Learn to develop trust. It will be worth your effort!
I spend lots of time talking and working in the startup/growth company world as a coach, advisor and investor. I am continuously amazed at the lack of attention to the people side of the business. The focus is on product or drug development, technology, business strategy, marketing. All important, yet all on the very tangible, concrete side of the business. Of course, this focus is critical to success. But it’s only part of the success equation.
The #1 reason investors give for their funding decisions is trust in the founder. That such an intangible, interpersonal quality can be so important in a business decision seems to be one of the biggest secrets of funding success. You can have the best product in the world but if investors don’t trust you, they won’t invest. Or worse, they will push you out of your own company for a leader they do trust.
People often think qualities like trust can’t be developed; you either have it or you don’t. From almost two decades of work, developing successful leaders, I can tell you that interpersonal skills and qualities like trust CAN be developed if attention and time are applied. In fact, it’s a big part of your job as a founder, CEO or executive to gain the trust of those around you. No one follows a leader they don’t trust.
So how do you develop trust?
- Be honest with yourself. Dig deep to know your own truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. If you can’t be honest with yourself, why would anyone believe they can trust you?
- Be honest with others. Tell the truth gently. There is no need for yelling and desk pounding. Jim Collins called it “the quiet ping of truth”.
- Keep the best interest of others right up there with your own. People know when they are being manipulated. Fairness counts.
- As my mentor coaches at the Coaches Training Institute say, “Step over nothing”. Ignoring the obvious as well as procrastination and denial only leads to a lack of trust.
- Make a decision. Waffling, second guessing and agonizing over decisions leads to a lack of faith in your abilities. “The best thing is to make the right decision. The second best thing is to make the wrong decision. The worst thing is to make no decision.” I heard this attributed to Scott McNealy, founder/CEO, Sun Microsysytems.
- Admit it when you’re wrong. If you’re making lots of decisions, as most leaders are, you’re bound to be wrong some of the time. Fess up. And see #4. Don’t step over bad decisions.
- Have a backbone. Stand up for what you know, who you are, what you believe. See #1.
- But don’t be stubborn. Give in graciously when others know more. You’ll get new information or realize your faulty thinking.
- Listen well. Not just wait for your turn to speak or worse, justify your position before they even finish talking. Hear people out fully, ask what they think, encourage them to tell the truth. You’ll be amazed how much easier this makes everything.
Imagine the impact if founders spent even a quarter as much time developing themselves as they did their products, their strategy or their pitch. A pitch, product or strategy is only as good as the people executing it.