The Power Of Being Trusted

I work hard to be trustworthy.  Partly, this is because it’s the right thing to do (darn my inconvenient morality!), but partly this is because it has real business benefits.

When most of us think about the value of being trustworthy, we think that the key driver of value is that people believe us.

In other words, trust is valuable because it allows you to persuade others.

I think this is naive.  First of all, there are many persuasion techniques that rely on deception, rather than trustworthiness.  Just think of all the pick up artists that have arisen over the past decade.  (Or don’t.  Ugh.)  Second, if you earn people’s trust through your honesty, then you’re not going to try to persuade others to do the wrong thing.  If you’re trying to get people to do the right thing, presenting clear evidence is more important than trustworthiness.

The real business benefit of being trusted comes from speed.  If you have to prove everything to everyone, you might end up persuading everyone in the end, but at the cost of a lot of time and effort.

If, on the other hand, you’re considered trustworthy, people are willing to act on your recommendation, knowing that while they are going to check the evidence later, it will almost certainly support that recommendation.

The end result is the same, but the speed with which you reach it is much greater.

In the startup world, small teams are nimble, not just because of size, but because of the high degree of trust between founders.  This is also why a team of founders that don’t trust each other are likely to go nowhere fast (with the apparent exception of Facebook, of course).

2 thoughts on “The Power Of Being Trusted

  1. Doesn't real trust provide you with sustainable persuasive power? Of course you can deceive, but that only works once, short term, e.g. your typical (door to door) sales representative using guilt trip or greed techniques.
    But if you want to invest long term, rely on a network of helpful people and stay at the same place, interacting with a limited amount of key players, all of these techniques only work for a short amount of time, until your reputation is down the drain or you fooled everyone once.
    Speed might be a nice side effect, but being a trusted partner is the only way for long term cooperation.

  2. Chris,

    Totally agree with the long-term value of trust. There's a reason why I've always prioritized trust over short-term gain.

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