Friday, May 6, 2011

KeFactors Friday: Trust - Building Relationships Versus Claiming Rights to Them

Last week I mentioned “karmic panhandlers,” those people who hope to benefit from large concepts of trust and respect without proving themselves worthy of such investment.

A few years ago I was approached by a mother from my kid's school. She said she'd worked for years in marketing and, as they were newly relocated, asked if she could have lunch with me about freelance work prospects here in town. Long story short, what began as a professionally extended invitation boiled down to this:

Me: “So have you tried cold-calling prospects here?”

She: “No.”

Me: “Have you tried interviewing with the big companies in town?”

She: (shifting uncomfortably) “No.”

Me: “What is it you'd like me to help you with?”

She: “I just thought, maybe, if you had some accounts you needed help with...or, um, clients you wanted to offload....”

A more professional response from her would’ve been along the lines of, “I was wondering if we could consider partnering up to go after opportunities we might not otherwise get on our own.” It would imply a willingness to work, to share risks and skills-building, and to take the time to build a collaboration.

Instead, when I demurred, she got into some remarks about how, as professional working moms, we automatically belonged to a network of mutual respect and support (ie, you owe me your help). She struck me as wrongheaded—far more aware of the standards to which she held other people than herself. And I didn’t understand the resistance to cold calling. As awful as cold calling seems, it is actually the initiation of new relationships. It seems less horrible when you regard it that way.

Trust is no different than loyalty or credibility—it has to be built and earned. It may have a stated value (“Seriously, you can trust me”) but the real proof is in how each individual takes action. They have to demonstrate they know how to help themselves. They have to know how to initiate, versus relying on others to do that for them. (And it helps to know how to follow up, because how do you learn to trust someone who never follows up with you, or does so in a spotty way?)

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