There’s a reason you’re at your job today. It’s the same reason why you were able to swipe your credit card to purchase something from the store the other day. Or why you can drive a car.
That’s because somebody trusted you with something.
Your current employer trusted you to do your job well. The store you bought from trusted the credit card company to pay them for your purchase (the credit card company also trusted you to pay your bills). Your local government agency trusted you to drive safely and responsibly.
Trust is a very important word that has taken you to where you are today. You have built credibility over time that allowed others to trust you. But trust is just one aspect of what I call The H.I.T. to Success (see, I just threw in another acronym).
The transparency. The truthfulness. The willingness to communicate what you’re feeling or thinking even when it’s uncomfortable or contrary to popular belief.
I recall several years ago at a Microsoft MVP Summit discussion, the senior Microsoft executives were honest enough to admit that “they don’t know everything and that they are willing to try new things.” Everyone in the room applauded, not because what the executives said was exciting. In fact, it was counter-intuitive to how we perceive executives of large corporations. It was because they were honest about their own experiences.
I tell potential customers when on sales calls that “they don’t need my services” if, based on the initial conversations, I felt that they really don’t. I tell customers not to upgrade to the latest and greatest version of SQL Server if I don’t see a benefit to the business (for example, they just recently did a massive upgrade project). And I tell customers what the “real” problems are, not those that are “perceived” as problems.
One of my favourite stories that I share about honesty was when we, at my previous job, were trying to win a SharePoint upgrade project for a global financial company. The VP of IT Operations for the potential customer hated us and the idea of outsourcing. I told the sales guy to bring me in on the next sales call but be ready for whatever it is that will come out of the conversation.
We had the VP and several of his technical staff during the sales call. He started asking about guarantees: “Can you guarantee 100% success rate?” “Can you guarantee 100% on-time and on-schedule delivery of the project?” I asked for permission to respond. “Sir, we cannot guarantee you anything. Not 100% success rate nor a 100% on-time and on-schedule delivery. And I believe nobody can guarantee you anything. Not even your insurance company. But here’s what I can guarantee you. I can guarantee you my word. Because I will only tell you what I can and cannot do. If that is not good enough for you, then, I believe we’re not the right service provider. What I can do is to ask my contacts if they know anyone who can deliver on your demands.”
Everyone on the room was shocked when they heard me say that. The sales guy responsible for the account was starting to regret that he brought me on the call. I told him that I was just being honest. Besides, there is no way I would get my team to deliver on a promise that I know we cannot deliver.
We ended up winning the contract. I ended up working on that project.
The courage to do the right thing all the time, regardless of the outcome. The ability to consistently align our actions with our words. Being honest with customers can potentially have negative outcomes. Like that SharePoint upgrade project. That was “almost a quarter of a million dollars” worth of contract potentially lost if the customer didn’t sign. When I had to return the payment from one of my course subscribers because I told him he would get it for free. When I told my former employer that they overpaid me my salary. And when one of my recent consulting projects accidentally sent me more payments last month than what was stated in the contract.
Even for small things such as the grocery clerk mistakenly not charging me for an item. Or that restaurant server that gave me more change than she needed to.
If you exercise integrity and honesty in the small things, it would be easier to do it with big ticket items like that SharePoint upgrade contract.
This is a by-product of exercising both honesty and integrity.
It’s good for personal relationships…and business, too.
I’ve had the amazing opportunity to re-connect with friends in the SQL Server community at events like the PASS and MVP Summits. But beyond the usual hugs and high-fives, I felt privileged that some of them chose to share their personal struggles with me – deciding whether or not to pursue independent consulting because of the fear of the unknown, challenges with family and relationships, pursuing to relocate to start a new job, recovering from surgeries, etc.
I regularly review my previous and existing contracts. All of them were a by-product of referrals and introductions. That’s the power of trust. Because trust is the foundation of successful individuals and organizations. Because people will only do business with people that they know, like and trust – what I call the KLT Factor.