I saw this tweet this morning, and watched some of the TED content in the playlist. TED is often great stuff. It got me thinking about trust, and while the examples are more on the macro scale in this instance, I realized it’s probably one of the most important currencies we deal in. You are extending trust to Uber on a large scale, but to your individual driver on a micro scale. AirBnB is promising that you’ll be happy, but really you are trusting a person, and they are trusting YOU! How do these new companies, in the sharing economy, the trust economy do it?
I remember last week, I was leaving Starbucks, where I often sit and work, write, etc, and I ran into the office manager for one of the law firms we work with. I’ve known her for years, personally and professionally, and we have a friendly relationship. I asked how her kids were, she asked about mine, we talked about some shared acquaintances.
She mentioned that her firm had recently added a couple of new attorneys, and told me their names. We work with many firms in the area, and I had in fact heard of one of them. We talked about the addition, what it meant for her firm, etc etc.
In the past, her firm has been opposing counsel on matters involving some of our other clients, and we’ve had other potential conflicts between non-law firm clients using our legal clients as counsel. We regularly have clients that may have personal or professional conflicts with other clients. Business divorces are sometimes as bad a marital divorces, and business owners are often very invested emotionally. Confused yet?
Here’s the point. We must approach every day, every interaction, from a position of trust. When we talk to clients, when we talk about clients, and maybe most importantly, when we talk about ex-clients. Every interaction we have is a reflection of our professionalism. Sometimes it’s difficult. Sometimes we can’t help but complain about a situation, and situations often involve people, but if we are sitting at a client site, and take a call from a co-worker, and make a joke at the expense of a client, what is the expectation of those observing that call? What if the owner of the business we are sitting at overhears our innocent jibe? They would have no choice but to assume that we talk about them in the same way.
We work hard to build respect with our clients, and within our team, but if we slip, it can be undone. Fairly or not, a single comment taken out of context can cost us important reputation, important trust. How will that client feel about us the next time our name comes up? How confident will they be in referring us? Will they trust the next important recommendation we make for their business?
What about employees? What about ex-employees? How do you talk about your employees, your co-workers, your boss? As a business owner, I’ve had to hire and fire people. It may be the worst part of my job. I hate letting someone go, regardless of the reason why. Even if that person is costing me money or reputation, it’s still hard to do. I’ve been frustrated with employees, and I’ve made the mistake of complaining about it to other employees. Not just a discussion about a problem with an employee, and how do address a solution, but plain old complaining. If your team members don’t trust that you’ll respect them, before, during, and after their employment, what motivation is there for them to trust you at all? If your co-workers hear you disrespecting and complaining about your team, what do they suppose you say about them when they are out of the room?
What would your employees or your co-workers say about you? What do you want them to say about you? What would your vendors say about you? Your clients? Do they trust you?
Take a minute and think about the last vendor sitting in your office. Do you trust them? Would you trust them with sensitive business data? Would you recommend them to your peers? If the answer is no, I challenge you to address the reason why not. Can you approach them and ask them to help you restore trust? I would bet that they would love the opportunity to do so. I bet that they would love to know exactly how they lost your trust, or if they have not yet earned it, how they could. Tell them how.