By Mike Farley
I’ve spent some time in the past couple months looking for a good book about trust.
I ran into some stinkers along the way, with many of them impressing me with how boring and preachy they could be. But I never had that kind of reaction to The Little Teal Book of Trust by Jeffrey Gitomer (Pearson Education, 2008): I’m a big fan of his (you may recall that I wrote about his Little Red Book of Selling in March 2008) and have always liked the way he manages to take broad subjects and break them down into perfectly sensible discussions filled with food for thought.
I was inspired to leaf through a number of these books because I’ve long found trust to be an interesting topic – and a distinctly elusive quantity in the world of watershaping.
As designers and builders, for instance, we want to trust our clients and be trusted by them. It’s often difficult if not impossible for them, however, to break through their natural inclination to distrust anyone who’s trying to sell them something – or, from our perspective, to get past doubts about a prospect’s ability to pay or willingness to move forward. It can be even tougher to overcome fears that we’re being used and that our fine designs will ultimately be turned over to scurvy low-bidders for construction.
Gitomer offers an overview of the concept of trust and then specifically gets into how it applies to our working and personal lives in both commonsensical and profound ways. He correctly points out, for example, that trust begins deep within ourselves and that the first questions we must ask are: Do we trust ourselves? Do we keep our promises to ourselves, or do we set those things aside in favor of other concerns? In this way, he guides us to a logical touchstone: To be trusted, we must be worthy of trust.
That’s simple and true enough, but then he continues by pointing out that, in many situations, the most trustworthy among us are often frustrated when others don’t immediately assign us a desired level of credibility. In other words, we assume that because we know we can be trusted, that others must know it quickly and instinctively.
This is where Gitomer’s approach really started to grab me: Regardless of how trustworthy two parties may be, trust is seldom immediately forthcoming; instead, the relationship must be built over time. So to be successful in gaining the trust of others, he writes, we must be willing to invest in the process of earning it – and be patient as well.
He also notes, accurately I believe, that trust can be fragile, especially in the early going. At that stage, after all, the simplest things can make it or break it: Do you show up on time? Do you follow through on commitments? Are you consistent in what you say and subsequently do?
This wonderful, brisk, 200-page discussion is rich with advice and examples of how trust works in both our work and home lives. Gitomer revels in the advantages that flow from trust and explores the ways it expedites, smoothes and eases the accomplishment of complicated tasks – and describes how things fall apart when trust is broken. He offers a brief quiz in which the reader can assess his or her own level of trustworthiness and identify areas needing improvement, and there’s also a terrific chapter on regaining trust after it’s been lost or somehow compromised.
I would argue that, in these challenging times, trust is both more important and much harder to come by in our daily lives. Gitomer has helped me see that, in many ways, my success or failure may ultimately boil down to how well I do in building and sustaining my trusting relationships – a point I plan on taking to heart in meeting prospective clients in the weeks and months to come.
Clearly, trust is a huge topic, and no one source can provide all the answers – but Gitomer certainly offers a great place to start. And you can trust me on that!
Mike Farley is a landscape architect with more than 20 years of experience and is currently a designer/project manager for Claffey Pools in Southlake, Texas. A graduate of Genesis 3’s Level I Design School, he holds a degree in landscape architecture from Texas Tech University and has worked as a watershaper in both California and Texas.