Build Trust Now More Than Ever!

Trust me, just trust me. How often do we say that in our daily encounters with our customers, and even friends and family?

We know trust, especially in these demanding times, is essential to building business, productivity, profitability and skills. But can you define the attributes of a trusted advisor, and how can you adopt them to power up your professional and personal relationships?

David Maister, the guru of professional services management, believes you can and describes the attributes of trusted advisers in his famous book, The Trusted Advisor.

Maister even shows these attributes in action via a real-life story about a young Boston attorney, Peter Biagetti, who represents a client suing his mother (yes mother!) over a development deal. Talk about a testy situation, where trust can make or break you.

Biagetti empathizes with the client about this difficult situation on the courthouse steps, naturally demonstrating many of these Maister “trust” attributes (we’ll pick up Biagetti story later):

* Have an instinct to focus on the client rather than themselves and have:

  • Enough competence to listen without prejudging.
  • Enough curiosity to inquire without supposing an answer.
  • Willingness to see the client as co-equal in a joint journey.
  • Enough ego strength to subordinate their own ego.

* Focus on the client as an individual, not just as a person fulfilling a role.

* Believe that a continued focus on problem definition and resolution is more important than technical or content mastery.

* Show a strong “competitive” drive aimed not at competitors, but at constantly finding new ways to give greater service to the client.

* Consistently focus on doing the next right thing, rather than on aiming for specific outcomes.

* Are motivated more by an internalized drive to do the right thing than by their own organization’s rewards or dynamics.

* View methodologies, models, techniques and business processes as means to an end. They are useful if they work, and are to be discarded if they don’t. The test is effectiveness for this client.

* Believe that success in client relationships is tied to the accumulation of quality experiences. As a result, they seek out (rather than avoid) client-contact experiences, and take personal risk with clients rather than avoiding them.

* Believe that both selling and serving are aspects of professionalism. Both are about proving to clients that you are dedicated to helping them with their issues.

* Believe that there is a distinction between a personal life and a private life, but that both lives are very personal (e.g., human). They recognize that refined skills in dealing with other people are critical in business and in personal life. The two worlds are often more alike than they are different, and for some, they overlap to an extraordinary extent.

So, does trust yield anything other than just a warm and fuzzy feeling in the heart?

Well, Peter’s compassionate conversation prompted his client to reconsider and then agree to a settlement right on the courthouse steps. Peter’s “trustworthy” attitude and actions yielded a long and prosperous professional and personal relationship with his client and his organizations.

Peter has become a very successful and respected attorney, representing many of his Mintz Levin firm’s valued clients and also managing its various domestic and global operations.

I switched to Peter’s first name because he is actually a friend who exemplifies these attributes in our friendship and as a husband, father and brother.

So, thanks, Peter and David, for showing us how building trust fortifies and grows relationships and business.