One of the blogs I’ve recently started following is by Seth Godin, marketing extraordinaire, and his post today reinforced my reading of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Godin wrote on trust as the foundation for any relationship, including the relationships we build with our clients and customers in business. It may seem like a very commonsense maxim to point out, but one that can so easily slip in day-to-day practice.
Godin writes that it’s easier to build the appearance of trust – what he terms ‘trustiness’ – than it is to do the hard work of actually building trust. To deliver when you say you’ll deliver. To show up when you say you’ll show up. To live up to the terms in the contract when it would be easier or more expedient to let things slide.
“Trust is built when no one is looking, when you think you have the option of cutting corners and when you find a loophole. Trustiness is what happens when you use trust as a PR tool.” (Godin)
Covey writes about the same concept in the context of self-improvement. The early stages of self-improvement literature focused on the character of people. True success and happiness came as a result of consistent work on character – patience, kindness, honesty, responsibility, hard work – what he calls the character ethic. But in recent years, the focus has switched to what he calls the personality ethic.
“Success became more a function of personality, of public image, of attitudes and behaviors, skills and techniques, that lubricate the processes of human interaction.” (Covey)
The personality ethic, like trustiness, provides the appearance of a person or business that has everything together, but it’s all style with no substance. It’s a façade held together with tape. And that’s no way to live life or do business.
It does take more time and energy to build a solid foundation in your own life and in your work, to actually possess the character traits you project publicly. But I think we’ll all find that it’s worth it in the long run.