Trust is the glue of the of the global economy. With a hyper-mobile and scattered work force, to build trust is to build your own personal fan base that supports you in any job, anywhere.
The word “fan” comes to us from the Latin word “fanaticus,” meaning “insane, mad or possessed by the gods.” Those may be the qualities of your fans, but in this context fans are the people who enthusiastically mentor you, promote you, invite you to their parties and possibly buy from you. This is Your Personal Fan Club: an asset totally worth cultivating.
There are documented cases of Star Wars fans actually donating their kidneys to other Star Wars fans, whom they did not know personally. (See FanCULTure for details.) While that level of fandom is extreme and I’m not asking for a kidney donation, your Personal Fan Club, also known as your social capital, is not only the asset that drives your professional success, working with your fans can be a lot more productive (and fun!) than your actual work itself.
Your fans, which may include your mother and/or your boss, are the people who mention your name when you’re not there, as the go-to. Fans refer you to others, whether you’re working in Mega Corp, a sales rep or building your own business. Fans give glowing recommendations. You’re invited to their birthday parties and children’s christenings; they introduce you to their friends (their real ones).
They do these things because they trust you and that means you are absurdly knowledgeable about something and consistently produce positive results.
You may be working with fans you’ve never met personally because your work is virtual in nature. Building trust in virtual environments is not difficult, but it does require a different approach when you can’t bring the person a fresh Starbucks (although you could send a Starbucks egift card.)
Any research on building trust indicates you need to be consistently reliable, personable and honest. But you already knew that and you’re already the kind of person who habitually goes above and beyond.
Let’s take a cue from brainiac professors Jeffrey Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton Christensen, authors of “The Innovators’ DNA” in Harvard Business Review. They write, “Innovators carefully, intentionally, and consistently look out for small behavioral details—in the activities of customers, suppliers, and other companies—in order to gain insights about new ways of doing things.” (italics – mine.)
Key word: small behavioral details. That’s essential not only for innovation, which is any significant positive change, but for building trust and fandom. Here are 5 small actionable steps to build trust and fertilize your fan base, whether they’re in town or across 12 time zones.
- Arrive 10 minutes early.
Aiming to arrive early means mostly you’ll be on time. Any early arrival means you have time to collect your thoughts and focus more easily on the purpose of the meeting – you’re not stressed or distracted by your tardiness.
Consistent punctuality also gives you fluffy pillow of stored trust for those rare occasions when you actually are running late.
If it’s a virtual meeting, be the first one “there.” Consistency and reliability in remote communications help build trust in virtual teams.
2. Say “please” and “thank you” with enthusiasm.
Say “please” and “thank you” more than is necessary and with great emotion. Recall any Academy Award acceptance speech that went way too long, as the recipient thanked her great aunt, her dog, her pool boy and 4th grade math teacher. What would Michael Scott do?
Seek out fresh opportunities to thank people with enthusiasm, including the receptionist, the grocery store cashier and your vendors.
3. Tell people about a mistake you made and what you learned from it.
Admitting your mistakes shows bravery and gives others permission to do the same (aka be more responsible). It’s immensely freeing and creates an amazing bond with others. Your fans will love this about you. (“She’s so down to earth!!!”)
If you’re willing to admit your mistakes, you’re less likely to blame, a proven trust-buster.
4. Paraphrase what was said.
Paraphrasing is the Swiss Army knife of communication. One use for this crazy effective tool is building trust. By giving
the information back, whether to a client, report, or boss, in your own words shows you were actually listening and demonstrates your understanding. People trust people who take the time to listen.
This is ESPECIALLY good for virtual teams.
5. Use your email auto-responder on those crazy-busy days.
Make sure your auto-responder is a good one and doesn’t sound like a bored robot. (Click HERE for help with that.)
On days full of meetings or travel days…any time you’ll be slower to respond, let people know you care by using the auto-responder.
There you have it: Build trust. Grow your fan base. Enjoy the ride.