes aren’t apples to apples—different relationship histories, different communication media, different calls to action. That said, I find them both illuminating.

To all marketers out there (including myself), here’s my plea:

  • DO make it personal
  • DON’T use a personal tactic to get someone’s attention and then switch to a more generic approach
  • DO find creative ways to appreciate the people who have given you business in the past
  • DO use the element of surprise
  • DON’T be afraid to ask for more work or for referrals.

The moral of the stories: Intimacy is a powerful tool in business. Use it wisely, especially with strangers. Mix it in with a little unexpected generosity and you’ll hit a home run.

 

This post can also be found at the Trust Matters blog.

Old Faithful is a geyser located in Yellowstone National Park, USA. It gets its name because it regularly shoots steam and water to great heights. In fact, with a margin of error of 10 minutes, Old Faithful will erupt either every 65 or every 91 minutes, depending on the length of the previous eruption. It’s been doing this since 1870.

While most of us who endeavor to be Trusted Advisors would probably prefer not to be associated with a “geyser” (myself included), there’s something we can all learn from this phenomenon of nature.

Reliability: The Good News/Bad News

Of the 12,000+ people who have completed our online Trust Quotient™ survey to date, Reliability comes out 16 percentage points higher than any of the other three elements of the Trust Equation. This isn’t really surprising, given that Reliability is the easiest to grasp and execute. Reliability is logical, concrete, and action-oriented.

The bad news is we’re not as good as we think.

Case in point: I’m always interested to see how participants in our programs handle the pre-work assignment we send via email a couple of weeks before the program begins. Responses are due to be emailed back within a week. It takes 10 – 20 minutes to complete the work. People generally fall into one of three categories:

  1. Turn it in late with no acknowledgment (slightly more than half)
  2. Never turn it in (some)
  3. Turn it in on time (very few)

So while Reliability seems like a “slam dunk” in the world of trustworthiness, there’s room for us all to improve. (And by the way, I am no exception, witness how I’ve been doing lately on my goal of writing one blog post per week.)

The Road to Being More Reliably Reliable

Generally, people experience you as reliable when:

You feel familiar to them. They’re at ease with you. They have a good sense of who you are and feel they know you. You use their terminology and templates. You establish routines in your relationships (regular meetings, emails, etc.). You dress appropriately.

You are consistent and predictable. People know what to expect from you, and they get it. You set expectations up front and report on them regularly. You are rigorous about using good business practices, such as meeting agenda and notes. You make lots of small promises and consistently follow through. They can count on you to be the same person at all times, and the same to all people.

You work to make sure there are no surprises when you’re around. You use others’ vocabulary and respect and reflect their norms and environment. You make sure that their expectations of you are consistent. You produce documentation of consistent quality and create deliverables with a consistent look and feel.

You do what you say you will do. You keep and deliver on your promises, and see keeping your word as a matter of personal integrity. When you are unable to fulfill on a promise, you immediately get in communication to acknowledge the impact and reset expectations.

Reliability is Reliability is Reliability

Here’s the rub: Consistency matters. If you apply these best practices more with your clients and less with, say, your Trusted Advisor instructor … then your reliability score suffers.

Perfection is not the goal here; impeccability is (See Impeccability vs. Perfection: Who’s Got Your Back?). There’s always room for error and for our humanity. When it comes to trust, what matters is being rigorously self-aware, transparent about our strengths and weaknesses, and willing to hold ourselves to higher and higher standards of execution.

Writing this post was one action I chose to boost my own Reliability today. What’s yours?

 

This post can also be found at the Trust Matters blog.

At first glance, the difference between Impeccability and Perfection is slight.

Taking a closer look, they are very different characters, each with a profoundly different impact when it comes to building trust. Here’s the punch line, delivered by a recovering perfectionist:

Impeccability is your friend; Perfection is not.

 

A Character Study: Perfection vs. Impeccability

Let’s envision Perfection and Impeccability as two characters in a play.

In physical appearance, both are well-dressed. Perfection’s shirt is buttoned to the top; Impeccability’s open collar reveals a crisp, white T-shirt underneath. Perfection sits with his back rigidly straight; Impeccability assumes a relaxed yet confident stance. Perfection drums his fingers nervously on the table-top; Impeccability sits quietly.

As to their personalities: Where Perfection is determined with gritted teeth to always get it right, Impeccability is determined to be thorough and complete. Where Perfection endeavors to never make a mess, and experiences distress when the inevitable occurs, Impeccability recognizes that all humans make mistakes and chooses to see the inevitable as an opportunity to build trust. (see previous post: Why Mistakes Build Trust).

Perfection is controlling, stressed, and perpetually uptight; Impeccability is focused, at ease, his sense of perspective and humor intact at all times.

Perfection is often accompanied by Impatience, Judgment, and Frustration; Impeccability hangs out with Compassion, Confidence, and Self-Acceptance.

Impeccability vs. Perfection: One Level Deeper

Both Perfection and Impeccability are well-intended characters—striving to be the best they can be. Yet dig a little deeper and we see a key difference between the two: what’s driving them.

Perfection constantly feeds a need to satisfy something internal and self-oriented. Impeccability, on the other hand, is other-oriented at the core; his motivation is the satisfaction that comes with being of service and making a difference.

Even Perfection agrees that Impeccability is much more pleasant to be around. Impeccability is much easier to relate to. He endeavors to do his best and humbly accepts that he will fail at times. He cleans up his messes with transparency, swiftness, and an appropriate amount of lightheartedness. In doing so, he leaves room for others to be human.

Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. With whom would you rather spend your time?

This post can also be found at the Trust Matters blog and was co-authored by Charles H. Green of Trusted Advisor Associates LLC.

Can you train for trust?

The question needs to be broken down; but the quick answer is — yes. Let’s talk about how. And then we want to invite you to experience it yourself.

Disclosure: this blog-post is part advertisement. Trusted Advisor Associates is offering an open enrollment Being a Trusted Advisor program  in New York, New York. Read on to find out more, or just click here to sign up.

Now, back to training for trust; let’s break it down.

How to Approach Training for Trust

1. Be clear what you’re teaching. There is training for trustworthiness, and there is training for trusting. They are not the same. It’s the combination of one’s trustworthiness and another’s propensity for trusting that creates trust. Trustworthiness can be learned and is a lower-risk proposition–focus your energy and resources here. (See Trust, Trusting and Trustworthiness)

2. Keep it simple. Break an amorphous, complex topic into bite-sized, digestible pieces. Use a few solid, core models of trust. We use the three Trust Models: the Trust Equation, the Trust Creation Process, and the Trust Principles.

3. Make it stick. Thought-provoking concepts are necessary…and far from sufficient. We recommend four specific learning techniques to make a lasting impact:

a. Generous use of anecdotes—stories have a way of conveying the paradoxes of trustworthiness better than any rigorous intellectual model;
b. Realistic cases—in particular, role-play exercises, cases and video vignettes;
c. Muscle Memory—there is no substitute for ‘feeling’ the techniques, with hands-on demonstrations by experienced trainers and a lot of experimentation by participants;
d. Ongoing application to current business situations—with instructors and coaches guiding you through it in real time, live ammunition, no safety net.

Above all else, trust is learned by doing. What action will you take today to increase your trustworthiness?

Back to the advertisement: Being a Trusted Advisor is being held in New York, New York, April 22-23, at the Columbia University Faculty House. This program develops the mindsets, skills, and day-to-day practices of a Trusted Advisor. It includes built-in reinforcement–a one-on-one coaching call for each participant–along with a personalized Trust Temperament(tm) and autographed copy of either “The Trusted Advisor” or “Trust-based Selling.” Click here to sign up.

We hope to see you in New York City!

This post can also be found at the Trust Matters blog.

Special thanks to Noelle who participated in a Being a Trusted Advisor program Charlie and I led recently. Noelle told a similar story in class that was the inspiration for this post.

I had an experience with US Airways recently that shed light on the difference between what I’ll call a Sears Win-Win* and a Real Win-Win. In short, the difference boils down to incentives.

The Story of an On-Time Departure

It seems that US Airways is placing a lot of emphasis on on-time departures these days.  Works for me! As I was getting settled on a recent flight, I noticed that the flight attendant working my section was particularly smiley and up-beat, urging everyone to get buckled up and ready to go in a most effervescent way.

I acknowledged her demeanor as she paused near my row. “We’re working hard for an on-time departure today and it looks like we’re going to make it!” she beamed.

“Wow,” I said, a bit taken aback by the commitment and the positivity.

Then she added, “And there’s $50 in it for me if we leave the gate on time!”

(Apparently, US Airways implemented a new program in 2009 where employees below the director level can earn up to $150 per month in incentive pay when they achieve top-three rankings for on-time performance, mishandled baggage reports or customer complaint numbers.)

“Oh,” I said.

And then we left on time…and arrived on time.

Why Motives Matter

On the surface, this sure looks like a win-win: I won because we left and arrived on time; the flight attendant won because she got her bonus. The corporate incentive program worked! Or did it?

I say it didn’t. Not really. It clearly achieved a desirable result (me arriving on time). And that result came with–what’s the word I’m looking for–baggage (me feeling like chopped liver). Which is why I call this a Sears Win-Win, not a Real Win-Win. If we look throught the lens of the Trust Equation, my friendly flight attendant’s Self Orientation was sky high. And therein lies the problem: the source of her interest was her own benefit, not mine.

How Do We Make the Ending Happy?

Here are some conclusions I draw from this story:

  • Incentives are great. And they’re not enough
  • When one or more parties in a business transaction leaves that transaction without feeling cared about, it’s a loss, not a win.
  • Motives aren’t only spoken; they’re exuded
  • Real Win-Win’s are motivated by caring, not by numbers.

Which begs the question, how do you incent–and incite–someone to care?

Any answers out there?

*Reference courtesy of Frank Zappa

I’ve been reading Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.

I was particularly struck by the way they told Robert Scoble‘s story (a success story, but not usually painted as a trust story).  They call Scoble one of the first trust agents ever on the World Wide Web.

Though hindsight is 20-20, many people watching Scoble’s moves at the time would have labeled him at best irreverent, irresponsible, and committed to career suicide … at worst a complete idiot. But looking at him through the lens of what it takes to become trustworthy, I’m siding with Brogan and Smith—what he did was brilliant.

The Scoble Story

In 2004, Scoble, then a Microsoft employee, took to blogging about serious issues Microsoft and its end users were experiencing. He even candidly sung the praises of Firefox, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer competitor.

Not only did Scoble not get fired, he got readers. And Microsoft got business. Brogan and Smith report, “People began eating up everything he said. If his very next blog post had praised Notepad as ‘the best app ever,’ his readers probably would have said, ‘You’re so right!’”

Scoble attributes part of this phenomenon to something he learned when he helped run retail stores in the 1980’s. If he told a customer that a competitor had a better selection, they often came back and asked to do business with him anyway, “’cause I like you better.”  (Maybe he got it from the Macy’s Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street, who recommended competitor Gimbel’s on occasion).

What’s Golf Got to Do with It?

One of the reasons trust is so hard to get a grip on is that it’s rife with paradox. For example, the thing we’re most afraid to say or do is precisely what will build the most trust. Or, in Scoble’s case, the best way to generate sales is to have the courage to be brutally honest about your product’s weaknesses and your competitor’s strengths.

Here’s the link to golf (pardon the pun): I am not a golfer. To me, the only logical way to get that tiny little ball to travel hundreds of yards off the first tee towards that tiny little cup is to hit it as hard as possible. If you’re a golfer, you just shook your head in dismay because you know what my strategy will yield: a nice left hook into a thick forest of trees.

Scoble came to be seen as someone who could be trusted because he knew that building trust is like a golf swing: hype your product and you slice the ball; be honest and land it square on the green.

Golf Aside, Motives Matter

Leaving the golf metaphor behind for a moment, it’s important to remember that motives really do matter. Buyers have a sixth sense for manipulation. Had Scoble been talking trash about his products with the intention of closing deals, his strategy would have backfired. Which leads us to another paradox: the more you try to build trust with the intention of closing deals, the less deals you close.

Take a look at your business model. How might the lessons of golf—and Scoble—improve your game?

I recently ran for a seat on the condo board of the brand new community I live in. I lost. In front of about 60 people.

My reaction was a mixture of gratitude (“I think I just got spared a LOT of work”), huffiness (“How could they pass ME over?”), and a dash of embarrassment (“Oh no, I think I just looked like an IDIOT in front of a large group of people”).

In reflecting on what worked and didn’t about my little platform speech (I had three minutes to pitch myself to the group), I realized there are some important lessons about trust-based selling to tease out of my defeat.

What Worked

My dominant strategy was to lead with high Intimacy and low Self-Orientation, and to differentiate myself a bit. How? By telling them first why they might NOT want to elect me. I shared openly that I’m a first-time home buyer and had never before been on a condo board – in fact, I had just made my first condo payment ever. My self-deprecation was effective, I think, in that it got a good laugh and set their expectations about what they could and couldn’t count on me for (couldn’t: Board/home ownership expertise; could: honesty and lightheartedness).

What Didn’t Work

There was one thing I didn’t do that left my constituents understandably less than confident in my abilities. I was too humble. I fell into the trap that (sweeping generalization coming) many women do of being tentative about tooting my own horn.

Sure, I told them a little bit about my professional background (close to 20 years in consulting, the latter half with an emphasis on teaming and relationship skills, which lends itself well to community-building endeavors). But I didn’t let them know that when it comes to starting something up (new community, new board), I’m your woman.

I didn’t tell them that eight years ago I launched a business that now boasts a client roster of global companies that generate millions and billions in revenue each year. I didn’t tell them about the community service program I created that, within six months of its inception, was given a prominent mention in SELF magazine and then acquired by a national non-profit.

(Even as I write this, my brain is screaming: Enough with the tooting horns already!)

Bottom line: I didn’t think about what would be of value to them, link that to what I brought to the table, and say it out loud.

What I’d Do Next Time

Of course, this is all speculation; I might have lost because they didn’t like what I was wearing – who knows. I think it’s safe to say, though, that next time I’d be more effective (and certainly less huffy and embarrassed) by doing the following:

- Take five minutes to prepare. Think about what my fellow condo association members might really want in their first set of officers, and know what the link is to my experience and skills.

- Lead with the same opening – why you don’t want to elect me. It’s honest. Plus it’s a little contrarian, and I like that.

- Toot toot toot away. Confidently, succinctly, matter-of-factly, with an emphasis on the aspects of me that directly address their interests and concerns.

I’d leave them with a more complete picture of me–not one that’s either over- or underexposed.

Seems to me these guidelines apply no matter who we are, what we’re selling, and to whom we’re pitching the sale: prepare and be honest about both your strengths and your weaknesses.

That and choose your clothes carefully.

empathyI spent the weekend in California. It started as a mini-vacation—joining a friend’s 50th birthday celebration. It ended with most of the time in my hotel room with the flu.

At first, my demeanor was positive (why compound physical misery with a bad attitude) but steadily declined as I negotiated all the logistical changes required to extend my stay until I could haul my ailing self back across the country.

Of all the service providers with whom I interacted (hotel desk clerks, cleaning ladies, airport rental car attendant), not one acknowledged my matter-of-fact revelation that I was asking for help because I was sick and couldn’t go home.

Why Is Empathy So Hard to Find?

Now, I wasn’t looking for sympathy from these folk (well, maybe a tad). It just would have been nice if, when they learned of my situation, they had given some hint that they had actually heard what I said. "Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” would have completely sufficed. Or “Oh dear!” Even “Bummer, dude.”

But no. Nothin’. Nada. When I finally emerged from my room, the cleaning lady had an attitude – the Do Not Disturb sign that hung on the door for 48 hours straight had kept her from doing her job.

The Alamo car check-in guy dutifully read – word-for-word – the statement on the back of my agreement justifying the additional $10.99 late return charge. Waiving the $10 might have made me a customer for life. Just saying, “I’m so sorry that my job requires me to tack on this extra fee under the circumstances” might have led me to consider renting from Alamo again.

These are not unhappy or unfriendly people. Hey, it’s California. They get a lot of sun. And it’s not like they were in roles not requiring interpersonal skills — I’ll give the hotel housekeeper a pass, but the rest were front-line customer service types. And honest, I wasn’t being a cranky-whiny-pain-in-the-you-know-what sick person – I promise.

I’m not sure what the problem was. Perhaps they weren’t really listening. Or they just didn’t know what to say.

Empathy Isn’t Really All That Difficult

The thing is, empathy isn’t that hard. It comes in many forms: “I’m terribly sorry,” or “I’m sure that wasn’t how you wanted to spend your weekend here!”  or even “That sucks!” (sorry, Mom, I know you hate that word).

Just acknowledge — rather than avoid — the emotional reality of the human being on the other end of the phone/service counter/board room table.

Are you uncomfortable in this touchy-feely zone? That’s perfectly normal. But it’s also a bad excuse for doing nothing. Awkward empathy beats no empathy any day of the week.

In our Trusted Advisor and Trust-Based Selling  programs we spend a lot of time practicing empathy. Put in the terms of the Trust Equation, empathy creates intimacy and intimacy builds trust.

Empathy is imperative in professional services; listening is what drives influence. Just asking good questions is not enough to be a good listener.

Having your client get that you got him — emotionally as well as cognitively — is what earns you the Top Listener award, which in turn earns you the right to be heard.

Next time you ask your client how her weekend was, and she mutters “Not quite what I expected,” try putting the meeting agenda aside just long enough to say, “I’m sorry to hear that” or – context-permitting – “Bummer, dude.”

And if your client ever reveals something that leaves you feeling itchy and unsure what to say, say that (“Oh … I’m not sure what to say”). Any attempt will do.
 

I just led a program called Being a Trusted Advisor for a global consulting firm. The list of collective “ahas” that was generated at the end of class is worth sharing. As always, the beauty lies in the simplicity of each item on the list; the mastery lies in their application. Here’s a Top 12 list, in no particular order, with a little bit of voice-over added:

1. High trust means high risk. There is no trust without risk, period.

2. People trust people. Branding and marketing efforts are valuable, absolutely. And trust is personal. It occurs (or not) human-to-human.

3. It’s OK to say what you’re thinking. This is especially true when you’re thinking isn’t fully formed and perfectly articulated. “Thinking out loud” demonstrates your willingness to be honest, humble, and sometimes messy.

4. Don’t rush to problem-solving. This is the second biggest destroyer of trust. We, the overachievers, naturally want to prove our credibility by showing how quickly we can come up with the right answer. But we have to earn the right to give advice before we can give it – if we want that advice to be heard.

5. It’s OK to be honest, even if it makes you look bad. Honesty is an essential aspect of credibility.

6. Get the chatter out of our brains. Our own thoughts, worries, fears, and pre-occupations create noise that interferes with our ability to truly tune in to others.

7. “Rip off the band-aid.” When there’s bad news to deliver, deliver it right away.

8. Get the elephant out immediately. A close cousin to #7. What seems un-discussable (the proverbial elephant in the room) is usually precisely what needs to be discussed to build trust.

9. Get the words and the “music.” Listening – really listening – requires attention to facts as well as emotions, surface as well as nuance.

10. A problem shared is a problem halved. This one speaks to the principal of collaboration, which is usually easier said than done.

11. “This isn’t about me.” Another great mantra. Self-orientation is a huge trust-destroyer.

12. Stop being clever; be human and honest instead. Enough said.

Which one will you choose to put into practice by COB today?

We were honored to collaborate recently with Trusted Advisor Associates on a series of blog posts devoted to selling in down times, organized by the Four Trust Principles. Use these links to access about 50 suggestions for developing business in tough economic times:

Monday Thinking about sales from a trust perspective
Tuesday Principle 1: Client / customer focus
Wednesday Principle 2: Collaboration
Thursday Principle 3: Medium-to-long-term perspective
Friday Principle 4: Transparency

Thanks go to President Obama for timing his first major Presidential misstep to coincide with my delivery of a “Being a Trusted Advisor” workshop.

In class, we had been talking about human nature and the gravitational pull to avoid admitting culpability and generally looking bad when—voila—there appeared the perfect teaching point on the front page of the New York Times.

Whatever your politics, there are two key lessons to be derived from the “I screwed up” message that President Obama delivered on the heels of Tom Daschle’s withdrawal from consideration as the next secretary of Health and Human Services:

1. Take full responsibility. He pointed his own finger at himself. He didn’t say “I regret the unfortunate circumstances and misinformation that led to the selection of Mr. Daschle.” He didn’t hitch his wagon to Daschle’s admission of his own mistake. No, Obama said, “I screwed up.”

2. Keep it simple. He used plain talk. Three simple words. I told workshop participants to use no more than ten words when there’s a hard truth to be told. Obama came in seven under.

Telling the truth when the truth makes you look good (as in, “Mr. Client, I have 20 years of experience solving the kinds of problems you are facing right now”) increases your credibility by demonstrating your expertise.

Telling the truth when the truth makes you look bad (as in, “I screwed up”) is a trust trifecta: your honesty boosts your credibility, your humanity creates intimacy, and your willingness to subordinate your own ego lowers your self-orientation.

It’s another part of the trust paradox: doing what makes you look bad (telling the truth) makes you look good. As long as you really mean it.

This post can also be found at the Trust Matters blog.

Tiziana Casciaro and Miguel Sousa Lobo wrote in “Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools, and the Formation of Social Networks” in the Harvard Business Review (June 2005) about how people choose who they work with.

“In most cases, people choose their work partners according to two criteria. One is competence at the job…the other is likability.”

Arrayed on a two-by-two competency vs. likeability matrix, everyone prefers to affiliate with the lovable star–no one with the incompetent jerk. No surprise there.

But what happens when we are forced to choose from the last two quadrants–lovable fool and competent jerk? Place your bets, now.

Based on data from four diverse organizations and over 10,000 work relationships, Casciaro and Lobo discovered (drum roll…) –

Yep, you guessed it. We prefer the lovable fool – even though we may not readily admit it.

We say out loud that we prefer skills and expertise (it sounds unprofessional and illogical not to) and that being “nice” is a nice “bonus.” But in practice, their study showed that your personal feelings about your colleague play a more important role in forming work relationships than do your evaluations of their competence.

“In fact, feelings worked as a gating factor: If someone is strongly disliked, it’s almost irrelevant whether or not she is competent; people don’t want to work with her anyway. By contrast, if someone is liked, his colleagues will seek out every little bit of competence he has to offer.”

Feelings trump rational thought. Again.

Implication: our clients would rather we be lovable fools than competent jerks. Which means we’d be better off if we spent more time boosting our likability than our competence, despite what our clients say out loud.

There may be a better business case for charm school than for business school.