Trust and The Mentalist

Some of you may be familiar with the CBS TV series The Mentalist, starring Golden Globe nominee Australian Simon Baker.  The lead character, Patrick Jane, is a consultant to law enforcement agencies who uses his carnival-honed powers of observation and human nature to appear almost clairvoyant.

In a recent episode, Jane makes three trust-related comments. While prepping his co-worker (and lover) Teresa Lisbon how to behave in an under-cover job in prison, he gives her three pieces of advice.

Jane’s insights show he’s a pretty good judge of trust as well. (Or at least the writers are).

Trust Advice from Patrick Jane

Most TV shows treat trust in fairly broad-stroke, big picture kinds of ways. For example, a cop might tell a fellow officer, “I can’t work with someone I can’t trust,” after having been lied to by the second officer.

But that’s relatively mundane. What’s interesting about the Patrick Jane character is that he grasps some subtleties about trust.  He “gets” the advanced version of trust, if you will – as is totally appropriate for the character’s persona.

Advice Tidbit Number One.“Tell them one Big Lie, not lots of little ones.”

On the face of it, truth and lies are the province of credibility – the first of the four elements in the CRI/S Trust Equation. But many truths and lies, over the course of time, affect reliability, the second element.

The drip drip of lies, even small ones, is a double-whammy. One “mistake” can be excused or forgiven. But a pattern of lies is more than the sum of the individual untruths.  It is the difference between a series of lies told, and a teller of lies – a liar.

Advice Tidbit Number Two. “If you want to get someone to lower their guard – lower your own.”

Trust relationships are based on an iterative series of risk gestures.

Consider a handshake. The one who proffers the hand to shake is the trustor, the one who first takes the risk. The other person is the trustee; if they return the handshake, the level of trust goes up a tiny fraction.

What this is about is vulnerability. Being vulnerable makes one available to relationships – and trust is above all a relationship. Note the one taking the risk is the one initiating trust; this runs counter to the usual image of trust as being about risk mitigation.

 

Advice Tidbit Number Three. “If you want someone to trust you, ask them for a favor – even a small one.”

The reciprocal exchange of risk gestures is the template of trust creation. While we usually think of doing someone else a favor as risky, Jane is quite right that the asking of a favor is also a form of risk.

If done sensitively, sincerely, and infrequently, asking someone a favor is a form of flattery. It shows the asker has such respect for the other that he is willing to suffer the embarrassment of refusal. It is a form of risk-taking. It demonstrates vulnerability.

Vulnerability drives risk, which initiates the formation of trust. There is no trust without risk.

Clients Don’t Buy Solutions, They Buy Problem Definitions

I read an awful lot written about the role of value creation in sales, and I think it’s often misconstrued. So here’s a provocative statement: People don’t buy your value proposition – they buy your problem statement, and give you the sale as a reward.

Value: The Usual Suspect

If sales were like the movie Casablanca, and you rounded up “the usual suspects” for getting the sale, at the top of the list might be “demonstrated value.” Salespeople like to think that the reason they got the job was they did a better job at “adding value,” “demonstrating value,”  convincing customers of the “value proposition” they put forth. “Go with us,” salespeople say, “and you’ll get the greatest expected value.”

We impute this decision-making process to our customers, too. If they bought from us, it must be because we did the best job of creating potential value – maybe modified just a bit by their confidence in our ability to deliver on the value we promised.

This value-centric view of selling confirms all the biases of today’s salespeople: it’s a matter of producing challenging ideas, grand scopes, clearly articulated solutions. The winners are those who conjure up the right mixture of smarts, expertise, and hard work.

So we like to believe.

The Truth: It’s the Problem Definition

My old colleague David Maister once said, “The problem is never what the client said it was in the first meeting.” And while at the time I thought he was being slightly hyperbolic, I came to believe he was, in the real world, exactly right. A perfectly defined problem rarely requires outside expertise – it just needs a purchase order.

Consultative sellers get called in for other reasons.

The reason is, buyers – consciously or unconsciously – want the benefit of sellers’ expertise. They are open – more, or less (often less) – to learning from the seller. Yet arguably the most common error of sellers in consultative sales situations is – they blindly accept the customer’s definition of the problem.

If the problem definition is wrong, then a solution based on it is going to be wrong as well. Worse yet, a fully worked out proposal grounded on a faulty problem definition becomes increasingly tenuous. Buyers acutely and painfully recognize this, and this fact explains why so many consultant CRM systems are full of entries that say “died” instead of “lost.”

Clients don’t want to admit the definition was wrong from the get-go, so they simply stop returning calls, the sellers get resentful – and everyone goes off to try the same thing all over again, getting, of course, the same results.

The problem definition is the heart of the matter, for two reasons. The obvious reason is if you don’t solve the right problem, you’ll just make things worse, and as noted above, that becomes increasingly clear to all concerned.

But there’s a deeper, psychological reason.  If you as a seller can truly engage a buyer in a joint process of discovery, you then trigger something magical: a willingness to explore openly the true issue, and a willingness to engage your expertise in the pursuit.

The result is huge: an expertise-based joint journey of discovery, with a greatly enhanced likelihood of a better problem definition, and a vastly higher level of acceptance of that problem definition.

Getting There is Way More Than Half the Battle

A joint discovery of problem definition requires an openness and a willingness to collaborate on the part of the client. No client I’ve ever met starts out that way – no client has ever come to me and said, “Gee, Charlie, we’re really not sure what’s wrong here, but we kind of hope that maybe if you talk to us, things might get better.”

Instead, clients come to sellers with the usual set of highly defined problem definitions, desired solutions, and specifications for how those solutions must be tailored to their organization. It takes a great deal of skill to get to the point where you can mutually confess imperfection, and go on a joint journey.

It’s the opposite of that old “I’m OK, You’re OK” paradigm – it’s more like “I’m a Fool, You’re a Fool, Let’s Figure This Sucker Out Together.”  (And you don’t get there by quoting Maister about how their problem definition is wrong, either).

Having gotten to a point of mutually confessed imperfection, the best problem definition begins.  And when you do get to a great problem definition, the amazing thing happens.

The client doesn’t buy the best solution: instead, they reward the firm that did the best job of helping them define the problem. You’re not getting paid to do the job – you’re getting rewarded for having created the best ah-ha for the client – the ah-ha that says, “Ah, yes – that is indeed precisely the issue that we’ve been having all along here. That’s the heart of the matter.”

Having gotten that ah-ha, why in the world would a customer then hire someone else to deliver on the vision you’ve jointly created?  Why would you trust anyone but the ones who created the bond with you to develop the insight to actually get you over the river?   You just wouldn’t, that’s all.

Clients don’t buy value: they buy the people they have come to trust. In particular, they hire those who have helped them define their problem in a way that they can finally see their way clear to a resolution of their issues. The project, the sale, is not “the thing” – it is simply the currency of reward for having best-defined the problem.

CARFAX, Cops, and Car Dealers: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It began with a trip to an Audi dealership. I liked what I saw, and was ready to buy. Then the dealer ran the CARFAX report.

I’d had a side-bump accident two years prior that popped the driver-side windows and door panels, and knew that would cost me some trade-in value.

But I wasn’t prepared for, “CARFAX says the front airbag deployed. That’ll cut your trade-in value by $3,000.”

I knew that was a mistake – I was there, and no airbags had gone off. There wasn’t even front or rear damage. But, the dealer said, “Sorry, we don’t write the reports.”

I said, “OK, I’ll go fix this – I’ll be back.” And thus began my quixotic adventure.

NJ State Police – the Bad

CARFAX was easy. Despite their apparently being phone-phobic, I quickly got in touch via email with a real person, literate, prompt, and customer focused. She confirmed the problem came straight from the NJ State Police accident report. The trooper who filled out the report had made a mistake. “If you can get the police to change the accident report, we’ll immediately alter the CARFAX report,” she said.

Fast forward: five personal visits to the Totowa NJ State Police substation, and as many calls. The police were usually polite (only one cop yelled at me), but never came out from behind the bullet-proof glass window. And their response was always the same: leave the information here and we’ll get back to you tomorrow.  They never did.

I gave them insurance reports, which indicated no front end damage or airbag repair. I gave them a signed statement from the repair shop owner, who stated the original airbag was still in the car, so it could hardly have deployed two years prior.

Finally they got me in touch with the trooper himself (via phone, 3 days after having left a message). Very politely, he said, “Look, as far as I know you could be in cahoots with the repair shop. And though I don’t remember this particular incident, I pride myself on being very careful and not making mistakes. So I very much doubt I made a mistake here. And so I’m not going to change it.”

What about the flagrant physical contradiction of the original airbag still being in the car? “Sorry, how do I know I can believe what you’re telling me, and anyway I haven’t got time to check it myself. So I’m not going to change it.”

I spoke to his commanding officer. “It’s really a decision for the individual officer, I’m not going to overrule him,” he said.  Never mind that business about the laws of physics.

CARFAX – the Good

At this point, I went back to CARFAX out of frustration. I described the situation, and they not only empathized, but clearly took me seriously. “If you can send along the kinds of reports you indicated, we can add a contra-note on the file.”

So that’s what I did. And that’s what happened. Underneath the “airbag deployed” checkbox on the CarFax report there is now a line saying, “Airbag deployment reported in error. Other independent documentation shows the airbag did not deploy.”

In plain English: the police blew this one and won’t admit it.

Thank you, CARFAX.

(By the way, if you’re curious, here’s what a sample CARFAX report looks like).

Car Dealer – the Ugly

Car dealers all resent the bad reputation they have – but they keep on earning it. Three things were clear to me when I walked out the door of the Audi dealership:

1. I knew I was going to get the CARFAX report changed to reflect reality
2. They doubted anyone could beat CARFAX or the cops
3. They figured they’d never hear from me.

And so they defaulted to an old rule-of-thumb in the car sales business: there are no “be-backs” (as in, “I’ll be back”). I had said I’d be back, therefore I was an obvious liar, and a no-sale, and there would therefore be no point in wasting a perfectly good 60 seconds on a phone call to me.

And so I defaulted to an old rule-of-thumb of my own: when people disbelieve me or refuse to give me the time of day, I do business with their competitor. I like my new Hyundai.

The Movie

What’s sad about the car dealership is that if the salesman had placed one simple call to me – “Hey, how’s it going with the CARFAX thing?” – it would have kept me engaged. I would have returned, and I would have bought. So by refusing to invest 60 seconds in a phone call, one salesman lost a good deal, a nice commission (I am not very price-sensitive), and a shot at a lifetime (profitable) customer.

The NJ State Police, by contrast, are downright scary. The trooper was polite, and clearly competent. But he had been allowed to elevate the importance of his “personal honor” to the point where a) he valued his ‘track record’ over the truth, and b) the organization had no recourse when he made a mistake.

“Honor” without accountability is a disastrous combination. You end up with all the para-military trappings, and none of the justice (aka customer focus) legitimizing it.

I’m an older, educated, white male. Imagine if I’d been a young, black guy. (And if you have trouble imagining, you’re not paying attention.)

On the other hand, CARFAX is a legitimate customer service hero – at least in this case.

For one thing, they show that you can deliver great customer service even via email contact – you just have to be smart, dedicated – and care about end-users.

But most importantly, they showed a commitment to truth and honesty, even if it meant going up against an important information provider. They (correctly) realize that their long-term success depends on the credibility of their information, not on sucking up to a powerful but circle-the-wagons self-absorbed police organization.

My suggestion: reward providers who do good for customers – they’re the ones working to make business work for society.

And for those who are selfish, short-term oriented, and anti-customer – call them out.

I’ll be sending links to this post to DCH Millburn Audi, and to the NJ State Police.

PostScript: As a result of sending links to the NJ State Police, I heard from an internal “Integrity Control Officer” assigned to investigate concerns brought to the force’s attention. He listened to my story, with some skepticism but with an open mind.

In addition to interviewing me, he spoke to the insurance company, and requested a photo of the car taken by the adjuster (why hadn’t I thought of that?). He was satisfied by both that there had been no airbag deployment; he therefore officially instigated a reversal of the mistaken accident report.

I thanked him for his objective work, and we emailed a bit about how to prevent such incidents happening in the future. He spoke to the trooper and his supervisor, and told me that “I think we are all on the same page now.” I choose to believe that. Case closed.

 

The Sharing Economy: The End of the Summer of Love

The Summer of Love – early 1967, to be precise – was a high point in 60s-era ideology, when reality seemed to match the hype. Shortly after, things began to fall apart. 1967 was also the summer of riots in Newark, Detroit and 126 other US cities. Drugs and violence popped up.

By late 1969, the Altamont Festival heralded an end to the 60s; but the seeds were sown well before.

The Sharing Economy Summer of Love

The high priestesses of the sharing economy – Lisa Gansky and Rachel Botsman – were early promoters, long on utopian idealism. They spoke about trust, and about transforming business, consumerism, and the way people related to each other. And there’s still a lot to like about that story.

It’s all based on vastly under-utilized resources. How often do you use your video camera, anyway? Your bicycle? Table saw? Your car? Your apartment? What if there were a way other people could use them, and you could get paid for that use? And, amazingly, there were apps for that.  Lots and lots of apps. And so the “sharing economy” got its name.

With karma and economics moving in parallel, what could possibly go wrong?

Disintermediation by Any Other Name…

The sharing economy was originally rooted in peer to peer sharing. But we temporarily forget there are two kinds of peer-to-peer situations.

In Type A, mi camera es su camera (or gardening tool, or bicycle, etc.), all through the miracle of an app that connects us – peer to peer. Directly. No intermediary, no middleman.  Works great, and we don’t mind paying the app-producer a bit, or even more than a bit, for arranging and facilitating the serendipity.

Of course, there was that pesky issue of trust.  But in fairness, outfits like eBay figured that one out to a great extent – reputation, track records, public shaming. And it works pretty well.

It worked well enough that we could vacation on AirBnB at half the price – partly because the owners didn’t have to deal with irksome regulations and taxes on hotels. Ditto rides on Uber and Lyft – who needs all that regulation, and taxes, and for that matter all those lazy taxi drivers waiting in queues.

But then another Fact of Life showed up. In this day and age of Thomas Picketty’s best-selling book Capital, we have re-learned the word for an important phenomenon: it is, indeed, capital.  When the peer supply of the good in question falls short of the peer demand of the good in question, capital emerges to fill the gap. These are Type B peer situations – where intermediaries, or middleman, have a role to play. In e-babble, it’s called scaling.

Type B works like this. Not everyone has a spare apartment to rent out when they’re on vacation; maybe because they hardly ever go on vacation, or maybe because their condo in central Pennsylvania doesn’t sound all that attractive in February anyway.

Not everyone has a car with a backseat you’d want to ride in, much less the time to drive around waiting for people to call their app.

The solution: The app-makers team up with capital-owners, integrate downstream into buying assets, then hire cheap labor to manage the pool. Buy a bunch of apartments; buy a bunch of cars. Hire freelance maids and drivers.

Suddenly, there are lots of people who own multiple apartments and rent them out as a business. Of course, they’re not in the hotel business, they’ll tell you, hence they shouldn’t be taxed by cities or subjected to safety or labor regulations.

What just happened? Maids just got disintermediated, and returns to capital just went up, while aggregate wages just went down.

If there aren’t already, there very shortly will be people who get the idea of hiring their neighbors to run the family car for hire in their own off hours; and maybe of buying a few more cars, for more neighbors. But don’t call it a taxi service, because those services are regulated and pay taxes.

What just happened? Taxi drivers just got distintermediated, and returns to capital just went up, while aggregate wages just went down.

With Uber sporting an implied $17B valuation, and AirBnB at $10B, don’t forget to ask yourself to whom these returns accrue. The answer is not you and your car, or you and your apartment. It’s capital.

Economic Change is Fast: Economic Justice Takes Longer

To be clear, there’s nothing immoral going on here. Nor is this anything economically unique (though it may be dysfunctional).  The legal and regulatory status of these new capital intensive businesses is under review through the normal legal and regulatory channels, and will proceed quickly; see, for example, the insurance industry is taking aim at Uber and Lyft.

But let’s be clear – this is not the second coming of peace, love and understanding. While there are lots of small-scale apps and programs that link peers directly to peers, the big money, as always, will be found where capital joins labor. Where there’s room to scale, you will find capital. That’s precisely the case in Big Businesses like transportation and lodging.

And while capital owners in big scale businesses are delighted to continue the “little guy against the corporation” myth, in truth it’s nothing more than another round of disintermediation. It’s important to note that while you may save a bit on a vacation room or a trip to the airport, there are also jobs at stake – jobs staffed by real people whose unions and representatives took decades to hammer out economic agreements with employers.

At the risk of grossly over-simplifying Picketty’s core dictum: absent world wars and a booming economy, capital grows faster than wages. This is a prime case in point. What looks like technological progress driving social integration with the lights dimmed down, looks a whole lot more like traditional disintermediation in the harsh light of day.

We do ourselves and society an injustice if we let new economy happy-talk blind us to the social effects of the same-old same-old economic shifts.

Reports of Trusted Advisor’s Demise are Greatly Exaggerated

From James Edsberg, guest-posting on BeatonCapital Down Under, comes a curious 10-point blogpost – The Trusted Advisor: R.I.P.  Edsberg says, “It’s time to drop the tired phrase of ‘Trusted Advisor’ from your client strategy. In fact it’s time for the Trusted Advisor to RIP.”

Interesting. But Edsberg falls into a trap.  See if you can spot it from these quotes:

[Trusted Advisor} — It’s the phrase found most often in the marketing collateral and websites of the best known law firms. But is it time to challenge this shibboleth? Is it time to throw away the book? 

Research among buyers of advisory services consistently shows that clients remain extremely sceptical about assertions from any advisors about Trust. 

Very few institutions that use Trust as a brand message go beyond it to define the phrase in any level of detail.

It really doesn’t work in a pitch. ‘Trust us,” for the prospective client, is asking them to leap into the dark.

Building a brand around a promise for personal interaction could be cannibalizing your investment in technology. 

Take two minutes of your day to look at the websites of the world’s leading professional firms. We did. Declarations of trust and integrity are not likely to make your organisation stand out. As a phrase, the Trusted Advisor is from yesteryear. It’s dated. And for many clients, elicits rolled eyes when they hear it. It’s self-regarding and not client centric. 

Did you spot the trap? Mr. Edsberg has apparently interpreted the trusted advisor concept as a branding strategy, a source of marketing collateral, a pitch, an advertising concept.  That’s 180 degrees wrong. Or, to be precise, because everyone’s entitled to their own definitions, it’s an impractical definition that leads to the very shortcomings Mr. Edsberg decries.

Edsberg is not the only one to make this mistake, but having claimed to have studied the concept, he has less excuse to fall back on.

As we stated clearly back in 2001 in The Trusted Advisor (a), trust is not a marketing strategy. To advertise “We are trusted advisors” is akin to saying “We’re winners of the most humble award.” The act of saying it negates it. The most trust-destroying words you can say are, “Trust me.”

Shakespeare said, “methinks the lady doth protest too much.” Advertising “trust me” in one’s collateral undercuts one’s claim.   A professional firm whose marketing claims it to be a trusted advisor not only isn’t, but displays its ignorance of the concept.

As Edsberg himself notes in the penultimate sentence above, to anoint oneself a ‘trusted advisor’ is ‘self-regarding and not client-centric.’ Exactly. It’s an exercise in self-foot-shooting.

The Problem Lies Elsewhere

The problem is not with trust, or with the concept of trusted advisor. It’s with a mechanistic, non-trustworthy, self-centered view of marketing that can’t conceive of business strategies not immediately reducible to financial metrics.  Trust just doesn’t work like that.

Trust actually forms a superior basis for financial performance, but only if you let it stretch and run.  The minute you begin milking it for ad copy, forcing it to work full circle in one transaction, or attempting to quantify it to link to the P&L, you kill the golden goose. Financial performance from trust works brilliantly as a byproduct – but not as a goal.

Trust is a relationship, not a self-maximizing tool. Trust-based relationships work precisely because they allow for a whole that is more than the sum of the parts. By contrast, the dominant view is that business strategy is by nature competitive, solitary and self-aggrandizing by design.

Edsberg is totally right that branding a firm as a “trusted advisor” results in cynicism and economic under-performance. He’s equally wrong, however, in attributing that failure to the concept, rather than to the misuse of it by misguided marketers.

RIP? Before we assassinate a great concept, lets shoot the messengers instead – narrow-thinking, self-focused, short-term marketers who think trust is just another tactic for achieving competitive advantage. It is so much more than that.

———————————————————————————————————-

(a)If trust is so important, how does one go about winning it? How do you get somebody to trust you? It is clear that it is not done by saying “Trust me!” Nothing is more likely to get the listener to put up his or her defenses!

Relationship Inflation

photo“Now our global sales team can create customer relationships instantly from anywhere.”

Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO of YELP, in an ad for the Salesforce1 Mobile App in the Economist.

“Run your business from your phone,” the ad goes on to say. Including the instant creation of customer relationships, with just a click.

Of course, we get what it means. Salesforce is a powerful tool; I use it. We’ve even got our own app on Salesforce for Trust-based Selling (and are proud of it).

But let’s just pause a moment and note the grade inflation that has come about with the use of the word “relationship.”

Relationship Inflation

Never mind the dictionary. Just use your own built-in definitions. What does the word “relationship” mean, and what does it suggest when we use it as synonymous with something clickable?

This is not a Luddite rant – I love my CRM-flavored apps as much as anyone. And I’m not going to bemoan the demise of deep connection at the hands of social media.

But I am going to protest the casual use of a rich word in ways that flatten and cheapen its meaning.

Dimensions of Relationships

When we think of relationships, we naturally think in two dimensions – depth and breadth. There is the sense of connection, empathy, shared knowledge, and the promise of more to come. That’s the deep part, and the deep part adds value.

The breadth part is equally important – because it shares value. The plural of relationship is network. Relationships times depth equals shared value.

The problem comes when we over-emphasize one dimension to the exclusion of another. The digital explosion has enabled both.  The ability to quickly scan and dive deep into data, or to quickly access past experiences (think your email history, think LinkedIn) can greatly help on depth.

But the emphasis in many ways has been far more on the breadth side of things. When zero marginal cost meets an ethos that says more followers/clicks/eyeballs are always better, that’s where the qualitative gets run out of town by the quantitative.  Deep gets beat by broad.

The Cost of Breadth at all Costs

When the intersection of Deep Street and Broad Street gets paved over by an expansion into Broad Boulevard, we lose something. The value of what we’re sharing diminishes. That means less value, less insight, less impact, less connection, less meaning.

In the world of sales, it’s no accident that we’re hearing about the power of insight – we’re starved for insight in a world that has been bingeing on breadth.  In the world of content, it’s no accident that we’re seeing an explosion of (often fairly good) TV programming enabled by online broadcast capabilities; we’ve been starved for it.

We need both dimensions for balance. Lately we’re out of balance, and it’s the deep content side that needs redressing.

Do You Trust Yourself? Should You?

Scared lady iStock_000019585748XSmall copyIt’s a compelling headline: Stop Trusting Yourself.  By Northeastern University psychologist David DeSteno, it’s featured in today’s NYTimes, and ostensibly shows that we mistakenly trust ourselves – that if anything, we mis-estimate our own trustworthiness more than that of others.

Compelling indeed; but like sugar water, the headline high is brief. The problem is not bad psychology – it’s bad meta-psychology.  The studies he cites merely describe a part of the puzzle of self-trust, and not necessarily the biggest part at at that.

This is not the first time that “hard” scientists have gushed over “findings” that amount to little more than semantic confusion. The worst offenders are the neuroscientists, who constantly mistake chemical descriptions for higher forms of “explanation.”  But this one doesn’t require much knowledge of science.

Trusting Yourself

First, props to Mr. DeSteno for correctly noting something many trust students miss – that trust is an asynchronous relationship between two parties. Trusting “yourself” makes no sense unless we can posit two identities within the self, one of which can be said to trust the other. (This is similar to the issue of consciousness in philosophy).  DeSteno quite rightly recognizes the need to define those two selves.

The problem is, he picks one definition and one alone – the “present you” and the “future you.”  The rest of his article cites studies about how the “present you” constantly mis-estimates the future you. He cites two “cognitive glitches” to describe this, both of which deal with present and future states.

Well and good. This all makes perfect sense – except that time is only one way to posit the “two-you’s” necessary to make sense of self-trust.  Here are three more. I suspect a bit more thought by the reader would yield more still.

1. Trust Your Skills. As in How to Trust Yourself Over Every Golf Shot,  where the author offers the definition, “Trust is the ability to suspend one’s judgment about one’s performance (swing).”

Here the two selves are the cognitive, self-observing self, and the instinctual, acting self. Anyone who plays golf, or any sport (or engages in sex as a male) knows the debilitating effects in the here and now of over-thinking things.  The same is true for leadership, acting, storytelling, public speaking, and any number of other human endeavors.

Proof that this is an even more common meaning of “self-trust” than DeSteno’s now-future me?  Consider the ubiquity and instantly understood Nike slogan, “Just Do It.”

Note that, in these important realms of life, “trust yourself” has nothing to do with time.

Note also that the advice from this definition of self-trust is to “trust yourself” – exactly the opposite of the “don’t trust yourself” advice that DeSteno posits from his time-based example of self-trust.

2. Trust Your Identity.  Clinical psychologist, therapist and author David Schnarch incisively describes the self-trust that comes with what he calls differentiation:

Differentiation is basically the ability to balance humankind’s two most fundamental drives. One is our urge to be connected with other people, and the other is the urge to be free and autonomous and direct the course of our life. So both wanting to be in a relationship and wanting to be our own person are the two most fundamental drives and the two fundamental problems that couples have in emotionally committed relationships.

[we have developed] a theorem that helps clients and therapists stay on track, and earns credibility with people who trust no one: Only the best in us talks about the worst in us, because the worst in us lies about its own existence. 

The inability to trust oneself leads us to fear others; the inability to trust others leads us to over-rely on our selves. Here the two selves are my self-reliant self, and my other-engaging self.

Proof that this too is an even more common meaning of “self-trust” than DeSteno’s now-future me? Try Googling “I trust myself to” and you’ll get first page hits like this:

When I trust myself to love & take care of myself, it’s easier to trust others because they can’t harm my inner well-being.

And once again – the best advice from this meaning of self-trust is not to distrust yourself, but the opposite – to trust yourself.

3. Mastery over life.  In Trusting Yourself, Barbara O’Brien talks about the Buddhist perspective on trusting oneself to stop worrying.  The key to trusting oneself is to let go of the chokehold of expectation.

The vibration of trusting/having confidence in your ability to create enjoyable experiences for yourself and what is in line with your highest good. A very good frequency for anyone who is stuck in victim mentality.

Again, this is on the first page of results from Googling “Trust Yourself.”

From the Twelve Step literature comes a similar concept, reflected in the witticism, “An expectation is a pre-meditated resentment.” Detachment from outcome is the key to living in the present, which in turn is the key to living over time.

If you think Buddhism is too esoteric, then let’s go to Harvard Business School.  Also on the first page of search on “trust yourself” is an article from the business mainstream HBR Blog Network, How to Teach Yourself to Trust Yourself. In it, author Peter Bregman suggests:

There is a simple remedy to the insecurity of being ourselves: stop asking.  Instead, take the time, and the quiet, to decide what you think. That is how we find the part of ourselves we gave up. That is how we become powerful, clever, creative, and insightful. That is how we gain our sight.

Again: a very common piece of human reality. Also, not dependent on time. And, yet another piece that admonishes us to trust ourselves, not to not-trust ourselves.

Science and Philosophy
To make a gross over-generalization – we have come, in recent years, to err on the side of methodology, data, behavioralism, and metrics.  That has come at the cost of clear problem definition and common sense. This is most noticeable in the softer social sciences, but it shows up even in economics. And it most certainly shows up in social sciences with the trappings of “hard” science – like studies in behavioral psychology.

No branch  of science – not even physics – is immune from the need to properly define questions. Newtonian physics wasn’t wrong; it was just answering one particular set of questions, not all questions.

If you want to examine a social phenomenon – like, say, self-trust – the right place to begin is not with empirical studies, but with doing exhaustive search engine work (the modern version of anthropological field research). How do real human beings, operating in the real world, think about an issue?

In logic, a false premise renders all conclusions logically true. In science, a bad problem definition can support any conclusion whatsoever. In our haste to use all the tools of modern analysis, we have allowed sloppy problem definition. (I won’t go so far as to say we need more philosophers in science. Oops I just did.)

Professor DeSteno is almost certainly not wrong. But that’s not the key question.  The key question is – what problem was he solving?

He says he’s solving the problem of self-trust. I say he’s solving the problem of one aspect of self-trust – an aspect that is not likely to be more ubiquitous or relevant than other aspects, and which notably has a different answer than the other aspects.

Caveat reader.

The NFL, Ed Reed, and Trust

photo via jumpingpolarbear.comEd Reed is an NFL veteran defensive safety with an outstanding record of performance. But it’s not just physical prowess that gives him his edge – it’s mental too.

And I’m not talking about toughness, or attitude, or no-pain-no-gain hype. I’m talking about insight, knowledge, and learning. Those of us in advisory or sales capacities have a lot to learn from him.

Analysis or Instinct?

Which is better: to trust your gut, or to study a situation carefully? We have heard both answers, proverbially speaking: both “don’t jump to conclusions,” and, “he who hesitates is lost.

A better answer is – it depends. On the one hand – in a crazy stock market, it’s the cool-headed trader who can recognize fundamental dynamics and make the smart move. On the other hand – in a difficult meeting, it’s the person who can sense subtle mood shifts and instinctively respond who adds the most value.

But the best answer is – both. And this is what Ed Reed embodies.

Reed is legendary for his ability to read offenses. Increasingly, it’s noted that he spends a lot of time watching opposing teams’ video tapes, something that only coaches used to do. In a recent NYTimes article, Reed is quoted as saying, “When you see something on film, just believe it. Believe that something’s going to happen, and just go.”

This is trusting your instincts. It is also putting in time in careful study. “Before you come to work, come to work,” says Reed.

What’s the relationship? It’s one of sequence. The same as what Tiger Woods’ father told him when young: Practice, practice, practice – and then, trust your swing.

Study – then react. Think – then feel. Be intelligent – then sentient.

Being Ed Reed in Your Practice

We can’t all replicate anyone else we choose to. But we can pretty much all move in that direction, if we choose strongly enough.

If you’re in sales, get a process – but don’t treat it like the end-tool, use it to inform your relationships. By all means, get Salesforce – but don’t think great CRM alone will tell you how to read the body language on your client when you’re pitching the sale.  By all means do analytics on your past performance – just don’t forget to internalize the results.

(By the way, if you’ll forgive the obvious pitch: get the best of both by buying my Trust-based Selling Salesforce App, just released with Soliant Consulting).

If you’re in an advisory or consultative or coaching/mentoring role, get a model – but don’t treat it like a one-size fits all blunt instrument, use it to inform your judgment. Read Freud, and Covey, and Schein – but don’t treat your client like a final exam.

Above all, do your research in advance. The final thing you should do before going in to interact with clients and customers is to clear your mind, relax, turn on your senses. Stop rehearsing, stop repeating mantras, stop trying to motivate yourself.  Step aside, and trust your swing.

Being Ed Reed in Life

As I read up on Ed Reed for this blogpost, I couldn’t help but notice what people say about his personality. A particularly good piece is Ed Reed: Hiding in Plain Sight, by veteran ESPN sportswriter Kevin Van Valkenburg.

What emerges is the portrait of someone who has native intelligence, but who is also deeply empathetic. Comfortable in his own skin, not seeking the limelight. Someone who leads by attraction, not promotion. Someone who has the personal comfort level to feel the equal of his coaches, as well as humbly one of the team of players.

And while this post is just about the link between cognition and instinct, I can’t help but believe that link is greatly strengthened by his overall emotional make-up.

In so many ways, Descartes had it wrong when he said cogito, ergo sum. So often, it’s como sum, como cogito. (In case my Latin is faulty, that’s meant to say, “As I am, so do I think”).

Trust Quotes: Interview with Barbara Kimmel, of Trust Across America

Trust Inc bookI got to know Barbara and Jordan Kimmel some years ago when they were forming the initial idea for what became Trust Across America, an organization devoted to improving corporate trustworthiness.

Barbara edited a book which is about to be published (November 1), called Trust Inc.: Strategies for Building Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset. This seems like a good time to interview her on Trust Matters. Enjoy.

Q. Barbara, congratulations on the new book, which is most impressive: I got my advance copy a few days ago. Before we get into that, however, tell us about Trust Across America – Trust Around the World.  What is it, how did you come to found it, and what is its purpose?

A. Very simply, TAA – TAW is an umbrella organization and clearinghouse whose mission is enhancing trustworthy behavior in organizations. We got the program rolling in 2009 in the wake of the financial crisis, realizing that no group was addressing organizational trust from a holistic and collaborative perspective.

Today we sponsor four main initiatives:

  1. The FACTS® Framework measures the trustworthiness of 2500 public companies using 5 quantitative indicators of organizational trust;
  2. Communications efforts, featuring programs like our Trust Talks YouTube Channel, Trust Across America Radio, Blog roll, Trust Breakfast Roundtables, Trust Workshops and a Reading Room, to name just a few.
  3. The Alliance of Trustworthy Business Experts (ATBE) formed in January 2013, is a growing group of global experts working collaboratively, through a number of initiatives, to tackle trust head on.
  4. Most Trustworthy Programs. Every year we name our Top Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and our Most Trustworthy Public Companies.

Q. The new book is a collection of 30-plus author-experts on trust. It’s got an introduction by Ken Blanchard and book cover quote from Steven M.R. Covey –

A. – not to mention the opening article by you and me writing together!

Q. – thank you, thank you. Now, where did the idea for the book come from?

A. Well, here are some headlines from 2012 to the present. They serve as a good starting point to answer your question.

The Washington Post reported that “the federal government imposed an estimated $216 billion in regulatory costs on the economy (in 2012), nearly double its previous record.”

The cost of the tort litigation system alone in the United States is over $250 billion. – or 2% of GDP  (Forbes, January 2012)

“Americans are fed up with politics, not government, study says” (trust in government at 50 year low for five years running)- September 2012, Government Executive

The Big 4 accounting firms’ aggregate global revenue is $110 billion, of which between 40-50% is made up of audits. (Going Concern, January 2013)

The six biggest U.S. banks, led by JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Bank of America Corp., have piled up $103 billion in legal costs since the financial crisis, more than all dividends paid to shareholders in the past five years.  (Bloomberg, August 2013)

I’ve had the honor of meeting dozens of global experts, each with his or her unique perspective on organizational trust. It occurred to me that if I could bring them together to write a series of  essays, perhaps we could collectively begin to provide a new roadmap for organizational trust.

Q. OK. Now, with that as background – tell us a bit about the book itself?

A. There’s a well-documented business case for trust ranging from deepening employee commitment to higher profitability. This book contains a lesson for everyone, from CEOs to Boards, senior management, and small business owners. Trust is a core quality of all great leaders and organizations.

We have 34 experts in all joining forces to tackle organizational trust. In addition to Covey and Blanchard, we’ve got Kouzes & Posner, Patricia Aburdene, and Linda Locke, to name just a few.

Through dozens of case studies, real world situations, models and examples, the book talks about:

  • Why trust matters
  • How trust works in practice
  • What it takes to be a trustworthy leader
  • How trustworthy teams impact business
  • How to restore trust
  • What the future holds in store

The book also has 3 appendices:

  • Definitions of organizational trust from a global perspective
  • Examples of vision and values statements
  • A call to action

Q. We see boatloads of survey data about how trust is down these days, in almost every institution. What should we make of all that?

A. Charlie, you and I have spoken about painting trust with broad brush strokes. Industry is not destiny. There are many organizations that are exhibiting high levels of trust. It all boils down to culture and leadership. We see companies that rise to the top of our FACTS Framework, year after year. Those companies outperform  their peers and benchmarks like the S&P – in terms of stock market performance. This proves that trustworthy companies are not sacrificing profitability.

Q. I have seen some of that data and it is really impressive. In fact, the whole broad basis of the initiative is impressive. Anything you want to add from the bully pulpit here?

A. Thank you for the opportunity to talk about our new book and our goals for TAA –TAW. We are chipping away at the organizational trust issue and plan to continue to create new tools and programs. I urge your readers to drop me a note if they have something to add to the conversation or would like to roll up their sleeves and get involved. Barbara@trustacrossamerica.com

 

Barbara Kimmel, Executive Director, Trust Across America – Trust Around the World

 

 

 

Trust-based Selling, the Advanced Course

Hand The Ball Over, See What HappensI had lunch the other day with Jack S., a client from 5 years ago. At the time, Jack managed a sales organization in the reinsurance business. (If you think insurance is complicated, try understanding reinsurance!).

Since then, the industry has consolidated; Jack works for one of the top three reinsurance brokerage firms. His job has evolved into a sort of senior advisor  to the 100 or so consultative salespersons. As we talked, I realized he is operating at the very top of the trusted advisory, trust-based selling world. See what you think.

Charlie: How do you get asked in to see customers?

Jack: Each salesperson has about 5 clients, and typically at least one is having problems. Since I’ve got deep expertise and experience, and the reps trust me, they invite me in to meet the client.

Charlie: So, you get invited in as an expert? What happens then?

Jack: Yes, the rep typically tells the client I’m some super-expert. They introduce me with a big pitch, my resume, all my qualifications and so forth.  Then they hand it over to me, and that’s when I surprise them.

Charlie: Yes?

Jack: I just ask the client to tell me what’s going on. I can always feel the rep beside me screaming inside his head, “What!? That’s all you’ve got? I pitched you as an expert, where’s your demonstration?”  But I’ve found this works much better.

They can tell pretty quickly that I’m totally paying attention, and that I’m nodding in all the right places. Just a short question or comment from time to time is all I really need to show that I know what I’m talking about, and I always make sure we turn the conversation right back to them.

Charlie: What a concept – open by letting the customer talk!  Any other best practices or tips about how to do that?

Jack: Yes. I frequently ask the rep before we go in to resist their temptation to fill empty spaces in the conversation – to just follow my lead. You know, when you’re trying to sell something, a lull of even half a second in a conversation can feel like an eternity, and you’re worried about filling that gap, keeping the momentum going.

But if you let the customer fill the silence, they almost always will. And they seem to interpret it as permission to go a little further, to tell a little more about the situation.  Which happens to be great – they’re sharing much more with us, and I haven’t said a word.  The rep is often amazed when we leave, “I can’t believe he said that, he’s never talked about that before.”

Charlie: Brilliant. Now, what about failures?  Aren’t there some times where you don’t have a major new insight, you can’t solve the problem?

Jack: You know, I’ve learned there really aren’t any “failures.” Maybe a quarter of the time it turns out that the client is already doing everything they can, I can suggest a tweak or two, but basically they have to just bear down and wait out the situation.

If that’s the case, I just say simply you’re doing the right thing, you’re not missing anything, there is no silver bullet you haven’t found, or at least I haven’t found it either.  And that actually makes them feel better. Because they’ve been fearful and guilty, and I’ve given them permission to feel OK. They could already handle waiting for things to clear up, but they really appreciate the relief that comes from knowing they’ve done what they can.

———

I’ve written quite a bit about trust-based selling. Besides the book itself by that title, here’s a good article from a few years ago called Three Strategies for Creating Customer Trust.  As I scanned it after writing Jack’s story, I realized he touches on all three of those strategies.  Jack is really teaching the advanced course.