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Jacky Sherman

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Networking Skills: Can You Pass The Shaving Mirror Test?

How about the Trolley Dilemma?


Posted by Jacky Sherman on 22/05/2024 @ 8:00AM

Two pieces of advice from ex-managers of mine came to mind this week after reading a blog post by Adam Grant ...

Can you pass the shaving mirror test? How about the Trolley Dilemma?

Can you pass the shaving mirror test? How about the Trolley Dilemma?

photo by patrick coddou on unsplash

In it, Adam asserts that, "The ends don't justify the means. The means are the measure of your character. You reveal your values in the way you pursue your goals."

Returning to the advice of my colleagues, the first one was talking about making a difficult decision that would have fallout for some staff. He called it the Shaving Mirror Test; maybe us women would call it the blow-dry test? Whatever decision he made, he had to be able to look himself in the eye whilst shaving in the morning.

The other was describing the problem he had with one of his managers who he wanted to promote, but, as he put it, "Was one of those managers who will charge the hill and take the fort in record time. Then he'll turn around, and there's no-one there to help him down the other side."

This led me to think about a famous thought experiment that teases out how we choose when faced with a dilemma. My apologies if you've come across this before, but it's worth repeating. For me personally, it has always made me feel uncomfortable, and neither option enables me to pass the shaving mirror (blow-dry) test.

"I'm talking about the Trolley Dilemma!"

Imagine you are standing beside some tram tracks. In the distance, you spot a runaway trolley hurtling down the tracks towards five workers who cannot hear it coming. Even if they do spot it, they won't be able to move out of the way in time.

As this disaster looms, you glance down and see a lever connected to the tracks. You realise that if you pull the lever, the tram will be diverted down the second set of tracks away from the five unsuspecting workers. However, down this side track is one lone worker, just as oblivious as his colleagues.

"So, would you pull the lever, leading to one death, but saving five? How about this alternative version?"

Imagine you are standing on a footbridge above the tram tracks. You can see the runaway trolley hurtling towards the five unsuspecting workers, but there's no lever to divert it.

However, there is a large man standing next to you on the footbridge. You're confident that his bulk would stop the tram in its tracks. So, would you push the man on to the tracks, sacrificing him in order to stop the tram and thereby saving five others?

"Most people say they would pull the lever, but few would push the man onto the tracks!"

Logically, the end would be the same, but it doesn't feel that way and our feelings, how we live with ourselves afterwards, and how others will judge us, does matter. For a fuller review of this famous experiment I recommend reading this article.

What's the relevance to winning business by referrals then? You will never have to push a man in front of a speeding trolley to close a deal ... at least I hope not.

However, think of these scenarios and how far does the end justify the means:

  • "I don't trust him, but I'll refer him anyway because he knows someone I want to meet".

  • Your group requires you to give referrals to each meeting. Someone in your group wants to meet family lawyers, so you find a name in a directory and hand that over publically as a referral.

  • Someone gives you a referral and when you pitch up to meet the prospect, it turns out they have no need for your services and only agreed to see you because their mate asked.

  • Or worse still, the prospect believes he is selling to you! This was told to me by an HR consultant who travelled an hour to see someone who had no staff!

  • You trick the MD's PA to put your call through by pretending to be someone they know.

  • You listen to a presentation on sales about how to use hypnotherapy to trick customers into buying from you.

I have no doubt you have your own examples. How did it make you feel? Do you want to develop your relationship with that person?

I leave you with Aldous Huxley's take on the subject: "The end cannot justify the means, for the simple and obvious reason that the means employed determine the nature of the ends produced".

Until next time ...



Would you like to know more?

If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to learn more networking skills, it may be a great idea to give me a call on 07970 638857. Let's have an initial chat over a coffee and see how I can help.

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