Trust doesn’t come first

I began teaching at a North Carolina university in the fall of 2021 and learned immediately the last chapter we studied needed to be the first.

Ethics and professionalism are not where to wrap up the conversation but where to begin it.

Too often we enter a room or a meeting as “the expert.” We stand or sit, offer a pitch, make an ask, or set a requirement.

We essentially say, “I know what I’m talking about. You’ll have to trust me.”

Trust is not something many of us give out with ease, so why do we begin with expecting it?

Instead, we should strive for transparency, advance to credibility, and then, we hope, arrive at trust.

Be authentic. Be open in your knowledge and expertise but get comfortable with saying, “I don’t know.” This answer doesn’t portray ignorance as much as it does humility and honesty. Then, follow the “I don’t know” with “I’ll find out.” This strategy allows you to be sincere and make good on your word.

These two simple steps, repeated a couple of times, will do wonders for providing transparency and building credibility.

I don’t even bother beginning a semester with course material. The students don’t know me, and I don’t know them. Yet, we are supposed to move immediately into “trust” that they’re going to do the work, and I’m going to be a fair, caring and engaging instructor.

Instead, I offer them some background, answer their questions, and try to show that while I might know a lot, I am not a know-it-all.

Can you do this in every meeting where you are just getting to know the client? Perhaps not, but it certainly sets the tone if you engage in post-event communication with thoughtful and thorough answers to their questions that, perhaps, went unanswered during your initial encounter.

Not every single meeting can result in “closing the deal.” That’s just not realistic. 

Brands don’t develop loyalty and credibility overnight. A second or even a third meeting don’t necessarily hurt you. Those are just additional opportunities to display your consistency and dedication to relationship building with your potential client.

In the classroom, it’s just one more way to show my students I’m there for the right reasons. I’ll have to let you know how that turns out!