Trust Me, Damn It!


If you want to influence the behavior of others, to get people to do what you want them to do – you have three options. Your first option is to establish a type of dictatorial control over the person or people you wish to influence. Fear and pain are typically associated with this type of engagement, as is bad karma for the dictator. The second option is to incentivize them with money or candy. According to Daniel Pink, and parents, this strategy works for a little while but soon backfires in surround sound.

The third option, and arguably the best option, is to gain the trust of the people you wish to influence. To lead, rather than to drag or to drug your people. You can establish trust in a variety of ways.

  • You can be the expert at the table, the one with all the answers to their questions.
  • You can be the action-man, the one who always shows up and does whatever it takes to overcome a challenge.
  • You can be the mediator, the voice of reason who is able to calm the waters and restore peace.
  • You can be the guy or gal everyone likes. He’s such a nice guy.

There are probably a few other ways, but you get the drift. So, here’s the trick – each of these personality types works to establish trust by maximizing (1) the number of interactions that (2) are authentic and respectful and (3) work to satisfy mutual wants and needs.

Each interaction – in person, by writing, through conversation by phone, etc. – provides a unique opportunity to strengthen a relationship and build trust. Not all interactions have to be perfectly pleasant to establish trust but they must all be authentic and respectful and work to satisfy mutual wants and needs. Life is messy and that’s OK. It’s simple, the more interactions, the more trust.

Leaders who operate from a position of fear, rather than strength, will tend to isolate themselves and more so when confronted with a challenge. In their mind, limiting information, communication, and opportunities to interact with others means fewer opportunities to say the wrong thing, to make the wrong decision, to provide information that can be used to fuel discontent – a discontent that a fear-based leader believes she is ill equipped to resolve successfully.

To make matters worse, a fear-based leader will not be practiced and therefore not skilled in successful interactions. When faced with a challenge, a fear-based leader will have a limited network of people/experts/colleagues/employees to work with to help resolve the challenge. Resolutions, if any, lack insight, applicability, buy-in and sustainability.

In contrast, a strength-based leader will be skilled in the art of successful interactions and communication. He will have developed a deep and wide network of trusted associates to call upon and will understand the value that trust plays not only in leading but also in solving problems and addressing challenges. A strength based leader’s first step when confronted with a challenge will be to interact, to gather information, to communicate with his network – his experts, his mediators, the gals who show up, and his nice guys – as well as the people he is trying to influence. The result is a strong resolution that is adopted quickly through direct buy-in of the group and is sustained over time.

The takeaway – when faced with a challenge, connect more not less. And to prevent challenges, connect more not less.