This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.
Most of you know by now that I’m a debunk-er of conventional business wisdom, at least when it comes to managing relationships. My latest target: the advice we get to “follow their lead” (“they” being clients). When it comes to trust-building, this can be a really bad idea.
Why? Because sometimes their lead will take us to a place that’s too low risk for the kind of relationships that we all want (them as well as us). Trust-building requires personal risk-taking. Mutually rewarding relationships are the prize that advisors and clients alike get for taking those risks—a prize that will elude us if we don’t sometimes nudge our clients a little.
Work I did last week perfectly illustrates this point, when I had an opportunity to interview three people who are clients of a firm for which I am soon leading a program. The purpose was to get feedback to share with workshop participants on how they’re perceived as trusted (or not) by their clients.
These interviews were conducted virtually and across continents. English was their second language. The option to connect via audio as well as video was provided in the body of the calendar invite, using my teleconferencing software. While I’m always surprised by how relatively few people are inclined towards using video technology, I make sure people are clear they’re invited to connect with me that way if only to watch me on their screen. At least that way they get more nonverbal cues from me, and a better sense of who I am.
So … here’s what happened, which led me to confirm my “don’t always follow their lead” conclusion:
I actually can’t decide if the greatest gains were made with #1 or #2—#1 because I offered the invitation and maybe even planted a seed. Maybe the next time he’s given an opportunity to do something a little differently, by me or anyone else, he’ll accept. Maybe that will make possible something that wasn’t otherwise possible.
If you know me as a debunk-er, you also know I’m not saying you should never follow their lead. Sometimes it’s the absolute right thing to do. Trustworthiness gets built when you’re respectful of their boundaries, and when you show you’re really listening.
And sometimes the invitation to stretch matters just as much, both for them and for you, as the willingness to accept the invitation and the results you therefore get.
This week, look for at least five opportunities to invite others to follow your lead on something, video-teleconferencing or otherwise. What do you learn—about you and about them?
Read up on building trust in virtual teams, from our friends at Trusted Advisor Associates, or familiarize yourself with the importance of familiarity when it comes to building trust at a distance in Chapter 27 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.