Last year, while working in Miami, Florida, eight business colleagues and I decided to check out a posh restaurant after a client recommended it. When we arrived, we were immediately impressed with the ambiance and the friendly service. This is going to be fun, I thought.
After a few minutes chatting and looking over the menu, I spot a rat, the size of a small possum, on the opposite wall. At first, I thought it may be part of the wall decor… then it begins to scurry down the wall until it disappears from view.
“A rat!” I scream.
The nice waiter, cool and collected, comes to our table (probably grateful that we arrived before the dinner rush) and assures us, with a smile and without missing a beat, that the door was left opened by mistake… that this never happens… that our furry friend is gone… and that the chef sends his apologies with a bottle of fine wine. He’s done this before.
After a vote, we decide to stay… but for the rest of the night, I can tell that one of my colleagues can smell a rat at every turn.
It’s unlikely we’ll be back, but I’m grateful for the anecdote and the lesson we can take from that incident.
We Can’t Build Trust with Others if They Smell a Rat
This story is not unlike what happens in our professional or business settings. First impressions can only get us so far. Past recommendations, shiny credentials, and public accolades are not enough to build trust, especially if our audience has seen a rat before… or can smell one at the present moment.
Think “Mouse Trap”
A year ago I was delivering a presentation to a potential new client. After doing my homework and learning as much as I could about the company’s values and culture, I decided to share a specific story about growing up in Mexico City, moving to the United States at age 16, and the journey that has inspired my passion to help companies tell better stories.
This brief story not only provided context for my coaching philosophy; it also answered the questions in the minds of my audience members:
- Who are you?
- What’s in it for you?
- Why should we trust you?
Annette Simmons, author of The Story Factor, reminds us that until these questions are answered, our audience won’t trust what we say. And make no mistake: whether spoken or not, these questions are always lurking in the minds of your audience, your employees, and your business partners.
Stories of transparency help us build trust If they are honest, concrete, and well connected to what matters to your audience. Those stories embody a very powerful message: “I understand… You can trust me.”
Never Underestimate the Power of Trust
Stephen M.R. Covey, author of The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything, puts it this way:
There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world — one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love….
… On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, the one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time.
That one thing is trust.
Building Trust Is Not Easy — But Try We Must
Stories that let your audience see you as you are build trust. Telling these stories is not always comfortable… or appropriate.
- They must fit the message, the audience, and your purpose.
- They should never be self-indulgent.
- They should be delivered with your audience [not you] in mind.
For example, best-selling author and financial guru, Dave Ramsey is open about his early financial mistakes that led him to bankruptcy. He doesn’t need to go into all the gritty details, but being open about his own failures communicates to his audience that he’s been where they are and knows how to get them to where they need to go.
What’s Your Story?
We can’t always anticipate when we will need to share a piece of our story. Building a repertoire of authentic, concrete, and well crafted stories is the best strategy for always being ready to connect with your audience.
What stories can you add to your repertoire? Can you tell them effectively? If you are not sure, ask someone to listen and give you honest feedback.
Don’t let a rat kill trust. Evaluate your audience and have courage to share the story that will be the mouse trap that kills the rat.
If you need help crystallizing the stories you want to tell, connect with me. I’d love to chat with you about them.