In our previous blog, we introduced the concept of building trust in working relationships. We mentioned that that there are four elements which, according to the research that sits behind The Trusted Advisor, contribute to forming the Trust Equation. Last time we posted we positioned the first two factors – Credibility and Reliability. This month we’ll complete the jigsaw by exploring the remaining elements.
The third factor is the level of INTIMACY in the relationship. No, not that kind of intimacy! In this context, intimacy is about creating an emotional connection, demonstrating that you care about the other’s issues. Nobody’s suggesting that you need to be on first name terms with every one of your clients’ pets…..though on reflection, in some cases that might help!
Intimacy is all about demonstrating that you don’t just see your customers as a source of revenue, or your partners and suppliers as a means to an end, but as real people with issues and challenges they face every day, just like you. I was fortunate to be on the receiving end of building trust through intimacy soon after setting up Flame. I was asked to pitch for some work with GE (General Electric). Having a client with GE’s profile in the portfolio would be a massive boost to any start up, not to mention the recurring revenue this opportunity looked like it could generate over multiple years. Long story short, the project was being led on the GE side by a guy named Paul. Paul is based in the US, and was the overall lead for the programme with responsibility for the programme design, recruitment of external partners and rollout. Good news for me, once I’d had an initial chat with Paul and submitted my proposal he got back to me some weeks later to confirm that I, along with three others would be brought in to deliver the programme internationally. Brilliant news! There was just the small matter of us attending a certification process as part of a pilot in Houston a couple of months later to rubber stamp the deal. With the Houston dates safely logged in my diary I started to think that maybe Flame would survive the first 12 months after all! Then a major problem arose. Around two weeks before Houston my wife took ill. It became clear that she would require surgery, and wouldn’t you just know it – the surgery date clashed with the week in Houston. With the prospect of divorce not a viable option, I knew I had to call Paul to break the news that I wouldn’t be able to make it to Houston. Bear in mind that with Paul being based in the US, we’d never met face-to-face. In fact, we’d only ever spoken on the phone twice before. As I sat on the end of the line with the phone ringing, I’d fully prepared myself for Paul to say something along the lines of ‘Dan, I’m so sorry to hear that news. Unfortunately though we don’t have any flexibility around the certification process so we’ll just have to go with the three other externals we’ve lined up’. Paul picked the phone up. After I’d explained the situation there was a pause on the end of the line for what felt an eternity, before he responded. ‘Dan, we will do whatever it takes to get you certified. You need to focus on what’s important right now – that’s your wife and your family. Leave it with me, we’ll find a solution’. Wow! I liked Paul before but how do I feel about him now?!?! He’d suddenly sky-rocketed in my estimations. But it didn’t end there. The night before my wife’s surgery, whilst Paul is in the midst of the pilot in Houston I receive an email. ‘Dan, just wanted you to know that you and your wife are in our thoughts. Wishing you both all the best for tomorrow, from the team here in Houston’. Amazing. How do I NOW feel about Paul? By this point I’m ready to walk over hot coals for the guy! For me, Paul’s behaviours were a fabulous example of someone demonstrating that they care. Intimacy in action.
The final factor identified is how others interpret your motives in interacting with them – your SELF-ORIENTATION. To what extent are you prepared to suspend your own agenda to enable them to achieve theirs? Do your customers believe that you are there to help them achieve their goals, to overcome their issues? Or do they think your primary aim is to hit your own targets for the month, with them a vehicle in that process? If we want to be trusted, we need to be perceived by others as selfless rather than selfish. Do others believe that you are genuinely there to help?
So there we have it, Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy and Self-Orientation. I’m not suggesting it’s a perfect science but I truly believe that if we start by getting those four factors right, we’ll be well on our way to securing the engagement and buy-in of others.