Story Time: An Unexpected Way to Recover Lost Trust

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?

6 replies
  1. Michael Moore
    Michael Moore says:

    Helpful Blog and I want to support the importance of good listening skills for managers. The very best Boss I had in the early stages of my career was a senior manager who listened to you so intently that you felt like the only person that mattered. what an encouraging experience that was for a young manager.

    • Andrea P. Howe
      Andrea P. Howe says:

      Thanks, Michael, for the thoughtful comment. I’m often amazed at how easy it is for all of us — leaders, consultants, business people in general — to take good listening for granted.  One of the greatest gifts to give is not the gift of our knowledge, or even our wisdom, but of our *attention*.

  2. Mary Beth Coudal
    Mary Beth Coudal says:

    As a leader in my family, I’ve begun employing the simple technique of 5 minutes a day, per child, of simply listening. The issues that occasionally bubble up from my children have blown me away. Of course, sometimes we just sit there silently, looking at each other. And there’s meaning in that too. I think we are sometimes afraid of silence. And we talk too much, rushing in before the issues or ideas are complete.

    • Andrea P. Howe
      Andrea P. Howe says:

      Thanks, Mary Beth, for the thoughtful post and the link to your very interesting blog. Makes me wonder what might open up in the business world if we spent just 5 minutes each day listening — quietly — to a customer or colleague.


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