This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

The Magnificent SevenYou know what it’s like, when you happily run into someone you haven’t seen in a while? I saw a guy named John Dunn recently and it was like that.

Seeing John reminded me of the interviews I once did with him and six other trust-building role models (collectively called the Magnificent Seven). They each graciously gave me insider views into the challenges, successes, and make-it-or-break-it moments of everyday leaders striving to lead with trust.

I think having role models is important, especially when it comes to kicking conventional business wisdom to the curb. Role models give us the courage to be different. As in, “If he can do it, I can do it.”

John is an executive-level consultant. When I interviewed him, I was struck by lessons he shared from his years as a bed and breakfast owner—all of which hold true in his consulting life. Here’s a little piece of John’s wisdom: “My life philosophy is there’s plenty of everything—customers, money, everything.” John spoke more in our interview about the bottom-line impact of real collaboration.

Here are more pearls of wisdom from my other six interviewees:

  • “You don’t have to have the answer, and you definitely don’t have to be the smartest one in the room.” That’s from Ralph Catillo, an Account Executive at a large benefits company, who encourages staff to be comfortable in the zone of not knowing. (Hmmmm … reminds me of last week’s tip.)
  • “I just had to lay it on the table. I said, ‘If you want to make me feel like sh** and perspire every time I talk to you, then you’re on target. But here’s the thing: I think I can learn from you.’” When Heber Sambucetti and I spoke, he shared the whole story of how he turned a negative relationship with a senior executive around by being real. (And yes, he actually said sh** with his client.)
  • “We don’t hide anything, good or bad.” That’s Ron Prater’s maxim. Ron talked to me about how he helped his government consulting firm recover from a major client loss by being totally transparent with employees.
  • “I have never had someone say, ‘I wish you hadn’t told me that.’” So said Anna Dutton, then Sales Operations Director. In Anna’s interview, she shared about how she found the courage at her educational tech company to be genuine, tell the truth, and say things that others might not agree with.
  • “It might take ten years to fix something, or to win someone’s business. So be it.” That’s CEO Chip Grizzard—who also happens to be a marathoner—talking about perseverance. It’s one of seven key traits of trusted advisorship that he articulated when we spoke.
  • “If you have a client who leads with social connection, then that’s where you need to put your foot out first. If someone is results-oriented, they might not want to chat—they want to know what we did for them today.” Wise words from Janet Andrews, then a senior-level consultant, who told me how she used low self-interest to attune herself to her clients’ needs.

The themes across these stories: transparency, humility, courage, and true customer focus.

Which is what makes John, Ralph, Heber, Ron, Anna, Chip, and Janet role models, through and through.

Make It Real

This week, think about the people in your life who are your trust-building role models. Look within as well as beyond your professional life. What lessons have they taught you? How might you be more like them?

Learn More


Read more about how role-modeling promotes values-based behavior in an organization, from our friends at Trusted Advisor Associates, or discover five tools for implementing a cultural shift toward trust in Chapter 29 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).