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Find the Fear and Swim Upstream to Trust

Fear is the root negative human emotion. Scratch the surface of other negative feelings, and you will find fear at the core.

Fear Drives Behavior

If you accept this description of fear, it means you can roadmap people’s emotions. It also means you can diagnose your own.

Fear is the main driver of dysfunctional human behavior. When you see people being passive aggressive, secretive, avoiding, combative, resentful, backstabbing, gossiping, or otherwise misbehaving, teach yourself to ask, “What are they afraid of?” This drives good consulting and coaching.

Fear is a major driver of organization behavior. A culture that uses negative norms (think “that’s a career limiting move”) to enforce compliance is an organization that is fear-based. Learn to notice negative norms, so you can  envision alternatives.

Fear motivates much buying behavior. B2B marketers are taught to “find the pain point.” B2C marketers know the desire to join the in crowd is trumped by the fear of being in the out crowd; “you smell” out-shouts “you can smell nice.”

Fear plays a huge role in politics, as the daily papers demonstrate daily.

In all these cases, fear is the enemy of trust. And trust is the antidote to fear.

Trust Drives Relationship

At root, fear is the fear of a bad relationship—an Other who will hurt us. The effect is to keep us out of relationship.

Trust is the hope of a good relationship. It inclines us to seek relationship with an Other, so that we can gain the benefits of relationship.

You create self-trust by facing and overcoming your own fears. You create trust with Others by trusting them – by being the one willing to first face the fear.

You create interpersonal trust by taking a risk, encouraging the Other to reciprocate. You create organizational trust by creating an environment that encourages emotional risk-taking, dissipating fear.

Trust in politics comes from uniting, not from dividing. Trust in government comes more from principled policies and sharp enforcement than from finely detailed procedures, prohibitions and protocols.

Trust in a culture comes about by ten thousand daily acts of etiquette, courtesy, and generosity, each taken with no calculated return on investment aforethought – and each returned in the same spirit.

Trust in all these relationships rests on an ability to directly confront and speak the truth to each other.  Not speaking truth is the functional equivalent of lying; it feeds fear and alienation, and is the first step to trust-rot.

(Thanks to Seth Godin for jogging my brain on this one)

Butt-Kicked by the Universe

Oh man, did I do something stupid, embarrassing and untrustworthy today.

A colleague forwarded me a calendar invite originally sent by a client. I NEVER respond to an actual calendar invite as if it’s an email; I always respond to the actual invitation using the buttons “accept,” “reject,” or “tentative.”

But today, for reasons unknown only to whoever is in charge of the universe, I replied (I thought!!) to my colleague, regarding the client (Fred).

I wrote:

“…I’m so mad at Fred…seems like he hasn’t sent out all the materials we worked on last week.  I am trying not to be pissed.  I’m really frustrated. I’m trying to hold off getting too irate in case he did send stuff out…”

You guessed it. My response went straight to Fred.

He wrote back, “Hi Sarah, was this meant for me?”

That Gut-Punched Feeling

Ughh. As I had been writing that email, my gut was screaming at me: “You always say not to put in writing anything you wouldn’t be comfortable having the whole world read.”

You could say – I would – that the universe intervened because I had violated the “Inner Voice” rule.  The Inner Voice Rule is, “Say the things you’re thinking but don’t share.”  It’s where truth lies, and turbo-boosts the Intimacy component of the Trust Equation.

The Inner Voice Rule.

I groaned. Then I immediately wrote back to Fred:  “I am so embarrassed.  The email was meant for Julie, not you, and I’m sorry.  Are you somewhere I can call you?”  We spoke five minutes later.

I started: “Fred, I’m so sorry.  I knew as I was typing that email that I needed to pick up the phone and call you…I’m aware I have been avoiding a conversation with you.”  Fred was extra-gracious, acknowledging that he hadn’t met his commitments and that he understood where my frustration came from.

He then said, “And we’ve both been to Trusted Advisor programs,” which created a clearing for us to deal in an authentic way with the trust breakdown.  We worked through things; we both left the conversation having said what we needed to say, and feeling complete (and a commitment on my part to talk to Fred next time instead of complaining to my colleague).

He sent out the materials within 15 minutes.

The Universe Kicks Butt

I’m a bit fearful of calling myself a hypocrite on a blogpost destined for internet eternity. But if I’m real about it, what I salvaged from my mess du jour is that I talk a big game about clear speaking, using Inner Voice, and sharing constructive feedback – while the truth is, I’m woefully out of practice.  I choose to believe that the universe intervened today to give me a butt kick wake up call; to call me on being real and not a poser.

There, I said it.

So: what did I learn from the Universe today?

  • NEVER, EVER put in writing anything you wouldn’t want shared with the world
  • When what you have to say about another serves to diminish them, it’s time to either:

a) admit you’ve been a jerk and have a conversation with that person, or

b) own up and end the relationship.

  • The courage to have un-had conversations leads to growth, learning and deeper trust.
  • If we think of constructive feedback as “scary, bad, judgmental or otherwise” then we don’t share the most important stuff.  Then all that stuff builds up and – we send stupid emails.
  • If you make a mess – make it Priority One to clean it up immediately.

A Contingent Offer

It was a beautiful fall in Blacksburg…but I was quite nervous…my senior year in Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech was now underway and reality was setting in fast…I had to find a job.

I had racked up a massive $11,000 in loans for school from my Mom and Dad – I was expected to start paying it back right after graduation to help pay for my 5 younger siblings to go to college. On top of that, I was engaged to be married in July. I needed a job – I really, really needed a job.

I was nervous. Although the market for new engineering graduates was strong, I was unsure about my job prospects because…how do I say this delicately…I had not exactly distinguished myself academically.

There was not much I could do at this point to change my grades in Calculus or Thermodynamics…so I focused intensely on my job search.

I signed up for the usual campus interviews – but after the first round I was disappointed. I only received 2 invitations to visit plant sites for second round interviews.

My first visit to a company in West Virginia did not go well. A week later I received The Letter – Thanks but no thanks…dinged!! I was getting very nervous. I attended a “how to interview” session at the career center, where I learned I needed to sell myself and be confident – even though I was not.

On my trip to “Acme Chemical” in early November the interviews seemed to go much better – I was not that crazy about the company, or the job or the location….but I needed a job and was hopeful. In the meantime, my campus interviews had turned the corner – I had scored 4 more company visits after Christmas.

The Letter arrived from Acme…I opened it with caution – it was an offer! A very good offer – $17,800 a year! I was so excited….until I read further.

It was a “contingent offer” – contingent upon a position still being open at the time I decided to accept it. Huh??? I was quite confused. I called HR – they were going to hire 4 engineers and they made 7 offers. The first 4 to accept the offer got the jobs –and the other 3 would no longer have offers.

What?!! I had 4 upcoming interview trips with companies and locations I liked better than Acme. I did not want to accept this early offer and miss out on other potential choices. At the same time I really needed a job and $17,800 was a good offer. The job was OK, the location was not that bad…a bird in the hand; it was a real dilemma.

I decided to call Dad. At this point I had emerged from my “independent and confrontational teenage years.” But I could not say that Dad and I  were close; it was the first time that I remember turning to him for advice.

I explained my predicament.

Dad answered without hesitation, “Accept the job.”

When I started to explain that would preclude other options, 
he interrupted me.

 “No – it doesn’t.”

“What do you mean?”

“Accept the job – a contingent acceptance – contingent upon you not accepting another job someplace else.”

“Can I do that?”

“I don’t see why the hell not!”

“But what if they get angry and withdraw the offer?”

“Then I am not sure it is a place you want to work anyway.”

It was brilliant – my Dad was becoming smarter every day. I felt this huge burden had lifted.

First thing Monday morning I called up Acme and told them “I accept…” But when I added my conditions they were not happy. They said I was being “impertinent.” (I didn’t even know what that meant!)

They explained they did not accept my acceptance….they had recruited at the School for 10 years, and they were going to let the Dean know about my little stunt.

My cute plan had backfired; I was feeling sick again.

The next day I was summoned to the Dean’s office. I was fairly certain it was not because of my stellar academic performance.

The Dean was a scary man. He carried a permanent scowl on his face like Miss Gulch (Wicked Witch) in the Wizard of Oz.

“Mr. ____ – Acme has been recruiting here for years – I understand you accepted their offer contingent upon not accepting a job someplace else?”

“Yes sir, I did. I did not mean to be disrespectful but…”

“Excellent. They have no right pressuring my students. I let them know that either all 7 offers stand or they won’t be welcomed back.”

I walked out relieved and with a small measure of renewed confidence.

I ultimately had 4 job offers. I accepted a job someplace else and started calling my dad more often.

Real People, Real Trust: Our Magnificent Seven

Over the past year, I’ve offered an insider view into the challenges, successes, and make-it-or-break-it moments of seven men and women who are making their mark by leading with trust—every day. In case you missed any of them, or want a fresh dose of practical advice (not to mention inspiration), here’s a recap.

  •  “I asked him what would make him feel like we addressed the situation to his satisfaction.” Learn how Chip Grizzard’s nonprofit marketing and fundraising agency retained a long-term client even after mistiming their direct mail campaign.
  • “I have never had someone say, ‘I wish you hadn’t told me that.’” Find out how Anna Dutton, Sales Operations Director, finds the courage at her educational tech company to be genuine, tell the truth, and say things that others might not agree with.
  • “My life philosophy is there’s plenty of everything—customers, money, everything.” Take a tip from entrepreneur and former bed and breakfast owner John Dunn on collaboration…and learn how he joined forces with other B&Bs.

The themes across these stories: transparency, humility, courage, and true customer focus.

Many thanks, once again, to these magnificent role models.

Story Time: Innovation, Trust, and the Freedom to Fail

Our Story Time series brings you real, personal examples from business life that shed light on specific ways to lead with trust. Our last story proved that he who eats with chopsticks wins. Today’s shows how trust can impact innovation, productivity, and staff retention.

A New Anthology

When it comes to trust-building, stories are a powerful tool for both learning and change. Our new 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.

Today’s story is excerpted from our chapter on making the case for trust. It vividly demonstrates how providing the freedom to fail, take risks, and build on others’ ideas increases a team’s ability to innovate.

From the Front Lines: A Trust-Based Business Unit

In 2005, Ross Smith became Director of an 85-person software test team within Microsoft. His team had great technical skills, passion, and excitement, but felt underutilized and unchallenged. Ross set out to improve innovation and productivity. Exploring options, they ran across a University of British Columbia study by John F. Helliwell and Haifang Huang that equated the impact of high organizational trust to significant pay raises in terms of creating job satisfaction.

The team suddenly realized that innovation required freedom to fail, risk taking, building on others’ ideas—all behaviors grounded in high trust. That cognitive snap, that a high-trust organization would address underutilization and latent talent, was the beginning of the solution.

In a high-trust organization, individuals could apply their skills, education, and experience at their own discretion. They could take risks and change processes themselves because managers would trust them. The question was this: how to do it?

Ross asked the team to identify behaviors they felt influenced trust, positively or negatively. They realized that trust was subjective, situational, and very individual, and there was no single behavioral answer. As a result, the team put together a detailed playbook describing simple principles with discussion about how to implement.

They also modeled risk-taking and trust-building by using games to approach problems; everyone was allowed to play, experiment, and fail.

Microsoft is a heavy user of metrics, for Ross’s team as well as throughout the company. The first noticeable difference was a higher-than-normal level of retention. After two and a half years, other things started to change dramatically—new test tools and new techniques were developed, and a high level of collaboration and partnership was working. Productivity numbers started to rise. As the project finished, the team was rated at or near the top across virtually every Microsoft productivity metric.

When Ross and several others from the original team moved to another division, they set out to introduce the trust-building ideas and practices which had worked so well before. Once again, they saw a high retention rate, a broader application of talent, and higher productivity numbers.

The metrics followed the changes in mind-set and behavior—not the other way around.

—Ross Smith (Microsoft), as told to Charles H. Green

Find out more about Ross’s experiments in management innovation and trust, or read his blog on productivity games.

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Read more stories about trust:

Trust Tip Video: The Single Biggest Sin in Sales

A lot of things can go wrong in sales – and often do. But there’s probably one thing that stands over all the other as the Ur-error of selling. This particular error is baked so deep into our behavior that you might call it the “original sin” of selling.

In this week’s Trust Tip video, I examine what that error is, and why it’s such an egregious mistake. Fortunately, the solution is not that hard – as long as you remember to use it.

If you like the Trust Tip Video series and you like our occasional eBooks, why not subscribe to make sure you get both? Every week we send you selected high-quality content.  To subscribe, click here, or go to http://bit.ly/trust-subscribe

Trust Tip Video: It Takes Two to Do the Trust Tango

Establishing a trust-based relationship has always been a two-way street. Like a good Argentinean Tango, there has to be a routine where risk and reciprocation are involved. What can you do to build a more trusting relationship? How do you know which role you play in the trust tango? When should you lead, and when should you follow?

In this week’s Trust Tip Video, we discuss the difference between trusting and being trusted. The two work together cohesively; there is no trust without risk and no trust-based relationship without a first step.

If you like the Trust Tip Video series, and you like our occasional eBooks, why not subscribe to make sure you get both? Every 2-4 weeks we’ll send you selected high-quality content. To subscribe, click here, or go to http://bit.ly/trust-subscribe

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Many Trusted Advisor programs now offer CPE credits.  Please call Tracey DelCamp for more information at 856-981-5268–or drop us a note @ info@trustedadvisor.com.

Trust in the Search Business: the Bowdoin Group

The Bowdoin Group is a mid-sized executive recruiting firm based in New England. Sean Walker is a partner at Bowdoin, and heads their Information and Media Division. We met over seafood at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central a few months ago.

I’ve always felt that executive search is one of those “perfect” trusted advisor businesses – like pharmaceutical reps, wealth managers and client managers in accountancies. Perfect in potential, that is; perfection is not the norm in any of those businesses, and far from it in some.

Sean and Bowdoin look like exceptions: they “get it,” and practice the principles of trust, as you’ll see.

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Charlie Green: Sean, you just lost a big sale; you’re disappointed, but clearly not upset. What’s up with that?

Sean Walker: It’s not about the transaction, it’s about the relationship. We’ve got three other projects working in that organization, and they like us. This one just wasn’t right for them, hence not for us either.

Charlie: So how do you think about this business?

Sean: We don’t think of it as skills-based, and we don’t think of it as project-based. We have to have domain expertise – industry knowledge, networks and so on – but we equally well have to work the relationship. The most important thing we do – and often the hardest – is to approach this business strategically.

Charlie: Can you say more about what that means to Bowdoin?

Sean: It means some of what you write about; you never do a deal or a job or a project – you develop an ongoing relationship, which contains jobs along the way.

When we fail, it’s almost always because we started to follow our own agenda, falling in love with the results, the process. When we get it right is when we remember to listen and learn; to be a human capital advisor, helping them to build their organization.

And the funny thing is, the more you focus on the strategy, the better the tactical results happen to get.

Charlie: How do you deal with the fact that many clients are seeking you out as transactors, looking for a candidate, measuring your lead lists?

Sean: Some clients are like that, some are not, and some can evolve along with us. The client we just lost that project for is a great client – their sales guy wants us to partner with them to create a new organization.

And clients, just like us, can learn to behave more strategically. People can be very short-sighted, but if you take the time to understand the person you’ve got on the other end of the line, if you can get some one to be intimate and speak to you about their fears, you can solve not only the immediate issue in front of them, but you can understand both them and the company better. Then you can get to the core. And then it flows.

Charlie: You said it’s hard to keep focused; what are some of the pitfalls, or temptations, along the way?

Sean:  Oh gee, let’s see. Goals and targets, if you’re not careful. Clients that want to treat you transactionally, price-haggle, are short-term focused. An industry that, more often than not, thinks opportunistically–hopping from opportunity to opportunity.

Charlie: Where does trust fit here?

Sean: It’s all around. It’s the business, if you do it right. The fact that people let you in and give you that trust, it makes it all worthwhile.

Charlie: What do you say to those who say, “Yeah, that’s nice, but you’ve got to make money.”

Sean: They are so missing the point. This way of doing business is 100% more profitable – and it can make your job much easier. Because once you’ve proven yourself, the business comes back to you–you’re not always jumping from opening to opening.

If you take the time up front, it pays off all along the line, across multiple decision-makers. When we fall of the strategic trust wagon, that’s when our profitability goes wrong.

Charlie: Sean, it’s been a pleasure. Good luck, but I bet you don’t need it.

Sean: Thanks Charlie, it’s been a pleasure likewise.

 

Trust Tip Video: The Two Most Trust Destroying Words

What are the two most trust-destroying words? An interesting enough question by itself; but even more interesting is just why these two words carry such toxic power.

To learn both the words, and the source of their negative effect, listen to this week’s Trust Tips Video: The Two Most Trust-Destroying Words.

And for more information on this week’s Trust Tip Topic, you might also enjoy reading this blogpost.

If you like the Trust Tip Video series, and you like our occasional eBooks, why not subscribe to make sure you get both? Every 2-4 weeks we’ll send you selected high-quality content. To subscribe, click here, or go to http://bit.ly/trust-subscribe

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Many Trusted Advisor programs now offer CPE credits.  Please call Tracey DelCamp for more information at 856-981-5268–or drop us a note @ info@trustedadvisor.com.

Story Time: He Who Eats With Chopsticks Wins

Our Story Time series brings you real, personal examples from business life that shed light on specific ways to lead with trust. Our last story proved that trust is personal.  But what does it take to really close a deal?

A New Anthology

When it comes to trust-building, stories are a powerful tool for both learning and change. Our new 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.

Today’s story is excerpted from our chapter on the dynamics of influence. It vividly demonstrates how non-rational factors—like respect for tradition—can make or break a sale.

From the Front Lines: Decisions Aren’t Just Rational

Russell Feingold, now of Black & Veatch, recalls an early-career sales win.

“The client was a large electric utility in Hong Kong, and the project was complex. My company invested considerable time preparing our proposal, responding to questions, and meeting with the client face to face in Hong Kong. We won the project.

“However, it was during our working lunches that I really won the client’s trust—by my proficiency with using chopsticks. Quite simply, my clients appreciated my respect for their tradition, when even their own children were turning to Western ways of eating. To this day I believe my ability to use chopsticks not only ingratiated me with our client for the remainder of the project, but was a deciding factor in our being selected in the first place.”

—Russell Feingold (Black & Veatch)

What’s the most unexpected factor that’s won you a job?

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Read more stories about trust: