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ACTION REQUIRED: Read my email PLEASE! (Part 2)

In my most recent post, I addressed an issue plaguing those of us who communicate by email – incomplete responses or the failure to respond at all.  In that post three experts shared their advice on how to improve the emails. If you’re following all the great advice, and the problem persists, what do you do?  I called those same three experts – Alesia Latson, Bob Whipple and Stever Robbins, and asked them:  “If e-mail senders follow your advice and e-mail recipients do not respond fully or respond at all, what else can you do?”

Experts Weigh In on E-mail Responsiveness

Here’s what they suggested:

Alesia Latson (Co-Author of More Time for You):

  • Give people the benefit of the doubt.  Assume positive intent.  All that happened is that you didn’t get a response – don’t make up any other story about what that means about you or them.  It means nothing in and of itself.    Simply follow up with a call or another message.  After 3 attempts drop it or escalate if appropriate.
  • Avoid long lists of things for people to do – it’s too confrontational and adds to their sense of being overwhelmed.  Keep it to two action items maximum per requests.
  • Try an opt in.  Say something like, “If I don’t hear from you in the next day or so – then I’ll assume that you’re ok with it,” or “I’ll follow-up with a phone call if we don’t connect via e-mail.”

Bob Whipple (author of Understanding E-body Language):

  • Establish ground rules within a group, including timing for response, and hold each other accountable.  Be aware that Gen Y and Gen X (think anyone under 35) are less likely to respond to email.  This is getting to be a corporate problem.
  • Try to keep emails readable in the preview pane (assuming it’s horizontal) – the start of the signature block should be visible on the first page.  It creates a psychological incentive to read the note. A note that goes “over the horizon” is often deleted before being read.
  • Keep emails simple – so they can be read and internalized in 15-30 seconds.
  • Note the pattern of communication for the person you are trying to reach.  Reach the person in the way s/he is most likely to respond.  It may not be email.

Bob also suggested looking at his articles – I did, and there are a lot more ideas listed.

Stever Robbins (author of Tips for Mastering E-mail Overload):

  • Assume they have too much email, and pick up the phone (you’ll be one of the few).
  • You may be being marginalized – poke around and find out what’s going on. If there’s no trusted person you can ask, then you may have your answer.
  • Learn the most important agenda of the person you are communicating with, and reframe to his/her agenda, rather than yours.

Applying Trusted Advisor Models

These are all great suggestions.  And there are some common themes:

  • Start from the other person’s perspective.  Each of the experts emphasized considering the recipient’s situation in reading and responding, rather than your own situation in needing a response.  This concept is the first of the powerful Trust Principles.

That is, focus on the other for the other’s sake, and determine how that person can and will actually receive and act on the message, and consider how to frame your message so it becomes important for that person to respond.

  • Pay attention to your own credibility.  If you are being marginalized, as Stever Robbins suggests as something to look at, perhaps there are things you can do to improve.
  • By assuming positive intent of the recipient, we are less focused on ourselves.  If we think “why didn’t she get back to me?” that could be an indication of high self-orientation, the denominator of the Trust Equation.   This type of thinking is a trap that makes it difficult to find a solution to a responsiveness issue, because instead, you are looking for someone to blame.

We’ve heard from the experts – now it’s your turn.  What have you tried that has worked?

Chris Brogan, Meet Jack Hubbard

Superficially, they couldn’t be more different. One is old (and old school), one isn’t.  One is in middle market banking, one in social media. Tie, open collar. Midwest, East.

I don’t think they know each other—but they should.  They’re two peas in a pod—in a great pea patch.

The Banking Guy

Jack Hubbard is CEO (that’s Chief Experience Officer) and Chairman of St. Meyer & Hubbard. Along with President Bob St. Meyer, they run a Chicago-based training performance change firm. They serve the banking business, mostly medium-sized. They serve up some astonishing numbers, with very loyal clients.

But that’s just the description. Jack is known for starting his day by sending out emails to clients highlighting specific news items of interest to them.  When you talk to Jack, you discover he is on a mission to discover everything about the most interesting person in the world—you.  His upbeat curiosity and low self-orientation is infectious; he doesn’t sell you on their work—you buy it. Gladly.

Jack’s not really in the banking business–he’s in the people business.  Banking is just his regional accent; his language is human.

The Social Media Guy

Readers of this blog are more likely to know Chris Brogan.  I did an interview with Chris last year. He’s all over social media; a demi-god of Twitter, an emerging guru of Google+, co-author (with @julien Smith) of Trust Agents, co-founder of Podcamp, involved in New Marketing Labs, collaborator with Hubspot Marketing—and so on.

But that’s his day job. Chris has a phenomenal ability to remember faces and names (even twitter addresses). More importantly, he is inherently drawn to people—and they to him.

He is genuinely modest, even self-effacing.  He’s the one who taught me “tweet others 12 times for every time you tweet about yourself.” He may be a rock star in social media—but he’s the exact opposite of “rock star” in the way he conducts himself.

Chris isn’t really in the social media business—he’s in the people business. It’s no accident his main identity these days is Human Business Works. Social media is just his regional accent; his language is human.

 

Chris, meet Jack Hubbard.

Jack, allow me to introduce Chris Brogan.

Y’all have a nice day now.

 

15 Ways to Build Trust…Fast!

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.

Real People, Real Trust: How One Account Executive Stands Apart

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.

Upcoming Events and Appearances: Trusted Advisor Associates

Join us at one or more upcoming Trusted Advisor Associates events.  This Summer, we’ll be hosting and participating in events in Washington DC and through globally accessed webinars.

And a word about the Trusted Advisor Mastery Program.

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Wed. July 20th          Washington, DC          Andrea Howe
(Rescheduled) Andrea will be speaking at the Washington DC Chapter of the Project Management Institute (Reston Luncheon) on “Trust and Influence: What Every Successful Project Manager Needs to Know.” 11:30am. To register or for more information, click here. PDUs will be available for Project Management Professionals (PMPs).

 

Wed. July 20th         Global         Sandy Styer
Leaders, coaches, consultants: Do you want to add new knowledge to your practice, and a new tool to your toolbox?  Through Trusted Advisor Associates is now offering TQ Assessment Authorization! You can become an expert in administering and working with our Trust Quotient Assessment – taken by over 15,000 people to date – and Trust 360 ™.  First class is July 20th via webinar.  Contact Sandy Styer to learn more.

 

Wed. Aug. 24th         Washington, DC      Andrea Howe
Andrea will be speaking at the Washington DC Chapter of the Project Management Institute (Washington Circle Luncheon) on “Trust and Influence: What Every Successful Project Manager Needs to Know.” 2101 L Street NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC.  11:30am. To register or for more information, click here. PDUs will be available for Project Management Professionals (PMPs).

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The Trusted Advisor Mastery Program just began a new group this past month. This 90 day program includes 19 e-learning modules, 4 one-on-one coaching calls, 4 group coaching calls, a lively interactive discussion forum readings, tips and exercises.

Here’s what one participant has to say about the Program so far:

“The Trust Mastery Program is a great mix of online modules, background reading, exercises, group discussion and coaching–all of which reinforce the development of personal trustworthiness. I love the way the program is designed.  I have been able to go through the material at my own pace, learn from the experiences of my cohorts on the online forum, assess my behavior and set short term doable goals.” (Tina Beranbaum, Principal, Centauric Consulting, La Jolla, CA/Toronto, Canada)

For more information on the next available program, email us at: mastery@trustedavisor.com.

19 Reasons I Love Evernote

Many people have asked me how I get so much done.

I just submitted my third book (with co-author @AndreaPHowe) to the publisher. I write a fair amount of blogs, articles, and presentations. I tweet. Plus the usual complement of email and other correspondence.

I’m not a super-technoid, though I do all right for someone who graduated high school in 1968.

I haven’t solved procrastination. But what I do, I do efficiently. Here’s how.

My Hardware/Software Setup

Hardware: an iMac at home, a MacBook Air (latest generation), most recent iPhone. I own an iPad but use it mainly for reading. (One tip: I buy multiple earbud pairs and power plugs, and leave them several places: briefcase, office, car, basement).

Software: My Big Four:

  • Voice-to-text programs
  • DropBox
  • Kindle on Mac/iPhone/iPad
  • Evernote

Today I want to tell you about Evernote.

Evernote: Not Your Father’s Memory Storage

Evernote saves files. Similarly, a Maserati is an automobile.

I could try and categorize for you what it does, but sometimes a straight-ahead list of features does best. So here are 19 Things I Love About Evernote.

  1. 1-2 click storage. At worst, it’s one click to open the program, and one more click to open a new folder—which saves automatically. At best, one click on a browser button, and the window is saved.
  2. Instant cloud. Everything I put into Evernote on my iPhone, iMac, iPad or MacBook Air is instantly available on Evernote in every other platform. Everything. Like instantly. This is how a cloud should work. (And yes, Evernote does Windows).
  3. Wanna save that browser page? Click the clipper icon in Firefox, Safari, Chrome—done.
  4. Wanna save that article? That .pdf? That selected section of text? Click.
  5. How do you take notes for your phone calls? I never had a great solution before Evernote. Now, before I pick up the ringing phone, I click Evernote. Boom, I’ve got a clean file ready to type notes. I label them “Notes, person-name.” That’s all I need, because it’s date-stamped, and I can search on anything.
  6. Search and retrieval is extremely fast.
  7. You can organize information by tags, or by folders you create. And you can create stacks of folders.
  8. Or–you don’t even have to organize information at all; Evernote searches on text within all files.
  9. You can forward, or send directly, email or email attachments to Evernote; it comes with a unique-to-you email address.
  10. Save photos and audio files—Evernote is Not Just About Text.
  11. Send scanned documents and faxes to be saved to Evernote. (I love using iPhone scanning software like JotNot Scanner Pro for receipts and contracts, then sending them directly as a .pdf to my Evernote email address).
  12. When I go to the airport, I no longer write down the floor/section where I left the car; I snapshot/Evernote it.
  13. Inventory all your personal belongings for insurance purposes.
  14. Dictate notes to Evernote—and have them not only saved as audio, but transcribed as well (this is an enormous timesaver, by the way).
  15. Dictate notes through a dedicated phone number; auto-saves and transcribes into Evernote.
  16. Send tweets direct to your Evernote account.
  17. Don’t have a smartphone? Any phone with a browser can use it.
  18. You can share on Facebook. If you do such things.
  19. It is free. Up to some pretty high level of storage and usage. Above which you can pay, and the rate is not at all unreasonable.

I’m cutting back on Delicious and Instapaper, because Evernote seems to have it covered.

If you’re not satisfied with my 19 reasons, check out Andrew Maxwell’s blogpost 100 Different Evernote Uses.

By the way, my take on Evernote is far from comprehensive, or even organized. You’ll find a far deeper example of how to use Evernote by @MichaelHyatt in his post How to Use Evernote as a Blogger. Pretty powerful example. And in turn, Hyatt recommends Brett Kelly’s Evernote Essentials–which looks pretty interesting too.

(For the record, I have absolutely no relationship with Evernote whatsoever, beyond being yet another satisfied customer).

Managing For Trust

Supposed you asked me the score of the latest Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees game, and I told you “12.”

You: Twelve? What kind of score is that?

Me: Twelve points were scored in the game; you asked the score, that’s it.

You: Well, who scored how many?

Me: New York scored 7 and Boston scored 5.

You: Well thanks; you could have led with that!

Silly. But that’s exactly what happens with trust metrics. People say, “Trust in business is down.” Cue the dialogue.

You: Trust is down? What kind of metric is that?

Me: Well, some people trust less, some businesses are less trustworthy; the net is down.

You: Wait: how much of the “down” is made up of people trusting less; and how much of the “down” is made up of business being less trustworthy?

Me: 73% of it is business being less trustworthy; 27% of it is people being less inclined to trust.

You: Well thanks; you could have led with that!

Are you trying to improve trust in your organization? You might want to start with clarifying the problem you’re trying to fix.

Are you trying to create more trustworthy employees and managers, so that customers and other stakeholders will trust you? Then focus on the personal attributes of trustworthy people, and on the kinds of principles and values that are observed in trustworthy companies.

Or are you trying to get your people more willing to trust others? Getting better at trusting means better risk management, delegation, personal growth, people development and innovation, to name a few benefits.

What is it that you are trying to manage?

Never mind, “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard.” Heck, you can’t tell the score without knowing what game you’re playing!

Building Trust By Design

Pat’s story…

This past Memorial Day at our family picnic, neighbor Pat Pannone shared a story. An architect who often gives away his professional expertise as a volunteer on projects, Pat at times is asked by fellow volunteers to do architectural work for them. About a year ago, one of them invited Pat to design a home renovation. It was a big job. The main reason for the renovation was to build a master suite. Pat was excited. A job this size was something he enjoyed doing, and the fees would more than address some expenses that came with his newborn son.

Pat looked at the house and asked to see the attic. It had a large vaulted ceiling and was used for storage. He said he’d be happy to design what they wanted, but, perhaps they should consider having the attic converted into the master suite, and save themselves a lot of money. He suggested that they move their bedroom furniture there for a couple of weeks just to test it out.

The result – they loved it. No need for major work. No need for an architect. No fee for Pat. I asked what he thought about that. His response? He felt great about it! He could have done what the client originally asked and designed the addition. Instead, he was creative and thoughtful.

How Fear Chases Out Creativity

Some people are afraid of losing fees, especially when the fee will put food on the table. Pat had other work, so maybe fear is too strong a word. But he definitely wanted that new project. Letting go of that desire for the sake of the client is a great example of low self-orientation.

Wally Bock’s blog “Drive out Fear” talks about fear from a team perspective. He says: “When people are scared, what they think about is what they’re scared of. While they’re doing that, they can’t think of other things, like how to do a better job…”

If Pat had been worried about making sure he got that fee, he might not have seen the easy, low cost solution for his client.

Putting the Client First Pays Off

Pat smiled when he finished telling us about the big job that got away. The story wasn’t over, he said. 4-5 months later, that same couple called him again. This time, they were buying a new property, and needed an architect for a job that would not be solved by moving furniture into an existing room. And they wanted Pat because they knew he would put them first.

How about you? Have you met people like Pat? Have you ever managed to set aside your own fear and unleash your creative energy?

Upcoming Events and Appearances: Trusted Advisor Associates

Join us at one or more upcoming Trusted Advisor Associates events. This Summer, we’ll be hosting and participating in events in Washington DC and through globally accessed webinars.

And a word about the Trusted Advisor Mastery Program.

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Wed. July 20th Washington, DC Andrea Howe
(Rescheduled) Andrea will be speaking at the Washington DC Chapter of the Project Management Institute (Reston Luncheon) on “Trust and Influence: What Every Successful Project Manager Needs to Know.” 11:30am. To register or for more information, click here. PDUs will be available for Project Management Professionals (PMPs).

 

Wed. Aug. 24th Washington, DC Andrea Howe
Andrea will be speaking at the Washington DC Chapter of the Project Management Institute (Washington Circle Luncheon) on “Trust and Influence: What Every Successful Project Manager Needs to Know.” 2101 L Street NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC. 11:30am. To register or for more information, click here. PDUs will be available for Project Management Professionals (PMPs).

 

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The Trusted Advisor Mastery Program is about to begin its next group. One seat remains open for this 90 day program that includes 19 e-learning modules, 4 one-on-one coaching calls, 4 group coaching calls, a lively interactive discussion forum readings, tips and exercises.

Here’s what one participant in the last tranche had to say about the Program:

 

“This course works because it is not based upon the newest fly-by-night pet theory, but upon rock solid principles of human nature and social psychology. The ability to engender trust is the one attribute that separates those who succeed in both business and in life. Take this course and you will be well on your way to success in both realms.” (Nils Victor Montan, Of Counsel Danneman Siemsen Bigler & Ipanema Moreira, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

For more information on the next available program, email us at: mastery@trustedavisor.com.

Real People, Real Trust: A CEO You Should Know

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.