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?

Six Risks You Should Take to Build Trust

We’re pleased to announce the release of our latest eBook: Six Risks You Should Take to Build Trust.

It’s the third in the new Trusted Advisor Fieldbook series by Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe.

Each eBook provides a snapshot of content from The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, which is jam-packed with practical, hands-on strategies to dramatically improve your results in sales, relationship management, and organizational performance.

Six Risks You Should Take to Build Trust reveals:

  • How taking risks actually reduces risk
  • A powerful tool for making difficult conversations easier
  • Six ways to build your risk-taking muscle

P.S. Did you miss out on Volume 1 or 2 of The Fieldbook eBook series? Get them while they’re still available:

Take a look and let us know what you think.

Are You the CEO of Your Brain?

You think you’ve got it under control. Signed, sealed, all but delivered. You are in charge.

Suddenly, the Itty-bitty Shitty Committee cranks up the volume in your head. Can’t, shouldn’t, better not, watch out for, told you so, what if. The cacophony becomes overwhelming.

Suddenly, nobody trusts you. And why should they? You are no longer the CEO of your brain.

The Diagnosis

If you are not the CEO of your brain, who is? There can be no good answer to that question, at least not from the perspective of those listening to you—your customers, coworkers, those you hope to lead. If you are not the CEO of your brain–nothing good follows.

Don’t confuse being the CEO of your brain with being perfect, excellent, or even self-confident. It is simply about being comfortable with who you are. If you know who you are and are at ease with it, then people trust you. They say you have integrity, that you are transparent, that you have no hidden agenda. They may even say you care.

By contrast, when the Committee has taken over, the inmates are running the asylum. No one is in charge, and fear stalks the land between your ears.

The Prescription

As far as I know, all wisdoms of the world offer a two-step solution to the dilemma. The first is to fix the acute situation; the second is to amend the chronic condition.

The acute situation. Stop the noise. Put the plug in the jug.  Just don’t do that. Stop the pain. First, do no harm. Staunch the flow. Take the first breath of oxygen before passing the mask to your child. Admit there is a problem. Take 10 deep breaths. Count to 100. Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.

The chronic condition.   Do what you can, leave the rest. Live in the moment. Detach from the outcome. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Right-size your ego.  Resign from the debating society.  There is a God–and you’re not it.  An expectation is a premeditated resentment.  The only true mistake is a repeated mistake. You’re just another bozo on the bus.  Learn to laugh at yourself.

The Prognosis

Since the underlying condition is Life, the long-term prognosis is not good.  However, considerable success can be had in the interim.

Much of that success seems to depend on recognizing that the chronic cure comes not by a single dose, but by a regimen.  Excellence is but a habit, said Aristotle.  So are sanity, sobriety, and gratitude.  That doesn’t mean you can’t have a constant itch for improvement–just don’t let it ruin your sleep.

This is how you become the CEO of your brain; not by revelation, but by repetition. After a while, the Committee steps down, and you’re back in charge, where you should be.

And that’s when people can trust you.

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.


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.


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).


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: [email protected].

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!