Getting clients is about building relationships and that requires building trust.
But is Trust the Glue in Your Business Relationships*?
I believe it is!
We are constantly reminded that people hire consultants, freelancers, and independent workers that they trust. But what is trust? Or a trusted business relationship?
As I put pen to paper for this blog article, I remembered a conversation I had years ago with a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) partner. After meeting with a client, the partner asked for a few minutes of my time. He was concerned that “I was a little too honest.” He felt I needed to be more aware of what it took to maintain a positive relationship with a client.
I apologized to the client, however the client explained to both of us that it was refreshing to work with someone who was “honest and blunt” because blunt worked best in their organization. She had no concerns what-so-ever and it was her trust in me that led to add-on work.
That day I learned several valuable lessons about trusted relationships.
The first being that I wasn’t too honest; however, my style was too rough. I’m softer now when presenting difficult messages, at least I am most of the time, but I’ve never stopped being honest. Trusting relationships require honesty and being able to deliver the bad news in a manner that does not offend. It was that incident and additional conversations with the PwC partner that helped me realize the words I used impacted my credibility and actions my reliability.
Overtime, my professional and personal experiences as well as books such as The Trusted Advisor by David Maister and The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey impacted how I regard building trusted relationships. Each author’s view on how to earn trust differs slightly but there are common themes starting with the observation that trust is multi-faceted and balances several essential qualities.
When someone asks me what I mean by a trust relationship, I fall back on my earlier training and, just like the authors, talk about the multi-faceted aspects, necessary qualities, and the balancing act of a trusting relationship. The balancing act begins with three common everyday behaviors-talking or the use of words and images to convey a thought; actions and how we behavior in a situation; and our feelings or our ability to be true to ourselves and others. I continue by discussing the related essential qualities for each behavior because it is the combination of the all three behaviors and the related qualities that enable a person to build and maintain trust.
Here is a quick comparison.
- Words and Images — Credibility and Competence
- Actions — Reliability and Integrity
- Feelings — Genuine and Authenticity
Words and Images
Published articles, diagrams, speeches, and your point of view highlight your knowledge helping you build credibility and competence. Words and images assist you with being known as the go-to person but that does not mean there is a trusted relationship between you and another person. Have you ever been in a situation where someone has strongly recommended a person but after you met them you were not sure? You were uncomfortable but you couldn’t put your finger on the reason. Maybe it was because you were unsure of their reliability or you didn’t feel they were genuine.
Actions is about doing the right thing. It is about making commitments and not only delivering on them when you say you will but exceeding expectations. You build confidence with the other person by being reliable. Not only do you do what you say you are going to do showing reliability but you do it with integrity consistently displaying your values through your actions.
Feelings are about being honest with yourself as well as others. It requires a consultant to put themselves in the other person’s shoes and thinking about how you would like to be treated before speaking and acting. Feelings require a consultant to empathize, be genuine, and authentic with the other person. It you make a mistake, you admit. If something you did was not quite right, you admit that as well.
Building trusted relationships takes time and effort.
Successful trusted relationships require a consultant to be aware of their behaviors and related qualities. As Stephen Covey (not Stephen M.R. Covey) said “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”
Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter.
Please feel free to leave your comments about building trusted relationships. How do you build trusted relationships?
Laura Burford, Strategic Advisor and Business Consultant for Consultants
*This is a spin on Stephen Covey’s quote. “Trust is the glue of life.”