There is one thing that will, without a doubt keep you from being successful in your career. If your coworkers and bosses don’t have trust in you, you will be like Sisyphus, pushing your career up the mountain only to see it slip back down.
Mahatma Gandhi said it very well, “The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything he does becomes tainted.”
A lack of trust is something you can’t afford in your career. And, the thing is, trust is something other’s get to decide. Do they trust you or not? Of course, it is based on your actions, but the decision to place trust is still theirs.
So, how do you increase your chances of ending up in a place where your coworkers and bosses make a decision to place their trust in you? On this episode, we are going to talk through the different components of trust. By understanding the components, you can determine if there are any levers you can pull that may help you improve your trustworthiness in other’s eyes.
A lot of the basis for this is based on the book “The Speed of Trust – The One Thing that Change Everything” by Stephen MR Covey.
How Do You Define Trust?
First, think about what it is that you consider when you decide to place your trust in others. Think about someone you trust. What makes you trust them? Now, think about someone you don’t trust. What makes you lack trust in them? What would they need to do to build a reputation with you that would lead to you trusting them?
Even the most trustworthy person you can think of can lose your trust in a given situation. It is hard to make an argument that Mother Theresa was untrustworthy.
But, would you trust her to fix your car? No.
Would you trust her to treat your cancer? No.
Trustworthiness is relative because one component of trust is competence. In your career, your level of trustworthiness can not be separated from your competence.
Obviously, you are not going to ever gain competency in all areas. Nobody is. This is why trust is relative. Your goal is to build your competency in your particular area of focus. If you find yourself struggling to gain your bosses trust, you should consider whether or not the lack of trust is driven by a competency issue.
Competency is made up of: capability, results, and your track record. It takes all three to build trust.
Capability is your skill level for a given area. If you are in finance, it is your skill level understanding financial models, data modeling, your ability to manipulate a spreadsheet. If you are in customer service, it is your ability to solve problems, to stay calm under pressure, and to learn your company’s product or service well enough to answer questions from customers. If you are in sales, it is knowing how to read the room, how to build a business case, and how to listen for what your prospective client really needs.
Whatever role you are in – what you need to do is understand the skills that are core for your area and determine how you increase these so that you become known as competent.
By the way, if you are a Scale My Skills subscriber, you’ve got a guide in your inbox that will walk you through this process.
We don’t trust people who don’t give us results. You need to be seen as someone who gets things done.
Keep your promises.
Do what you say you will do.
Under promise and over deliver.
Are you someone who delivers results? More importantly, are you someone others see as delivering results?
We build trust by delivering results consistency over a long period of time. Trust deepens each time you deliver, and you build a track record that becomes a foundation of trust with someone. We will give someone who breaks our trust the benefit of the doubt if they have a track record with us. We see the episode as out of character for them and we think to ourselves “this isn’t like Jim – he usually delivers on his promises. Something must be going on.” Someone without a track record won’t get that same level of benefit.
So, one side of the trust equation is your competency – your skill level, the results you achieve, and your track record over time. If you feel like you aren’t getting the respect you deserve at work, take a good hard look at these areas and see if there is something you can work on.
The second side of the trust equation is character. Whereas competencies are situation, character is constant. Character is made up of integrity, motive, and intent.
Integrity is honestly, congruence, humility, and courage. Are you telling the truth and leaving the right impression. Are you acting in harmony with your values and beliefs? Are you concerned more about what is right than about being right? And, do you have the courage to do what is right even when it is hard?
Having integrity is foundational to building trust. Can you imagine trusting someone who has no integrity? It is table stakes. Without integrity, it’s a non-starter.
Intent is also important when it comes to trust. Intent is your reason for doing something. When your intent is in the right place, but you screw up anyway, people are likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. They won’t penalize you as much for the violation. Its like you just got off with a warning instead of a speeding ticket. Having a positive intent is character building.
Character is also influenced by your agenda. People will determine whether or not they can trust you by whether they feel your agenda is self serving or seeking mutual benefit. How often do you operate with an open agenda versus one where you maybe have an alternative motive? When you catch yourself in alternative motive mode, remind yourself that you are not acting in accordance with building trust.
And finally, character is built on your behavior. Behavior is simply the manifestation of your intent and agenda. People can see when your behavior is not trustworthy. Behaving out of alignment with intent is a sure fire indicator of a hidden agenda.
Every single one of us has a lot to learn. You may be an expert at something, but a complete novice in another area. Or, maybe you have only been out of school for a short time and you are pretty much a novice at everything. So, whatever your situation, you are going to be put into a scenario where you are not the most knowledgeable person on the topic, and you are going to need to rely on the advice or feedback of someone else. When this happens, one of the most important things you can do is accurately assess how much weight you should give to their advice.
Assess How Much Weight to Give Advice
How do you do that? By considering how much experience the person has and what their track record is on the subject. So, someone who has been working in sales for 20 years and has won top sales person over and over is very reliable when it comes to topics related to sales. But, you may not want to take tax advice from them. For tax advice, you will go to someone with a CPA who has 20 years of experience doing tax returns.
It seems pretty obvious when I use those examples, but in day-to-day situations, it isn’t always so clear cut.
If you want to improve your ability to make good decisions, you need to evaluate your decision making process. When you make a decision, who are you relying on? Are you taking into consideration the advice you are being given weighed against the person’s experience and expertise? Not every person is right for advice on every topic. Someone who is super smart in one area can still give you horrible advice in another area.
You must be able to distinguish the person’s believability when it comes to the topic. What most people do is they give equal weight to everyone in the room. Or, they may give weight based on likeability or how long they’ve known someone. But, even in those cases, they are usually doing it unconsciously.
Consider Experience and Track Record
When you are trying to make a decision about something and you are involving others, you must consider their experience and track record when weighing the impact their opinion will have on your decision.
When you are considering someone’s advice, ask yourself:
This 3rd point is really important. A lot of people have opinions they are willing to share, but when you dig into it, you find out it is not based on any personal experience. Many times, it is based on something they’ve heard someone else say. A person’s believability is tied to first-hand experience. If they don’t have 1st hand experience, then they aren’t the right person for you to be getting advice from.
Separating your respect for someone from the fact that they aren’t believable in certain areas is an important skill. In order to do that, you need to ask yourself if they have a good explanation for their advice. If not, you should consider how much weight you give it.
What Role Are You Playing?
The other thing to think about when making a decision based on other people’s advice is the role that you are playing in this specific instance. When considering your relative experience to the other person’s – are you a student, a teacher, or a peer?
If the other person is relatively more experienced than you on the topic, then you are in the role of student and you should be asking questions in order to gain understanding.
If the other person is relatively less experienced than you on the topic, then you are in the role of teaching. You should be explaining the process and experience that led you to your conclusion.
And, if you and the other person are relative peers – have a similar level of experience, then your role is to debate. To balance open-minded exploration of the experiences that led your colleague to his opinions while also being assertive in explaining your own experiences and opinions.
If you have signed up for Scale My Skills, our weekly newsletter, you received a matrix to help you assess your role and the actions you should take when you find yourself in each of the roles.
We all have a portfolio of skills that are used in combination to provide us with our living. Each person listening to this podcast makes their living in a different way, using a different combination of talents, selling them for different rates to different buyers – otherwise known as your employer.
Have you ever thought of your skills as a portfolio? A portfolio is more often associated with investments or creative careers than business careers, but the reality is – we each build our portfolio of skills.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines portfolio as a portable showcase of your talents. I guess in the traditional sense, our portfolio is our resume or CV. The strategy behind a portfolio is that you are typically trying to put it together in a way that maximizes its value. For an investor, they are picking the investments that they feel will give them the best return, but that is also diversified. The difference between an investor’s view of their portfolio and your view of your skills portfolio is likely that they are always thinking of it strategically, and you likely haven’t.
What I want to do today is to help you think of your skills in terms of a portfolio and to become more strategic about how you are thinking about them and deploying them. I’m going to give you a very concrete tool for thinking through your portfolio in a way that helps you decide what skills you should invest time in.
If you are signed up for Scale My Skills, our weekly newsletter, the tool is already in your inbox. Otherwise, if you’d like to get a copy of this tool, you can git it for free by signing up for Scale My Skills.
The tool that we are going to talk about is a matrix. On one axis is the question “what skills do I have or am I growing?” On the 2nd axis is the questions “are my skills well received in the marketplace?”
What skills do I have or am I growing?
For every skill you have, you rank it along a continuum based on your level of expertise. Skills that are your strengths go on the high end of the spectrum, and skills that are not your strengths go on the low end of the spectrum.
How well received are these skills in the marketplace?
The market sets different prices for different skills. Understanding the intersection of your skills and how the marketplace values them can give you great insight into the best way you can maximize your portfolio.
So, along the 2nd axis, you are going to rank the skills you have based on the going market rate. Skills that the market doesn’t value go on the low end of the spectrum and skills that they market highly values go on the high end of the spectrum.
Plot them in the Skills Portfolio Matrix
Ok, now that you’ve assessed your skills and what the market will pay for those skills, you are going to plot them in a matrix.
For those skills that you are not good at and the marketplace doesn’t pay well for – there is no reason for you to put effort into developing the skill. At least, not if your goal is to get paid for it.
For those skills that you are really good at but the marketplace doesn’t value highly, these can become sustaining skills. Think of them as an investor thinks of passive income. You may not put a lot of effort into it because the return is low, but the fact that you receive some benefit still has value to you.
For those skills that are a strength and are valued highly, you should consider making additional or continued investment in order to get the most out of the market’s willingness to pay. You should also make sure you are highlighting this skill on your LinkedIn profile and resume or CV. This is the skill that you want to market for yourself.
The point of the exercise is to help you identify the skills that make sense to invest in. Once you’ve identified them, it is a separate step to determine how they fit into your overall goals and priorities. What the matrix tells you about the skills that fall into the high value/ high expertise quadrant is that the investment in them will pay dividends if you decide to pursue them.
And, for those skills that fall into the quadrant for high market value but low skill, these are the more risky investments. Since you aren’t sure the skills is something that can become a strength, the amount of investment you need to make is higher. And, because you are farther away from the expertise, there is more opportunity for failure. You can get into it and find out you don’t have the aptitude. You can get into it and find out you don’t enjoy it. You can get into it and find out it is nothing like you thought it would be. So, it not only requires a bigger investment, it has a higher probability of failure. But, none of those things mean you shouldn’t do it. The payoff at the end may be big enough to be worth the risk.
Again, the point of the matrix is to help you identify the relative risk / reward and then it is up to you to take the next step.
So, I hope I’ve inspired you to take a look at your skills from a portfolio view. When you look at your skill portfolio in total, you want a good balance of skills that are highly developed and highly valued and skills that, if not so highly valued are not costing you in other ways. As you consider where to invest your time and money, you are thinking about the impact to your overall skills portfolio.
Our objective on People Move Organizations is to make you successful in your career whatever your definition of success looks like. One of the things that will make you stand out from your peers is your ability to improve your customer’s experience with your company. Even if you are in a role where you don’t interact with your customer directly, you should always have customer experience in the back of your mind.
If you’d like to get a basic introduction to the concept of customer experience, check out episode 19.
You may have heard of the problem solving technique of asking Why 5 times. This technique helps you dig deeper into a problem by ensuring that you don’t accept the first answer to a problem. The idea is that if you keep asking why five times, you’ll dig deep enough to really understand the root cause of an issue.
I took that basic concept and adjusted it to address the idea of customer experience. I was looking for a way to help all employees within a company keep customer experience in the back of their mind as they contemplated a change to their process. I originally posted this framework as a blog post on LinkedIn in 2016.
I call the framework the 5 How’s.
There are 5 How Questions that you should always consider if you are going to implement a change to your process. Alternatively, if you have a process that you suspect could be improved, you could use these 5 questions to help you assess if a change is needed.
How is this change going to impact my customer?
Many times, when we think about making a change, we spend time thinking about the impacts to us, or our team, or maybe, even other internal stakeholders. But, have you thought about the impact to your customer? Depending on your role, the impact may be obvious or it may be very indirect and not so obvious. But, either way, you should really spend some time thinking about it. Having a point of view about this, at least ensures you’ve thought about it and eliminates the risk that you just moved ahead without a second thought.
How will this change look from my customer’s standpoint?
Again, you are likely to naturally think about the change from an internal perspective, but be thoughtful about stepping outside your organization and looking at it from the customer’s perspective. Are they likely to see it as an improvement? Will they think it makes you easier to do business with? Will they see it as something you are taking away from them?
Spend some time considering this so that you can determine if you need to take any specific action as part of the change.
How will my customer respond to the change?
If you’ve thought about how the change looks from the customer’s perspective, then you can also take this next step and think about how they might respond. Of course, this can be very tricky because the same exact change can produce different responses from different customers. You may have one customer who is fairly easy-going and just naturally accepts it and another who is high maintenance that throws an all-out temper tantrum. This is where knowing your customer will come in handy because you may be able to assess pretty accurately what the different likely responses will be. But, even if you don’t know you clients well enough to make a specific assessment, you can make some educated guesses.
However, by spending the time to think through the possible responses to the change, you will be able to come up with a plan for how to deal with the different scenarios.
How will my customer find out about the change?
Your answer to the previous questions can help determine how big of a deal this one is. If you’ve determined that, for example, the change is likely to impact your client very little, then how they find out about it is not really that big of a deal. But, if they will see the change as a reduction in service and they are likely to respond very negatively, the way they find out about it becomes a lot more important. So, think about how they will find out about it and make sure it is in alignment with the rest of your assessment.
How will my customer give feedback about the change?
One of the key tenants of good change management is to ensure there is a way for people to provide feedback. A feedback loop is absolutely necessary. A feedback loop doesn’t mean only a way to complain. It also means a way to ask questions or get clarifications. So, make sure you’ve thought about the feedback loop that the customer will have. It may be as simple as providing a contact name or as complex as building out an elaborate website, but what you want to make sure you do is give the right feedback loop for the situation.
Asking How 5 times will ensure you have a solid plan to address the impacts to your customer of a change you are making or are part of.
If you are not in a customer facing role, you should still ask the questions. Better to ask them and determine the answer to all questions is ‘no impact’ than to not ask them at all and find out the hard way that you missed something.
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