- November 22, 2010
- Posted by: Brandon Matheson
- Category: Santa Barbara Entrepreneur
I’ve got a few things going on at Noospheric… we spend some of our time saving cats (and soon dogs), providing marketing services for companies and organizations, alerting people when an emergency strikes their home, and helping people know themselves at a quantitative level. Each initiative is quite different with a different target market. I’ve been thinking about what each company shares and what any startup must have to be successful and realized it all comes down to TRUST.
Unlike so much you find online and in reality today, Trust cannot be mass produced or mass marketed. Trust cannot be copied. You can’t download trust. You can’t inject in someone either. In fact, trust is perhaps the most complicated of all emotions. We now know the root neural and hormonal basis for “love” – oxytocin, but trust eludes. Trust must be earned over a length of time and there is no changing that. As humans evolve, I believe trust will evolve accordingly. What I’m postulating is that there is no artificial version of trust – it’s either sincere or not.
Now, the criteria and basis for trust does deserve analysis. If someone says “I don’t trust this or that.” Have you ever asked why? The answer may tell you A LOT about how that person thinks. The reality is that few people have a cerebral basis for trust – they go by their feelings only. They can’t quite explain why they don’t trust something or someone. They just feel it one way or another. I think the cornerstone of success is to differentiate between what you’re feeling and what you’re thinking. If you live your life by feeling alone, you’ll probably find yourself on a rollercoaster of trust – some days in full trust, others not. Why? Because your definition of trust is based on something completely arbitrary – and that is how you feel. If you’re having a great day vs. a horrible day, should that really change how much you trust? Probably not. But it does and most people have no self-awareness on this point – they think they are trusting their instincts and few, if anything, really stays solid in their life. It’s OK to have good and bad days; just don’t confuse this with what’s going on around you and your level of trust in something or someone.
On the flip side, there is a lot of value in trusting instinct. I always do a gut check when I hire someone new or engage a new client. I always check in on how I’m feeling. But rather than dismiss someone or something solely based on my feeling, I simply put the situation on “notice”. That is to say, I’ll just pay careful attention to the interactions when the feeling is off. I’ll increase the standards and the expectations when the trust isn’t there from the start. I love being surprised and proven wrong… I learn the most that way. At the end of the day though, the best basis for trust comes down to quantitative factors that are measurable. Here are a few:
1. Does the person you’re building trust with DO what they SAY they are going to do. It’s a simple exercise. What’s good enough for your in your business or your life? Is a 60% success rate good enough, or do you require 80%. These metrics are key to success. I bet there’s a direct correlation in the success of a business and the percentage of individuals matching their actions and deliverables to their words/promises. For me, the metric is quite high – probably why I don’t keep too many people very close to me and why I keep my businesses small.
2. How do you handle failure or mistakes? Let me be very clear in defining “failure.” By failure I simply mean that you don’t deliver. By this definition, you may fail a lot. Hopefully, you exercise the first cornerstone and decrease your failure your rate. But when you do fail, how do you handle it. I find 3 typical responses to failure on your word. a) People will provide an explanation or excuse; b) People will project the failure onto another person or agent; c) People will own the failure. I try to impart to my entrepreneurs that it is OK to fail, but it is not OK to fear admitting the failure. If you avoid owning the failure, you’ll most likely repeat the failure – because you have yet to own that you are responsible so why would anything change in the future? If you project it to another person, then at least you are recognizing it was someone’s responsibility, but the redirection suggests a self-respect issue. Putting the responsibility onto someone else simply means you cannot be trusted with more responsibility and the existing responsibility may actually be too much. This brings me to the person who admits and owns the failure. These are the people I love because they will grow exponentially by their failure. These are the people that generally want to be trusted and acknowledge that trust takes time and is earned by performance.
3. Communication is key. Lawyers are great communicators – they define each and every detail in excruciating detail to create agreements, contracts, etc. We all should take a lesson in the law. What it comes down to is an “understanding” of what is expected for each side to perform. I find that many times a project or task is delayed because of a lack of clear communication. I myself am guilty of wanting to do too much, or rush into and out of what needs to be accomplished without for sure checking in that the communication is clear. If you escalate your frequency of communication and find processes to improve the quality of communications, you will find the trust to increase accordingly.