This post is part of our Monthly-ish Tips series.

General note to our Weekly Tips readers: Due to the current state of the world, I’ll be tailoring the Weekly Tips series in a variety of ways. Many tips will focus on specific suggestions given our current context. Some may offer more intentional “business as usual” tips as a way bring momentary relief via a small dose of normalcy. Occasionally a tip may be pre-loaded that suddenly seems irrelevant or inappropriate given breaking news and we won’t catch it in time, in which case I thank you in advance for your grace.

Above all else please take extremely good care of yourselves and others right now.

Three ways trusted advisors show up in challenging times

Survey question: What’s the biggest trust de-railer we all face right now?

Jot down your answer or make a quick mental note if you’re not able to write something down at this moment.

When I’ve asked this in the “virtual conversations” I just started hosting with past workshop participants, the most common responses are: no face-to-face communication, inconsistent messaging, technology, work overload, not sharing key information or decisions, uncertainty, and fear. And while those are all trust de-railers, the biggest one is the one that’s often listed last (or at least not first): fear.

Fear is completely understandable right now for reasons you don’t need me to explain. It’s also problematic, because it’s the biggest hit to our own trustworthiness:

  • Fear hurts our relationships in both the short- and long-run. Trust is largely based on being willing to put others’ needs first—what was initially described in The Trusted Advisor as low self-orientation or “S” for short. In a crisis, the instinct to take care of Numero Uno destroys trust. Unfortunately, the residual effects can last long after the crisis has passed.
  • Fear messes with “silver linings.” By now you’ve probably seen the hopeful memes, like the one about how Isaac Newton, who was a college student when the Great Plague hit London in the 1600s, produced extraordinary scientific works while “spatial distancing”—like, you know, the theory of gravity. While Newton’s advances might have been sourced by a lot of things like curiosity and commitment and boredom, I promise you fear was not a catalyst. Fear impedes innovation and creation. Think of animals: they don’t play when they’re scared.
  • Fear impacts our day-to-day actions. Trust is paradoxical. The trust-creating thing to do in any given moment is often the opposite of what your baser (fear-based) instincts tell you to do.

So how in the world do we manage our fear during a freakin’ pandemic?

That’s a big question, and I’ll offer at least the start of an answer.

Colleague Stewart Hirsch and I recently came up with a list of three essential trust-building practices for challenging times. Each one helps you work your “S” off:

  1. Personal reach-outs. Lead with your genuine caring. Be in touch with people who matter to you for no other reason other than to say hello and find out how they are, or as one leader I know brilliantly worded it, “just because.” Do this with clients, colleagues, vendors, partners, and more. Be a sounding board. Offer empathy. Help them identify and “label” their own emotions, which will help them manage their own fear. Put your attention on them, rather than on you. Leave them with an unmistakable experience of support, safety, and connection. (Read up on seven “Ninja tips” for this best practice here.)
  2. Generous offers. Lead with something concrete that you can give away that would be helpful right now. Think in terms of resources, ideas, small bites of work that you can do remotely and not charge for. These are offers, not discounts, and there are lots of ways to do this without compromising your fee/rate integrity. Bring value at a time when it’s sorely needed because you can, and because you want to make a difference. No strings attached. Leave them with something that’s practical and helpful, along with a big dose of goodwill. (Find Ninja tips for this one, too.)
  3. Serious “S”-management. Lead with the view that you are a role model for others—your clients, teams, colleagues, neighbors, family members, everyone. Know what keeps your “S” (self-orientation) in check and be rigorous about the rituals and practices that help you get and stay grounded. Dealing with a pandemic is tiring on many, many levels. Manage yourself well by maintaining your perspective, balance, and well-being. This has never been a nice-to-have for trusted advisors; now it’s a mandate. Do it well and you’ll leave others with your best self: a true partner who’s able to be truly present and sustainably practicing 1 and 2 above. (Ninja tips here.)

Being at our best, and showing up for people, is rarely easy. It’s also never been more important.

Make It Real

This week, practice all three from the list above. What three people immediately come to mind for new personal reach-outs by COB today? What three new generous offers might you make this week? What one self-care practice can you put in place—or double down on—starting right now?

Bonus opportunity: Send me your examples and stories. I’m making a compilation of best practices to share.

Learn More


Listen to this centering and insightful podcast on “Trust in the Time of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” from our friends at Trusted Advisor Associates, or randomly open The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook to any page and see what message it has for you.

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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).