One of the more frequent comments I get in talking about being a trusted advisor is this:
“We’d love to practice all the things you talk about, Charlie, we agree with them all. But, we just don’t have the luxury of the kind of time it takes to get there. There are too many other demands, and we just can’t spare that kind of time.”
True or False: It takes more time to be a true trusted advisor than it takes to do just a very good job of service delivery.
Just to be clear where I stand: that statement is as false as a three dollar bill.
Trust Doesn’t Necessarily Take Time
First of all, the old truism that “trust takes time” isn’t necessarily true. Only one of the four trust equation components necessarily takes time, and that’s reliability – because by definition reliability requires a track record.
The other trustworthiness components – credibility, intimacy, and low self-orientation – can be, and often are, assessed in a few moments. We all form very strong first impressions of people about whether they are truthful, competent, paying attention to us, of high integrity, and so forth. Furthermore, we’re generally pretty right in those impressions, or at least we tend not to modify them greatly.
But that’s only about a single instance of trust establishment. Let’s look at trust over time.
Trust Saves Time
The fact that trust can be established quickly is only the beginning. What happens after trust is established?
Most would agree that having a trusting relationship means that things go more quickly from then on; your word is taken as bond; your advice is heeded; processes proceed more quickly; there is less double-checking, and so forth.
So, do the math. Let’s say you’ve got ten interactions with a client, and in the first one, you establish a great deal of trust. The next 9 interactions will proceed more quickly, with deeper results, than if you did the dance of distrust every time you interacted. The aggregate amount of time spent is almost certainly less, not more, in the trustworthy case. Trust doesn’t require more time, trust saves time.
In other words, even if trust took time up front, the investment is more than paid off in future interactions by a host of benefits. But even that’s not the end.
It’s Trust Quality, not Quantity, that Counts
If you had to invest time to create trust, the ROI created would typically be very positive; it drives lower costs of sales, better time to market, and so forth. But you don’t have to invest much time. Not if you are qualitatively excellent.
Imagine two equally competent and good-willed professionals. Over the same period of time, one does high quality client work, displays excellence, and offers good value. The other one does the same – but in addition, becomes highly trusted. If time were the only variable, then this scenario makes no sense – given equal time and equal everything else, they should be equally trusted.
But we all know that scenario is actually quite common – one professional is frequently more trusted than another, often with even less time invested. Why is that? What are those highly trusted people doing? Ask yourself that question about the highly trustworthy professionals you know.
Let me suggest they don’t get there by logging more hours – they get there by higher quality trust creation. They are authentic. They take emotional risks. They pay attention. They don’t focus on driving clients toward their own desired outcomes. They go where the conversation takes them. They freely admit their blank spots. Their goal is client service, not account profitability. Their highest calling is to make things better for the client.
They are fearless, humble, generous, curious, and other-oriented. Those are the qualities that make them trustworthy – not how many basketball games they took the client to.
You don’t have the time to be a trusted advisor? In the aggregate, there may be a positive correlation between high-trust relationships and time spent, but you’d have a hard time convincing me that time caused the trust. In fact, I think it’s more likely that trust drives the length of time.
You don’t get to be a trusted advisor by logging hours. You get there by being more trustworthy. And not only does that not take more time, it actually takes less time.
Don’t let yourself off the trust hook; you can do it with quality, not time.