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.


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).



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: [email protected].

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.


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.

Upcoming Events and Appearances: Trusted Advisor Associates

Join us at one or more upcoming Trusted Advisor Associates events. This Spring, we’ll be hosting and participating in events in Washington, DC; Fargo, ND; Boston, MA; London, England and through globally accessed webinars.

Also, a word about the Trusted Advisor Mastery Program.


Fri. Apr. 15th Global Charles H. Green

Charles H. Green will be a guest on Office Hours at the Future Selling Institute, with David A. Brock and Anthony Iannarino; today, Friday April 15th, at 11 AM EST. Access is members only; more information about Office Hours is here.


Wed. Apr. 20th Washington, DC Andrea P. Howe
Andrea will be speaking at the Washington DC Chapter of the Project Management Institute on “Trust and Influence: What Every Successful Project Manager Needs to Know.” Paolo’s Ristorante, 11898 Market Street, Reston, VA, 11:30am. Open to public: Sign up here. PMIWDC Members $30; Non-Members: $30; lunch will be served. PDUs will be available for Project Management Professionals (PMPs).


Wed. Apr. 27th Fargo, ND Sandra Styer

Sandy Styer will be presenting “The Heart of Trust: Keys to Becoming a Trusted Advisor” at the Tristate Trust Conference of the North Dakota Bankers Association on April 27th.


Wed. May 18th Boston, MA Stewart Hirsch

Stewart Hirsch will be a guest lecturer at Emerson College, speaking on “Becoming a Trusted Advisor.” The class to which Stewart will be addressing is a part of a professional services marketing course taught by Prof. Silvia Hodges, Ph.D.


Tues. & Wed. May 24th-25th London, England Julian Powe & Charles H. Green

In a highly interactive, practical and lively day-and-a-half program, TAA will be offering the opportunity to accelerate your professional growth, identify and strengthen the outstanding practice you already have, and address areas for improvement. This is the first time these two extraordinary presenters have offered this program together! Our early-booking price for the program will be $2200, with discounts available for group participation. For more information or to register contact Julian Powe or Tracey Del Camp, respectively.


The first tranche of the Trusted Advisor Mastery Program has completed the 19 modules in the program, individual coaching calls and its third group call, and the members have agreed to keep up lively discussions on the online Forum. Here’s what one participant has to say about the program:

“The Trusted Advisor Mastery Program delivered professional and personal results beyond expectations. The first coaching call was worth the whole price of admission.” (Virginia Sambuco, Sr. Director Marketing Services, Enterprise Solutions, Harland Clarke, San Antonio, TX)

To be notified of the next available program, email us at: [email protected].

Employee Engagement: The Means, or The End?

Please take two deep breaths to calm yourself and find a place of zen before answering the below question.

All calmed? Good. From that place of inner peace and quiet, ask yourself which of the following two statements you more strongly agree with:

(Answer instantly, don’t over-think):

  1. The purpose of business is to make people happy
  2. The purpose of people is to make business happy

Make a note somewhere of your answer. Now let’s talk about it.

My guess is you chose #1. Maybe not because you totally agree with it, but because #2 seems so absurd. Of course people have purposes beyond being economic cogs; it’s insulting to our humanity to think otherwise. (Anyhow, that’s how I think of it).

Joseph Campbell had it right when he said:

“We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget that the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it’s all about.”

And yet: that is not how we behave. Let’s pick on the employee engagement movement as one example [1]: over and over in business, we confuse the means with the ends. And it’s not pretty.

Business Treats People Like Means to an End

A typical post asks, “Why is employee engagement important?” and answers the question thus:

Engaged employees learn more, grow faster, and show more initiative than employees who are not. They are committed to finding solutions, solve problems, and improve business processes.

Therefore, employee engagement is strongly linked to business performance!

All that’s missing is the QED: Obviously, the purpose of employee engagement is to improve business performance. A happy employee is a productive employee; we want you happy because we want you making money for us. Left unspoken is, “and if your being unhappy led to greater productivity, we’d go for unhappy in a heartbeat.”

There is an unending corporate appetite for this sort of rationalization. Here’s the abstract of an article from The American Society for Quality:

Abstract: Weak workforce engagement can lead to poor retention, increased absenteeism and lowered productivity.

Or, from Corporate Rewards, answering the question “Why Bother with Engagement?”

90% of the employees at the World’s Most Admired Companies identified their company as very effective or effective at fostering high levels of employee engagement. Reason enough to bother with engagement…

Organisations need to bother because engagement is the holy grail of workplace relations. It is a virtuous circle: engaged employee; better results; deeper engagement.

There are thousands of such examples; enough, you know that’s true.

The behavioral instinct to subordinate people is evident in the very language of HR. People are not called people, they’re called human “resources”. Note that the word “human” is the adjective, modifying the noun “resources.”

The ante got raised about a decade ago when we started talking about Human Capital. The substitution of “capital” for “resources” was part and parcel of a general reduction of all things business to financial terms. Manufacturing, services, geographies, cultures, people—who cares, it can all be reduced to the single fungible terminology of net-present-financial value. It’s all about the money.

It Wasn’t Always This Way

You may think Joseph Campbell, the scholar of myths cited earlier, doesn’t have enough business credentials to be cited here. If so, let’s try Peter Drucker, the quintessential business writer. He famously said:

The purpose of a company is to create a customer…the only profit center is the customer.

Dale Carnegie had much the same idea when he phrased his paradoxical aphorisms about success coming from focus on others.

Our ideas today about the role of people in business are more culturally-driven than we like to think. There is no revealed truth that says for once and for all what the purpose of business is, or must be: it is what we choose to believe that determines what we get out of business.

We have been choosing a politics, culture and way of business life for some time now that subordinates human benefit to the aggrandizement of corporate entities. That belief system has gotten so imbued in our language and behaviors that we notice it about as much as a fish notices the water it swims in.

It’s Time to Re-Think the Ends and Means of Business

While we’re mesmerized by the sloppy but energetic political revolutions in the Middle East, there’s an equally energetic (and yes, often sloppy) revolution in business thinking going on.

Two widely known examples are Michael Porter and Mark Kramer’s Shared Value concept, and Umair Haque’s Capitalist Manifesto. And while I’ve critiqued their sloppiness, there’s no question they’re heading in the right direction, and spreading a lot of heat and light along the way.

There are other revolutionaries out there. Robert Eccles is spearheading an amazing drive to integrate corporate performance reporting. Chris Brogan and HubSpot Marketing are revolutionizing the notion of marketing and strategy to become truly customer-centric—not customer-centric like a vulture, but for the sake of the customer.

Dave Brock talks about sales as being at a new inflection point: this inflection point, unlike the two prior ones, is driven by the customer—not the company.

And speaking of inflection points, the new Dean of the Harvard Business School uses that same term to describe what faces HBS, which implies a radically different set of priorities.

The Point of Being Happy is to Be Happy: Not to Increase ROI

There’s nothing wrong with making money, creating businesses, having fabulously healthy economies. I’m all for it. Capitalism is a great model.

But let’s start getting our means and ends back in a row: when we start justifying happiness in terms of corporate ROI, something has gone horribly wrong.

Happiness and ROI go together. We should resist making one solely the means and the other solely the end, but let’s remember: if and when we’re forced to prioritize, the true end is happiness.


[1] I’m going to casually equate employee engagement and happiness here, as do many casual authors. EE fans may quibble about that, but the logic of this post applies to each; pick your preferred words.


All Change is Linguistic

That title is lifted from Peter Block, and I want to make sure credit is given where credit is due.

I think those four words are wonderfully meaningful and I want to add my own take on it (any flawed interpretation is all mine, not Block’s). It has to do with a larger question: the relationship between thinking and doing.

Do Thoughts Drive Actions, or Do Actions Drive Thoughts?

This is not some abstraction. It matters greatly to businesses whether you can better think your way into right action, or act your way into right thinking.

For example: can you better train for soft skills via role-playing, or through readings and multiple-choice quizzes? Are pick-up lines best practiced in a bar? What about sales pitches?

So, do thoughts drive action or does action drive thoughts? The proper answer is ‘yes.’ Actually ‘yes, but it depends.’ Proving causality of anything is an impossibility, much less proving proportional causality. But in the commonsense world we all live in, we can see that the arrow points both ways. The only useful question is: when does it point which way?

Acting Your Way Into Right Thinking

This is the kind of phrase you hear in 12-step programs, or from motivational speakers, or—interestingly—lean management. It usually means, “You’ve been kidding yourself all these years by talking a good game; when are you actually going to [quit drinking] [lose weight] [ask her out] [practice what you preach]."

You also hear it in HR groups, advocating for certain kinds of change management: “You’ve been kidding yourself all these years by talking a good game; when are you actually going to [go to the networking meeting] [hire someone not a mirror image of us] [actually promote on values].”

Seems to me these are typically situations where ‘whole body’ involvement is required. You can’t just isolate one aspect of a situation, but rather you have to engage physically and emotionally in a full sense.

When Thinking Drives Action

Does that mean thinking works better in small, focused change efforts? Yes, but that’s only part of the story. For example, visualization is used by athletes to tweak the mindset, or attitude—before a golf swing, before a marathon. 

But there’s another sense in which thinking drives action: it dates back to Aristotle, who suggested there is a steel cable leading from thinking to doing.

Aristotle has his modern counterparts in NLP theorists, change specialists and neuro-everybodies who all point to the semi-conscious inclination of the brain to create beliefs, assumptions, habits, instincts—and then to act on them. 

How do you drive thoughts? Some tried-and-true methods include message-repetition (depending on your perspective, this equates either to propaganda or to staying ‘on message’), linkage (‘Marlon Brando smoked, it must be cool’), or authority (‘my doctor recommends it, it must be good for me’). You may think that in this day of digital social media we are immune to direct mail and tv ads from Madison Avenue—wrong, wrong, wrong, the same techniques are here, just in new clothing.

All Change is Linguistic

Full circle back to Peter Block. One of the most profound ways we have of unconsciously altering mindsets and attitudes is through language. Most overtly, Big Message repetition uses language. Chant “Obama was born abroad” enough times and you’ll get 20-30% of the US public to believe it.

But it isn’t just the denotation of words that drives change. It’s the emotional tone as well. The language of etiquette and empathy drives reciprocity—the most important form of influence, according to Robert Cialdini. The tones in which such words are said also add influence. Even the vocabulary of differing languages (French vs German) convey differing meanings to those who hear them.

To Think? Or To Behave?

If you’re wondering whether to change people or organizations, the usual answer is ‘both.’ But it does make sense to lead with one or another depending on the situation. 

The power of frequent close, personal, physical interaction—in schools, in the military, in marriage—probably does more to tear down racial barriers then any educational program. Better language constructs will follow.

But if you’re trying to get people to behave rightly in a corporate merger, for example, slogans are your friend—lead with language like ‘make a friend first,’ or ‘the first word in merger is ‘me,’ or ‘no more old-company name.’  

Whether you start with the behavior or the language, you’ll get to both. All change is linguistic, sooner or later.