So you’re going networking to generate business. You know better than to be in selling mode and you’re there to meet people who can introduce you to people they know who need your services ...
And you know that the best way to motivate them to do so is for you to introduce them to the people you know who need their services. Oh, hang on a minute! You don't know this person and yet you're going to recommend them to a friend or valued client or contact?
We all have a system in our head for deciding when to trust someone, but can we trust our own judgement? We know that first impressions count and that we unconsciously make a judgment on someone in the split second of meeting them. "I knew I could trust you the first time we met; we just clicked!" or, "There was something about him that I didn't take to ... he looked a bit shifty!"
As we believe we're good judges of character, we then look for evidence to support that view and tend to ignore contradictory evidence. This phenomena has the posh name of 'Confirmation Bias'.
Warren Buffet sums up this very human response:"What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact."
A related phenomena is called the 'Halo Effect'. Here we observe correctly that someone is a good time keeper as they always turn up on time. So, we assume that they have the other qualities that indicate we can trust them.
That they will always meet deadlines, do high quality work, and won't gossip about you behind your back. Or equally, we see them only in a negative lens, often called the 'Horn Effect'. If they are a poor time keeper we may assume that their standard of work will be sloppy and therefore, they'll lack discretion.
How does that help us in making a judgement on whether to trust someone with your two most valuable business assets, your relationships and reputation?
Here's my suggestion, first, know that your judgment is affected by these biases. Listen to your gut, but then seek out evidence that contradicts you on the key criteria that are important to you in trusting someone.
Secondly, spend a bit of time deciding what those key values are. In bringing this blog post together, I looked at many long lists of behaviours that generate trust that are easy to find on Google. The reality is that I am unlikely to use all of these to assess someone's trustworthiness. So, I shortlisted to my list of 'must haves'.
When I'm working with my clients on their business relationships, I always ask them what the other person needs to do to demonstrate they can trust them. A few criteria always appear on their lists so I use them.
From these two exercises I came up with my personal list of key criteria that I use as my benchmark and the things I look for that demonstrates that person honours that value with some examples of contradictory evidence drawn form my own experience or that of my confidants.
- No illegality in business or personal life seems obvious, but what about the accountant being asked if there were ways to present figures to claim grants his client wasn't eligible for?
- Simple lying to get out of a mistake. The man who left me sitting in a coffee shop waiting for him to appear and then when I phoned him said he had emailed me. Looking at the email back in the office it was sent after my first attempt to reach him by phone
- Stating in a public networking meeting she could introduce someone when it turned out later she didn't know them
- Taking on work knowing he didn't have time to deliver on deadline
- Cheating on his/her spouse?
Congruency Do all the pieces fit together? Does this person walk their talk? What about when they are off duty:
- The webdesigner with a terrible website
- The coach who doesn't listen in general conversations
- That something doesn't fit that you can't quite figure out why
Reliable Do they do what they said they would do or tell you when they are struggling (Often linked to lying)?
- Consistently turning up late. The colleague who always arrived half an hour late, "My client meeting overran"
- Not returning calls. Colleague whose phone regularly sent me an automated message, "I can't talk now, will phone you later" and then doesn't
- Cancelling at short notice usually with sickness excuse. A breakfast conversation with my husband was, "I'm running a course with X today and I'm a bit nervous he won't show up." Bing went my messages, "Sorry Jacky, been up with a stomach bug all night won't make the session today,"
- Just didn't do it with (sometimes) perfuse apologies like, "So, sorry to let you down Jacky" ... yet again!
Then there are two other related values that are important to me in developing a trusting relationship: self-disclosure and respect for boundaries. This is where I get a feel for the other person and that we are getting empathy and often where I get surprises:
- Self-disclosure is about letting me under their facade. It is a hand out to say, "I trust you with this information and that you will not use it against me". The respect for boundaries adds the element of understanding what is appropriate for the stage and nature of your relationship. Having a coffee with a girlfriend who happens to be a business colleague may include listening to her talk about her concerns for her health that would be inappropriate from the CEO of a larger company on a first meeting. However, meeting that CEO at a function and him expressing his fright on the journey here when he nearly ran over a cyclist would probably be OK.
- Lack of respect for boundaries, or just not seeing the boundaries comes out in other ways too, There's the networker who took the banter and jokes in a meeting as an invitation to tell a blue joke that offended most of the women in the room.
On that note, I'll close by suggesting that you form your own list of key criteria people must meet to win your trust and reduce your bias for making assumptions.
However, unless you subject everyone you know to a full psychological profiling around trustworthiness, you will still be viewing them through your personal lens so be willing to be forgiving for some transgressions.
Remember, you will need others to be equally forgiving for you.
If you'd like to learn more about referral marketing then do give me a call on 07970 638857 and let's have a chat and see how I can help you.