A Vulnerable Setting
Throughout the past couple of months, I (Joseph) have been engaged in the incredibly stressful process of buying a new truck. The process has included hours and hours of research, test drives, budget planning, selling my older vehicle, and working on my negotiating skills to get the best value. After this extensive research, I found my “unicorn” which was a truck that had all the functional features I needed and was within our spending plan.
The only problem is that, due to a chip shortage because of Covid-19, my rare unicorn was three hours away, and others were simultaneously expressing interest. After multiple occasions of others beating me to a truck I was pursuing, I decided to pull the trigger and make the three-hour trip on a Friday afternoon. Internally, there was a lot of anticipation on the way to get this newer truck because my extensive research and pursuit was finally coming to an end.
I arrived at the dealership weary from the long drive on a Friday evening but with an anxious excitement to meet my unicorn. I turned the corner following the salesman, and there it was standing tall…with a tail light out, a cap missing on one of the step rails, front floor mats missing, no spare tire, and a slight stench of cigarette smoke on the interior. My heart was beating out of my chest, and I could feel my body begin to sweat.
I was feeling vulnerable because I was in an unfamiliar place hours from my home, I was making a big decision working with people I had never met, and the time of day along with the seemingly rushed pace magnified everything I was feeling. I did not want to make a big decision and regret it while disappointing my family, but I also did not want to waste the effort I put in to find this truck. When I noticed all of the little imperfections mentioned above, my vulnerable fears began to surface. Can you relate?
The logical part of my brain was trying to remind me that none of these little issues affected the overall quality of the truck. I actually trusted that the truck probably ran beautifully; however, the emotional side of my brain was on hyperdrive and screaming that a failed light bulb was ruining everything! There was a battle of wits going on. To read more about this cognitive battle in the brain known as the amygdala hijack, check out this eBook from Dr. Chris Auger.
To keep it simple in this context, losing trust that a lightbulb did not work thrusted me into a vulnerable position where I began to question everything. I was losing trust in the truck, the people I was purchasing from, and ultimately losing trust in myself and my judgement. If the little things are not done right, it makes it easier to suddenly question the most important things. This feeling made me want to flee and dismiss the process altogether.
After the first frantic ten minutes, I got some space, took a few breaths, called my wife for reassurance, and came back to the salesman. He got his crew to immediately fix the issues we found, set up a “We owe you” list to take care of any remaining issues, offered a conditional sale where I could bring the truck back if I was not satisfied, and reminded me that the truck came with a lifetime powertrain warranty.
These reassuring bricks helped catalyze the process of rebuilding my trust, but my emotions were still trying to catch up. I ultimately purchased the truck that night, and it drove with excellence all the way back to Georgia; however, the first ten minutes where trust evaporated had a longer effect than I anticipated. A couple weeks later, I was still asking my wife if she thought I made the right decision, and I am just now getting to the point of fully trusting that I made the right call.
Rewind the Tape
As we go back to the moment I arrived at the dealership, this is a central point in the story, not the starting point. The moment I arrived is where my story and the dealership’s story merged. My story has already been described as months of research, test drives, and planning; I cannot fully describe the dealership’s story because I was not there, but there was a missed opportunity in their story.
Usually, a car dealership will reassure customers by letting them know that each vehicle being sold has been inspected to ensure quality. Based on what I found with the truck when I arrived, it is evident that some steps were missed during their inspection. Even if these issues were small, they were missed, and this affected my ability to trust them when our stories merged.
Imagine an alternate story on their part. The ones performing the inspection are extremely intentional about getting all the little things right on the truck. They are not distracted and even have a policy involving employees double-checking each other. They catch the subtle issues and fix them to have the truck ready to go when the customer arrives. This story would have greatly improved the overall experience for both sides.
The Easiest Way to Build Trust
The easiest way to build trust with others is to get the little things right. In Mark Miller’s “Chess Not Checkers” (which is what we base our Lead Organizations program on), he expresses that high-performing organizations excel at execution by mastering the fundamentals. Jesus Christ teaches his followers to go a second mile if asked to go one mile, but one can only get to the second mile if the first mile is successful. If I go to my supervisor asking for a stretch assignment or more responsibility while failing to produce what I am already responsible for, it is unlikely I would be trusted with more.
When trying to gain the trust of followers, employees, or strangers, start by learning their name and how to pronounce it. If I ask you your name, you tell me, and then I proceed by pronouncing it wrong or calling you something different, you would likely not just question if I heard your name but if I will listen to anything else you have to say throughout our interaction. Knowing the name of another may not lead to a healthy, trusting relationship, but it is a starting point and cornerstone to build on.
Another practical way to start building trust is to follow through with daily commitments. Keep an eye on how many times you cancel or postpone meetings with others, show up on the agreed upon time, and make it a habit rather than an exception to honor deadlines. These are just a few examples, but each one is a building block that leads to trust.
The easiest way to build trust is to start by getting the fundamentals right.
The dealership I interacted with missed this opportunity; however, everyone makes mistakes. The best way to create trust when mistakes have been made is to accept responsibility by owning the mistake and making corrections. This is what the dealership did really well.
I have mispronounced and gotten someone’s name wrong too many times to count, but trust is re-built when I take the time to seek clarity and get it right moving forward. Stephen Covey wrote,
“Trust is not some elusive quality you either have or you don’t; rather, trust is a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that you can create.”
Create more trust with those you interact with by doing the little things well; if opportunities are missed, own it and make it right as soon as possible.