I was perplexed!
“I’ve got the email right in front of me”, the CEO said. “He recommended 3 people to me and specifically said that you are the only one he can vouch for”. I furrowed my brows in confusion. Not only had he recommended my Leadership Coaching services to the CEO of this company, he basically said that I was his top choice. However, I could not remember who he was or where I might have met him.
Growing up, I always believed that I had a bad memory. The words “I have the memory of an old person” came across my lips way too often. When I grew up and recognised the power of my words, I stopped saying it. But at that moment, it felt like years of knocking down my memory had finally come back to haunt me. As if to prove that words, indeed, do have powers. And this was the opportunity those words had chosen to enforce their full weight.
So… what did I do? I did what any good business owner in the 21st century does - I internet-stalked… I mean researched him. Unfortunately, I was still drawing a blank. So I did the brave thing and reached out to him. I thanked him for the kind recommendation and embarrassingly asked for a reminder of how we knew each other.
“Absolutely!”, he replied, in response to my gratitude. “[So and so] referred you and I totally trust them...”. Just like that!
Chains of Trust: Your Most Valuable Asset
We all know how important trust is, across both our professional and personal lives. Beyond just knowing and liking someone, trusting a person gives you confidence in that person and, therefore, confidence in what they think, say, and do. Trust between two people creates energy that almost feels like an extension of one's self. If you trust someone, then you believe they have your best interest at heart, you are confident in their judgement, and you feel secure in deferring important decisions to them.
Trust between two people is only the beginning. The real magic and potential come from your Chains of Trust.
However, we often overly focus on that narrow view of trust - the trust between yourself and one other person. That trust is your currency. A very important and highly valuable currency, yes, but it is only the beginning. The real magic and potential come from what I call your Chains of Trust. Your Chains of Trust are your long-term, stable assets. Assets that yield high returns months, years, and decades later, when you least expect it. This is the trust that builds from person A to B to C to D, and so on. Multiple strong trust links between two people build The Chain. And creating a strong chain results in implicit trust between any two people across the chain, even if those two people don’t personally know each other. It is this type of trust that led to someone who had never met me strongly recommending my services. It is this Chain of Trust that leads to unlimited opportunities.
Creating, Cultivating, and Tapping into Your Chains of Trust
Each Chain of Trust is only as strong as its weakest link. Therefore, it is important that you consciously invest time and energy to create, cultivate, and tap into your Chains of Trust. Thereby growing a strong asset for your success, satisfaction, and fulfilment.
Trust yourself. Trust begins with you. If you don’t trust yourself, you surely can’t expect others to trust you. Apply the “Know, Like, Trust” model. First of all, get clear about who you are and what gifts and values you bring to the table (“Know”). Second, show up as an Inclusive Leader, with the type of energy and passion that is positively infectious ("Like"). Finally, trust that you are right where you’re supposed to be and have great potential to have a tremendous impact on the world ("Trust").
Create genuine connections. Instead of seeking one-off transactional opportunities, create space to build long-lasting, authentic relationships. Take the time to get to know others. Whether you're meeting someone for the first time or out for drinks with a long-time colleague, drop lazy assumptions and challenge yourself to learn something new about them. Discover what you have in common and maybe something different about them that’s fascinating. Be genuinely interested in them. If you are genuinely interested in them, you will be more likely to truly connect (agenda-free) and build trust.
Expand your network. Yes, I said the N-word: Network! Expanding your network is important, both in terms of size and diversity. Homogeneous networks often stack on top of each other like an unexciting pack of plain, white sheets of paper. Diverse networks are colourful, inspiring, far-reaching, interlinked chains of surprises. Increasing the variety (gender, ability, industry, background, etc.) of people you connect with will not only make life more interesting, but it also puts you in the centre of the action, making you a hub for connections and a source of knowledge. And if you find it difficult to make connections with a group, you're either just not trying or the group isn't right for you.
Share your gifts. Share who you are. Not just “I am a [insert impressive title no one understands] at [impressive company]”, but who you really are. Tell people about your background and hobbies. Describe the type of impact you have in the world, both professionally and personally. Speak passionately about what brings you joy. Recommend a cool new TV show you’re watching (“Succession”, in case you were wondering) or your latest favourite restaurant (Shiro, Lagos - so good!). Share what you’re great at and what gives you energy. Openness and communication are mandatory for building trust and creating more links.
Be of service. I cannot stress this enough - building trust is not about you. It is about the other person. My original recommendation didn’t come about because a friend (A) wanted to do me a favour (i.e. it wasn’t about me!). He (A) recommended me because his friend (B) needed help and he (A) trusted that I could help. His friend (B) then strongly recommended me to his friend (C) because his friend (C) needed help and she (C) trusted her friend’s (B) recommendation. Confused yet? :) Here’s the bottom line - help was needed (by C) and we all (A, B, and I) worked to support her. And we were able to do that because of the strong Chain of Trust that was already in place. So, even if you can’t offer help directly, your Chains gives you access to unlimited skills, abilities, expertise and more.
Lead with integrity. It is not enough to expect trust, you have to earn it. So lead with integrity. When feeling a little icky about a decision, consider how you would feel if your decision and actions were splashed across The Times. Feeling ickier? Maybe make a different call. And similarly, surround yourself with others who lead with integrity. Remember, each Chain is only as strong as its weakest link so ensure that you aren’t it and that you aren’t introducing weak links into the chain.
Pro-actively ask for support. Sometimes you just have to ask. Once you’ve built trust, don’t be afraid to ask for support. This actually strengthens the Chain. People you build trust with actually want you to be successful and want to help, where they can. Maybe they are able to help immediately. Maybe help comes from someone else on the Chain 6-months later. Maybe they later ask you for support and you both help each other move onto the next level of success in your lives. Sounds like a win-win!
I'd love to hear about your experiences with your Chains of Trust. Share in the comments. Or you can E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or book time in my calendar.