Story Time: Good Intentions Won’t Keep You From Screwing Up

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 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 to live the principles all the time.”

—Ian Brodie (UK)

Connect with Ian on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

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