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When it comes to trust, luck has nothing to do with it

Bob Bailey Bob BaileyOct 29, 2019

When it comes to trust, luck has nothing to do with it

As a leader, building trust with your teams — and mentoring them to build trust with your clients — can be a difficult task. Building trust is a fragile thing. It needs to be planted and nurtured over time to truly blossom. There’s a tool I discovered that’s helped me, and I want to share that with you today.

From consumers to brands and brands to vendors, it’s shocking how low the bar is set for trust in business. I’d rather be a $9 million business that puts value in trust than a $99 million business that doesn’t. As competitive as I am, I’ve never wanted to be a part of or work with an organization that puts self-interest and winning over trust and ambition.

We’re living in a crazy world of mistrust — politicians, social media, “fake news”….It’s hard to know whom to trust. And listen up, brands — It’s not us!

More than half of people don’t trust businesses, and over two-thirds don’t trust business leaders to tell the truth (2019 Edelman Trust Barometer).

Trust is a simple concept, but not easy to achieve.

Trust has always been the most important thing to me, so, naturally, I want to surround myself with a team that shares my values. I’ve sent lengthy emails, given passionate speeches and made it very clear why it’s critical that trust be at the forefront of my team’s actions, presentations and mannerisms.

Yet sometimes that’s not enough. If you want your team to believe in something, to truly embody your company’s values, you have to show them something provable. Reading The Trusted Advisor by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green and Robert M. Galford was a clarifying moment for me. I now had a framework and provable data to bring back to my team that went far beyond my personal beliefs or anecdotes.

Creating trust isn’t luck. It’s a deliberate set of actions — a formula, if you will. Credibility plus reliability plus intimacy over self-interest equals trust. This book takes the topic of trust and makes it actionable and teachable. And if you can teach it, it becomes scalable for the business.

Let’s talk about self-interest for a little bit. Self-interest leads to all kinds of negative outcomes — It can cost you business, your job and your reputation. Once you overpromise or selectively omit a valuable piece of information, you’re walking a thin line between overstating and lying. Nine times out of 10, you may win the approval of your client, but the moment your self-interest comes into play, it disintegrates the goodwill you’ve worked so hard to create.

It only takes one time, one person who knows you’re not telling the truth to erode all trust you’ve built. At this point, they’re not going to care enough about you to give a call or email to say, “You’re fired.” Instead, they start to fade away, leaving you wondering what you did wrong. The thing about telling the truth is you’ll never have to worry about what you said. Self-interest is the killer of trust — plain and simple.

Still, you may be reading this, saying, “Doesn’t it also depend on the person you are serving?” The answer is yes because many times, perception is reality. You can do your best, be honorable, tell the truth — and yet in the end, it’s 100 percent up to them. It often depends on the lens of the other party — If you’re someone who expects to find trust in good people when you meet them for the first time, chances are you will. If you expect to find a roomful of liars and cheats, well, chances are you will.

Whether it’s a business decision, hiring a new team member or giving a client presentation, I try to keep trust at the center of everything I do. From my experience, I’ve learned that strategy is everything, but trust is everything else.

At your service,
Bob Bailey


The editorial team at Higher Order are big fans of The Trusted Advisor, which lays out in detail the Trust Equation and its use. It has been a valuable tool for us and has helped to level up our leadership. For more information visit:

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